Student From Cal-Nevada Is One of Ethnic Young Adult Interns

June 25, 2009

Drawn from 11 conferences, interns represent all five U.S. jurisdictions.

- A college student from the California-Nevada Annual Conference is among 12 persons who began work June 1 in the Ethnic Young Adult (EYA) Summer Internship program of The United Methodist Church's General Board of Church and Society (GBCS). They will work in nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations in the nation's capital for two months.

Participants are selected annually from among young adults, ages 18 to 22, in the five ethnic caucuses of the UMC. To qualify, applicants must be passionate about social justice and active in the denomination, according to the Rev. Neal Christie, GBCS assistant general secretary for Education and Leadership Development, who directs the program.

Christie, an EYA intern himself in 1984, says the internship is the UMC's only leadership development program with a public policy and advocacy focus that reaches out to under-represented racial and ethnic young adults of color.

This year's placement sites include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), National Council of Churches of Christ-USA (NCCC), and Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON).


The Cal-Nev participant is Felenisi Vaisilvia Vailea, a 19-year-old Pacific Islander from Oakland, California, who attends Laurel UMC. Felenisi is pursuing a degree in sociology at Laney College. She has been placed at the NCCC for her EYA internship.


College credit a milestone this year


The 12 interns are drawn from 11 UMC Annual (regional) Conferences. Each of the denomination's five U.S. jurisdictions is represented.


The 2009 interns include four African-Americans, three Hispanic/Latinos, and five Asian- American/Pacific Islanders.


"For the first time, five of our 12 interns will receive significant college credit for their eight-week internship," Christie notes. "This puts the EYA internship in another league when their universities trust our faith-based approach to leadership development, and our commitment to excellence in terms of intern placements, mentoring, community building, advocacy and organizing skills, and evaluation."


The complete list follows:


2009 Ethnic Young Adult Interns


Joshua Brubaker (Hispanic/Latino), 19, of Lowell, Mich, attends Hope College. He is majoring in political science and Spanish. He worships at La Nueva Esperanza in the West Michigan Conference.


Brubaker has two internship placements. One is RCRC, which works to bring the moral power of religious communities to ensure reproductive choice through education and advocacy. The other is the Washington Ethical Society, member of a federation that addresses moral issues and public policy.


Amanda Michelle Chadwick (African American), 19, of Raleigh, N.C., is enrolled at North Carolina Central University. A business administration major, her home church is Benson Memorial UMC in the North Carolina Conference.

Chadwick is working at the Children's Defense Fund, which champions policies to lift children out of poverty; protect them from abuse and neglect; and ensure their access to health care and quality education.


Terry Ray Cunningham (African American), 19, of Maysville, Ky., majors in political science at the University of Kentucky. His home church is Scott UMC in the Kentucky Conference. He is an NCADP intern.


Damarias Diaz (Hispanic/Latina), 18, of Germantown, Md., attends Camino De Vida UMC, Gaithersburg, in the Baltimore-Washington Conference. Her internship is at NCCC, which strives for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States.


Sydney Anneliese Garrett (African American), 19, of Voorhees, N.J., attends Loyola University in Chicago. Majoring in business and international studies, her home church is Mt. Zion UMC, Lawnside, in the Greater New Jersey Conference.


Garrett is an intern at MOMIE's TLC (Mentors of Minorities in Education's Total Learning Cis-Tem), which works to transform education for at-risk children of color.


Mercielynd Rejoice J. Hernandez (Asian American/Pacific Islander), 19, of San Bernardino, Calif., majors in nursing at Riverside Community College. Her home church is Trinity UMC of the Inland Empire of the California-Pacific Conference.


Hernandez's internship is with the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, a national legal and policy organization that advocates for public policy reform, justice and dignity for vulnerable families.


Edward Kim (Korean American), 21, Alpharetta, Ga., majors in economics at the University of Georgia. His home church is The Korean Church Atlanta UMC, Duluth, in the North Georgia Conference. He interns at Women Empowered Against Violence.


Telana Victoria McCullough (African American), 18, of Edmond, Okla., attends University of Central Oklahoma. Studying interpersonal communication/leadership, her home church is Quayle UMC in Oklahoma City in the Oklahoma Conference. Her internship is at the NAACP.


Brian Tan (Filipino-Chinese), 19, of Carrollton, Texas, is enrolled at the University of North Texas majoring in international studies and Japanese. His home church is Faith UMC, Richardson, in the North Texas Conference.


Tan is an intern with Jubilee USA, a coalition of faith-based, development, human rights and community organizations working for debt relief for impoverished countries.


Felenisi Vaisilvia Vailea (Pacific Islander), 19, Oakland, Calif., is pursuing a degree in sociology at Laney College. She attends Laurel UMC in the California-Nevada Conference. She is also at the NCCC.


Tiffania Willetts (Puerto Rican), 19, of Fort Myers, Fla., studies at Princeton University. She is a major in economics with a minor in Latin American studies. She is a member of North Fort Myers UMC in the Florida Conference.


Willetts works at JFON, a network in mission of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, annual conferences, local congregations and ecumenical partners that provides legal assistance on increasingly complex immigration regulations.


Jonathan Kim (Korean American), 21, Alpharetta, Ga., is enrolled at Emory University. He is a member of The Korean Church Atlanta UMC, Duluth, in the North Georgia Conference.


Kim, twin brother of Edward, is senior intern because he participated in the EYA program last year. This year, he will intern at Teaching for Change, which provides tools to transform schools into centers of justice where students learn to read, write and change the world.


The Rev. L.A. McCrae, 23, African American from Bel Air, Md., serves as EYA coordinator and is interning at GBCS on a work/study program through Wesley Theological Seminary. She is studying for a Master's of Divinity with a focus in urban ministries. Her home church is Ames UMC in the Baltimore-Washington Conference.


American University


EYA interns are housed at United Methodist-related American University. They attend church together each Sunday, and meet for weekly evening devotions and Bible studies.


The interns also will travel to New York City to visit the GBCS office across the street from the United Nations. That office houses the agency's United Nations and International Affairs work area.


In addition to their work placements, interns also participate in weekly seminars exploring issues that affect different racial/ethnic communities.


The General Board of Church and Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church, which has more than 11 million members worldwide. The board's primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education and Leadership Formation, United Nations, and International Affairs. The agency also resources these areas for the denomination's Annual Conferences and local churches. GBCS has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center at the United Nations.


Cooperative endeavor


The Ethnic Young Adult Summer Internship is a cooperative endeavor of GBCS and the Inter-Ethnic Strategy Development Group of the denomination's five ethnic caucuses. The inter-ethnic group is comprised of the chairperson and executive director of the Native American International Caucus, Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans (MARCHA), Black Methodists for Church Renewal, the National Federation of Asian American United Methodists, and the Pacific Islander National Caucus of United Methodists. Directors of the denomination's national ethnic plans and general agency staff are also members.


"Funding for the EYA summer internship is, of course, very limited," says Christie. "Costs for housing continue to rise. With increased funding, we could open the EYA internship to many more students from Africa, the Philippines and Europe." Last year, four of the interns came from overseas.


Christie points out that EYA funding comes from World Service, which is missional giving from local churches. "A significant portion of those World Service funds are set aside by the General Board of Church and Society to strengthen racial and ethnic leadership ministries in the local church and Conferences," he adds.


Contact Christie at 202.488.5611 or for more information about the EYA program. Application details are available at, under the Leadership Development header.