|Pastor helps tribal member set goals
Nancy Donato, 22, a member of the Yakama Nation, credits the Rev. MarLu
Scott with guiding her along the path to a college education. UMNS
photos by Nancy Neelley.
By Lilla Marigza*
May 7, 2009 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
A young woman has beaten the odds because a supportive United
Methodist pastor gave her the confidence to set ambitious goals for
Nancy Donato, 22, will graduate from Eastern Washington State
University next December. She is a member of the Yakama Nation, a tribe
of Native Americans living on the Yakama Reservation in southern
Growing up, she says, the temptations of drugs and alcohol started in
the 7th grade. “Not only in my community, which is primarily Native
Americans, but I think in small communities in general, there isn’t a
lot to do other than drugs or things that aren’t very positive,” she
Statistically, almost half of high school students in this region drop
out and few of those who graduate go on to college. With little
education, job prospects are bleak.
Donato said many of her former classmates have children to support.
While some find work in the local mill or at the tribal casino, others
depend on family. “It’s really sad when I see people I went to school
with and they’re not doing anything with their lives,” she added.
Her life would have followed a similar path, she believes, if not for
the guidance of the Rev. MarLu Primero Scott, pastor of Wilbur Memorial
United Methodist Church, located on the reservation.
The Rev. MarLu Scott holds newly
baptized Lola Westin Wheeler.
Pursued own dreams
A native of the Philippines, Scott is a second career clergy member
who has followed a lifelong dream because of the encouragement of a
mentor in her life. In 2003, at the age of 60, Scott’s first
appointment was the small, rural, 150-year-old Wilbur church.
Scott could see that young people in the community were eager for life
advice beyond what high school guidance counselors could offer.
“Teachers would agree to mentor students, but they seemed to become
discouraged by the general attitude and response from the students,”
The pastor said she recognized Donato’s gifts right away and was
determined to help the young woman recognize her potential. She
encouraged Donato to participate in Sunday liturgy and provided
positive afterschool activities. Scott even bought airplane tickets so
Donato and a classmate could visit Vanderbilt University in Nashville,
Tenn., where Scott attended seminary.
Encouragement and support
The contact has continued while Donato is studying at Eastern
Washington State University. Scott has sent care packages and makes
frequent phone calls. Wilbur Memorial members also send encouragement.
The support means a lot to her.
Scott says all clergy should seek opportunities to engage and develop
young church members.
“They’re quick to show that they are proud of my accomplishments and
that means a lot to me because it tells me what I am doing is
worthwhile,” she explained. “They’re like my second family.”
Scott believes all clergy should seek opportunities to engage and
develop young church members. “It is a very important component in the
shaping of our faith, in the shaping of who we are as we respond to the
needs of our world,” she said.
Donato is the only one of her siblings to go to college and one of only
four students from her high school class on track to complete a
bachelor’s degree. With a major in child psychology, she plans to
return to the Yakama Nation and nurture children in the tribal casino
She also wants to set an example for tomorrow’s leaders, “I just want
to be there, not to impress them, but to show them I made it,” she said.
*Marigza is a freelance producer and writer based in Nashville, Tennessee
News media contact: Fran Walsh, Nashville, (615)742-5458 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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