The ministry offers students from kindergarten through 12th grade guidance to achieving academic excellence. About 250 students participate in its initiatives each semester, some of whom are not Turner members.
On May 27, 37 Turner high school seniors participated in the church’s annual graduation recognition ceremony, wearing their individual schools’ caps and gowns. In total, the graduating seniors earned $2.6 million in college scholarships.
The church, established by slaves in the mid-1800s, also celebrated its consecutive Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient.
After moving from California in the 1990s, Mychal and Nina Wynn joined Turner and changed the direction of the church’s education ministry when they became co-chairpersons six years ago.
“We redefined the ministry from merely presenting the students with college scholarships to accepting a role in increasing achievement, beginning in the primary grades,” said Mychal.
He said the ministry has become a supplement to public education, which has often come up short in closing the achievement gap.
“Schools have not, anywhere in the county at anytime, been able to systemically or in any sustainable way close the achievement gap,” said Mychal. “There is a huge need for faith-based institutions and community associations to accept a role in supporting, encouraging and increasing student achievement.”
Mychal said he and his wife are consultants who have worked in the education field for 30 years. They operate The Foundation for Ensuring Access and Equity and an independent publishing company, Rising Sun Publishing, which has published Mychal’s 26 educational books.
The education ministry has 17 established initiatives, including Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests prep, college fairs, college planning workshops and biannual academic achievement celebrations.
“Just providing opportunities for parents and children to really learn and understand what they need to do to be successful in K-12 schools, so that they’re college ready and have access to some of the best colleges and universities in the country,” Mychal said.
In the fall, the graduating seniors will be enrolling in such institutions of higher education as Kennesaw State University, Morehouse, Howard, Xavier, University of Miami and Rochester Institute of Technology.
Turner member Brianna Moses, a 2011 South Cobb High School graduate, is currently studying biology at Howard in Washington, D.C. She credited the education ministry with preparing her for college and receiving a Gates Millennium Scholarship.
“They helped me so greatly my senior year with college, having to fill out all those applications,” said Moses, who plans to become a genetic counselor.
“I was also preparing for scholarships, and most importantly the Gates Millennium Scholarship, because that scholarship was so extraneous. I had over 15 essays, so I had to get them revised and edited. They had no problem helping with that process and with my resume.”
Mychal said he will never forget the comments one male student from Marietta made after attending a college planning meeting, an experience that inspired him to focus more on academics.
“His comments were: ‘I have never been in a room with that many smart black people,’” recalled Mychal.
“He talked about how students in the room were talking about getting into Ivy League schools, and some students having scored a 28 on the ACT were disappointed because it wasn’t as high as they expected. He said he had just never experienced that.”