Act Six

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Bethel has partnered with Act Six through Urban Ventures to welcome in some of the most promising leaders of our surrounding communities.

Meckenna Woetzel | Features Reporter

Christ Followers. Character-Builders. Learners. Truth-Seekers. World-Changers. Reconcilers. Salt and Light.

At Bethel University students hear these words from their first day on campus to the very last at graduation. These words are plastered on the wall outside of Student Life, sent out in pamphlets to incoming freshmen and spoken on at chapel. Yet in the routine of daily living, the mission of Bethel can become just that: routine. This begs the question, what is Bethel actively doing to live out their core values?

Is Bethel putting its money where its mouth is?

Enter Act Six, a visionary program partnering with Bethel University as well as twelve colleges across the nation. Bethel partnered with the program two years ago as a way to discover exemplary leaders and an opportunity to reach under-served and underrepresented communities.

So how does it work?

College bound scholars in minority communities are encouraged by school counselors to apply for the Act Six program. These students are recognized as promising urban leaders, those who will return to and transform the community after graduation. Institutions including Augsburg College, North Central University, University of Northwestern and Bethel University host the selected students on campus, and inviting the most impressive for the full-tuition, full-need scholarship. Once at the institution of choice, the group of scholars, named a Cadre, start leadership, vocational and Shalom training that continues throughout the year. After their collegiate graduation, they are sent back out to be agents of change in their communities. It is in this cycle that Bethel hopes to create a legacy of urban leaders.

“Act Six is intimately engaged with our values,” says Bethel’s Chief Diversity Officer and co-leader of the Act Six program Ruben Rivera.

The program is biblically based. In Acts 6:1-7, the disciples elected seven believers to return and minister to their communities, and because of this,”the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (6:7)

Bethel’s Act Six scholars are drawn from local urban communities including Park Center, Roseville, Osseo, Champlin Park, and Moundsview. Although their communities may look similar, these scholars’ passions, interests, and experiences are unique.

“Each one is so individual. You can’t really describe all of who they are and all they want to do,” said co-leader of Bethel’s Act Six program Priscilla Kibler.

Freshman Grace Arel and member of Cadre Two remembers touring Bethel for the first time after being admitted into the program.

“I came here with an open mind,” Arel said. “But seeing the students changed my perspective. I was excited to be a Royal.”

For freshman Hsa Hser, the transition to Bethel has been endurable because of her Cadre.

“I call it a family because it feels like a family. It feels like I know someone,” Hser said. The Cadres meet regularly throughout the school year for training and fostering a safe, tight-knit community of leaders.

Kibler couldn’t easily sum up the ‘Act Six Scholar,’ but noted one over-arching characteristic of these individuals: they are leaders. As defined by Kibler, “Leadership is woven into every aspect of your life. It’s not a title, but a way of being.”

Each scholar has been highly invested in their community or high school, and now they are learning to invest in the Bethel community, helping to shape a relatively individualized culture on campus.

Yet these scholars have also had to overcome enormous obstacles. Hser recalls growing up in Frogtown and witnessing a lot of bullying at a local park. She quietly describes the summer a Karen man was run over several times in an apartment parking lot. These are the students who have ‘beat the odds,’ excelled in school, and want to return to their roots after graduation.

However, with a full-tuition, full-need scholarship, Kibler makes clear the rigor of the program. “[The scholars] are not here just to be here, but rather to rub shoulder with people who are thinking critically and those who want to give back to the community.”

The heart of the Act Six program is not necessarily diversity but equipping students to return to their communities instead. Act Six is not just for students of color. Any student could be an Act Six scholar.

“We know that Bethel’s mission is a global mission, and we want to reach different groups of people,” Rivera said, “but Bethel is a Predominantly White Institution (PWI). That’s not a put down, it’s just a historical fact. We also know our communities are growing increasingly diverse including the Twin Cities. That is literally our constituency because the college is a very local school. We’ve become increasingly local, and that locality is exploding in diversity. You do the math.”

With these realities, Rivera acknowledges urban communities have the human assets to fix identified problems. But now, Bethel is a part of equipping them and sending them back to these communities to be agents of change. As they enter Bethel University for the year, these scholars are bringing with them what ultimately helps transform a community. And for Rivera, the Act Six Program is simply an opportunity to “[be] more effective in an incredibly complicated world.”

 

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Photo Credit: Marco Ochoa

Scholars from the Act Six Cadre One for Bethel University, UNW, and Augsburg.

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Photo Credit: Marco Ochoa

Bethel University’s proud ‘guinea pigs’: Cadre One.

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Photo Credit: Meckenna Woetzel

Grace Arel of Cadre Two knew once she arrived, “I am meant to be here.”

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Photo Credit: Meckenna Woetzel

Another Cadre Two member, Hsa Hser, has discovered the value of learning about others’ perspectives.

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Photo Credit: Meckenna Woetzel

Our seasoned Cadre One member Marco Ochoa passionately describes his vision for the CCC: for him, “It’s as simple as saying, Hey! You come Here! That’s how a chain starts.”

 

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