Contact: Robert Bobo or Ellen Sterner
SMU News & Media Relations
(214) 768-7650

Aug. 7, 2003

Youth School Of Theology Established At SMU

DALLAS (SMU) - SMU has received a grant from the Lily Endowment to create The Perkins Youth School of Theology. The extra curricular program, the only one of its kind in the southwest, is for high school juniors in the Dallas/Fort Worth area interested in ministry in urban and rural settings, community service, theology and the Christian faith.

The Perkins Youth School of Theology is a two-year program with two components: Missions in Motion, a community service and mentor program during the school year. Each student will be paired with a mentor-pastor to be his or her theological dialogue partner concerning service work. The other component is Summer Academy, a three-week residential program during July at the SMU-in-Taos extension campus located in Fort Burgwin, New Mexico. Participants will study critical and constructive theological reflection on the practice and theory of the Christian faith.

Because many of the participants may not be able to afford the costs associated with the program, including the trip to Taos, all expenses will be covered. In addition, students will receive a stipend to cover lost wages they may otherwise have earned in a summer job.

The program seeks young leaders from challenged backgrounds who are engaged in social service projects or have an interest in community service that serves as a witness to their Christian faith and theological reflection.

The Rev. Tonya Y. Burton will be director of the newly established Perkins Youth School of Theology. Burton served for three and a half years at the National Conference for Community and Justice, formerly known as the National Conference of Christians and Jews. She served as program director in the Nashville, Tennessee region and then as director of community education and outreach in the national capitol area region. Before coming to Perkins, she was the former volunteer coordinator for the Washington, D.C. Baptist Convention, where she led the coordination of volunteers among the 150 Baptist churches in the District of Columbia association. A native of Jackson, TN, she holds a Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School. Rev. Burton is an ordained minister in the Baptist denomination.

The Perkins School of Theology was founded in 1911 by the Methodist Episcopal Church South, now The United Methodist Church, as one of the original schools of Southern Methodist University. Perkins is one of five university-related United Methodist theological schools in the nation. Besides its programs at the main campus in Dallas, Perkins offers programs in Houston-Galveston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.