In Mr. Vanden Heuvel’s classroom, 2 Timothy 1:9 resides on the wall and testifies, “We can only keep on going, after all, by the power of God, who first saved us and then called us to this holy work.” Taken from The Message, the verse continues, “We had nothing to do with it. It was all his idea, a gift prepared for us in Jesus long before we knew anything about it. But we know it now. Since the appearance of our Savior, nothing could be plainer: death defeated, life vindicated in a steady blaze of light, all through the work of Jesus.”

This verse promotes the reminder that we are all able to do the good work that Jesus calls us to do. In Mr. Vanden Heuvel’s Composition 11 (Speech) class, the work we are called to do is “a gift prepared for us in Jesus…”

The “gift” in the Speech class is a donation to a local nonprofit. The challenge is to whom the donation should go. This is where the students take up the responsibility to be advocates for a nonprofit organization.

The students in Mr. Vanden Heuvel’s Speech class have been tasked with selecting, researching, contacting, and advocating for a nonprofit organization to receive the donation. While learning how to speak persuasively, the students applied their newly acquired skills to practice a real-world purpose by arguing why their selected nonprofit deserves the class donation.

The donation, which is provided by anonymous donors, will be selected by the students in the classroom. The criteria for selecting the nonprofit is not how well a student presented their speech, but on how persuasive the students are to their peers. The art of persuasion relies on creating an emotional connection to the audience in order to build a call to action. With each student wanting their selected nonprofit to receive the donation, each student must convince each other to select a different nonprofit. While Mr. Vanden Heuvel anticipated this speech to be a valuable lesson in the art of persuasion, something unexpected happened.

The students, as they spoke to their classmates, showcased a key facet of persuasion that is very difficult to teach: passion. Having passion in a persuasive speech allows the speaker to showcase the value that their nonprofit has to the speaker. The students showcased passion for their selected nonprofit. The students, with a bolden purpose, advocated for Mel Trotter, H.U.G.S. Ranch, Pregnancy Resource Center, Safe Haven Ministries, and many others.

At the conclusion of the final speech, the students voted. Surprisingly, the students shared how difficult it was to select just one to receive the donation. Since Mr. Vanden Heuvel taught two sections of speech, he assumed that only two nonprofits would be selected to receive the donations. Instead of two nonprofits, three were selected: The Esther School, The Omega House, and Water Wins. Soon after the voting, the checks were written for $250 each and were sent to the selected nonprofits. Each donation sent was accompanied by a brief description of how the nonprofit was selected to receive the donation and the name of the student who advocated for the elected nonprofit.

Mr. Vanden Heuvel’s deep hope for his students is that each person may know and believe that they are called to be an active participant in Christ’s redemptive work. While the students may not be giving a financial gift, the gift each one is giving is their passion for a nonprofit.

While the students and staff are working remotely, we all can claim 2 Timothy 1:9: “We can only keep on going, after all, by the power of God, who first saved us and then called us to this holy work.”

—Ryan VandenHeuvel, English Teacher & TfT Lead

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