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Gainesville grads see ministry in their future
Davis Keener, Jesse Mitchum, Nick Smith and Montaega Harrison will all be entering the ministry this fall, a decision made after taking classes at Center Point in Gainesville.

 Many freshmen enter college unsure about what they want to do with their lives, but that’s not the case for four local students.

Davis Keener, Jesse Mitchum, Nick Smith and Montaega Harrison all knew their calling before accepting their diplomas from Gainesville High School — and it came from a higher power.

Prior to graduation, each of the young men — who all opted to take classes at Center Point for elective credit in high school — knew they wanted to use their college years to prepare for their future lives as ministers.

"I’ve gone to church a lot my whole life," said Keener, who will be attending Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs.

"One night, the pastor was speaking to the youth and said for anyone to come down who wanted to minister.

"At that moment, I felt a call on my life and I went down."

That initial resolve was strengthened when he enrolled in religion classes offered at Center Point, a youth development agency, which has been located across the street from Gainesville High for the last 45 years.

The idea for the center was originally conceived by a group of local churches "with the purpose of providing off-site religion classes to public school students."

Although those courses are still offered, the center has evolved into a nonprofit that also offers substance abuse prevention programs, professional counseling and student mentoring opportunities.

Before enrolling in the religious education courses, the students must first obtain permission from their parents.

"We have about 270 students come through our center annually," said David Smith, Center Point executive director.

"Our funding is provided by churches and individuals."

Although they’ve been educating students for nearly half a century, Smith says this is the first time that he’s aware of four members of the same graduating class acknowledging a calling into ministry.

"This is a pretty unique situation," Smith said.

"It’s rare that you have someone at a young age determine they want to enter the ministry, much less to find four from the same graduating class."

To help them in their quest, the center awarded each of the young men with monetary scholarships to help with their college expenses.

"How affirming for them to know the community of faith is supporting them on their journey to become ministers," Smith said.

Both Nick Smith and Jesse Mitchum will be attending Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, while Montaega Harrison will be enrolling at Oral Roberts University.

Ultimately, Harrison says he’d like use his future influence in ministry to "show kids no matter their age, they can make a difference."

"I feel called to evangelism," Keener said.

"But I want to start here in the United States. I have nothing against (international) missions, but the U.S. is in a dark place right now that we need to be brought out of.

"I feel called to help."

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