Heartland Church in Fishers pilots new higher-ed program

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A new post-secondary educational opportunity from Heartland Church in Fishers pairs degree-path online classes with faith-based service opportunities and support.

The Heartland School of Leadership and Development is in its first year of operation, partnering with Indiana Wesleyan University. JoAnna Brown is executive director of the program and said the hybrid model allows the school to provide in-person spiritual leadership, development and support, and hands-on work experience while students earn online degrees for their career of choice.

“There are over 30 academic degree options that they can actually apply to through Indiana Wesleyan,” she said. “And so, they come here to be on-site Tuesdays and Thursdays, they have classes and then after class here, they go into their ministry area to work based on their gifts.”

Brown said the program pairs each student with a mentor from their chosen career path and provides other opportunities for personal and spiritual growth, as well as professional connections.

“I look at it as being a really holistic program, where we’re trying to support the students at different angles,” she said.

The first class at the new school is small with just four students, but Brown said that’s a comfortable number as Heartland administrators tweak the program based on observing what does and doesn’t work, and through student input.

“Putting together programs such as this, you always have to be open to change,” she said. “We’re doing continuous improvement.”

The four students are Elisha Takpale, Gwen Kennedy, Hadessa Henry and Ibrahim Kamara.

Takpale, who is interested in the medical field, said she likes the school’s holistic approach that includes classes, hands-on experience and career support.

“One of the greatest things about this was that it is a Christian organization, and I was looking for a place also, in which I’ll be able to grow my faith and learn how to use it,” she said.

Kennedy wants to go into student ministry. She said that in all fields, recent college graduates can struggle to find jobs because so many of those jobs require experience.

“I think that’s one of the coolest things about HSLDA is you get hands-on experience, whether it’s in ministry or whether it’s out in the marketplace or wherever … that you can have on your resume when you’re applying for jobs when you graduate,” she said.

Henry, who also is interested in a career in worship, said she recently transferred to Heartland. She had been taking online classes on her own through Indiana Wesleyan, but felt disconnected and wanted to be closer to her church family.

“I really enjoy being around people who are also growing in their faith and around the same age range that I am in that I can relate to,” she said.

Kamara, who is working toward a degree in community development, also tried other college experiences before transferring to Heartland. He said the previous schools didn’t benefit his spiritual life.

“I wanted to be somewhere where I can get the education, but also get the spiritual discipline and the spiritual advice that I need,” he said. “And also, just the guidance throughout life.”

Kamara said he has lost friends to violence and wants to work with communities to help reduce or stop that cycle.

Henry Mosley is the pastoral care director at Heartland. He said the new program is a way to help young adults maintain core values as they continue to develop.

“And that development will hopefully help them find their place in a world where everybody’s searching for significance,” he said. “So, I’m finding the value in the fact that (we can) be a part of that really healthy experience for them.”

Brown said she expects the school will expand in its second year to 10 to 15 students.

“I think, comfortably, we can — where we are now in terms of our growth — expect that many students into the program for next year,” she said. “I envision, though, within the next five years, we’ll have probably over 50 students, hopefully, in the program.”

For more, visit heartlandsld.com.


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