In summer 2008,  Belhaven University President Roger Parrott approached MCL with an idea for a Christian scholarship program. Since then, Belhaven has partnered with us each year to honor Christian Leaders of the Future. Applications are reviewed by trusted believers, and we honor the finalists and winners at our awards program. This year’s awards program is on March 2. Check our Facebook page for the live announcement of the winners!

     In the meantime, we hope these brief excerpts from the finalists’ essays and recommendation letters give you hope for what God is doing in Mississippi’s young people.

Thank you to all our 2021 sponsors of Christian Leaders of the Future: 

Gold: Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company

Silver: First Commercial Bank; Mississippi College

Bronze: Mississippi FCA

Friends: Herrin-Gear Lexus; Hinds Community College; Smiles By Design, Dr. Eugene Brown

Mask sponsor: Holmes Community College

In-kind: Fresh Cut Catering & Floral; Kinkade’s Fine Clothing; Milestone Christian Bookstore; MMI Dining; Stegall Imagery; and Thimblepress


West Lincoln Attendance Center
Mt. Gilead Primitive Baptist Church, Smithdale
Parents: Luke and Robyn Addison

     “Outstanding young people like Noah Addison restore my faith in the future of this ‘One Nation Under God.’” – Mickey Myers, school administrator

     “When I consider the forgiveness I have in Christ, I realize that I have only been offended as much as I have been an offense. Jesus Christ suffered unto death. I have only suffered to inconvenience. (Ephesians 4:32) just shows if He can forgive us for what we have done, then we should definitely forgive others.”  Noah Addison


North Pontotoc High School
Discovery Church, Pontotoc
Parents: Michael and Amanda Bailey

     “I have been able to trust (Payton) with more responsibility than any other teen I have employed, due to her trustworthiness and maturity.” – Karlyn Warren, employer

     “(It’s) important that I confront who I actually am, because the root has to set before the fruit can appear; therefore making sure I dig into God’s word and pray to Him daily is so important.”  Payton Bailey


Colonial Heights Baptist Church, Ridgeland
Parents: William and Barbie Bassett

     “Our church began a one-on-one discipleship program, and I was blessed to be paired with Gracie. … I have told her many times that I feel like I learn from her more than she learns from me! I love her heart … filled with joy for the Lord!”  Janet Howard, mentor

     “Our chief purpose in life is to glorify God, and if we are constantly rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks, we are living in that purpose.” – Gracie Bassett


Neshoba Central High School
Coldwater Baptist Church, Philadelphia
Parents: John and Penny Bates

     “As (Bible club) president, (Noah) offers a devotion to our club members each week, which involves him speaking twice a week before school and even coming to school on a day when he is not scheduled to be here.”  Amy Higginbotham, Bible club sponsor

     “As a 10-year-old child laying in the hospital bed, all I knew to do was to pray. … I defied (the) odds and made a full recovery. From then on, I began to form a close relationship with Christ which I pursue daily.”  Noah Bates


Hartfield Academy
Country Woods Baptist Church, Byram
Parents: Bert and Aimee Bell

     “(Annellise) had to sit out (from soccer) last year due to transfer rules but was there every day, encouraging her teammates … The Lady Hawks won back-to-back state championships under her leadership.”  Jim DeLaughter, high-school principal

     “As I embark on the next big step in my life … I choose to stand up for what I believe in. To make it okay to be different. To show others that I am a follower of Christ.”  Annellise Bell


Madison-Ridgeland Academy
Meadowbrook Church of Christ, Jackson
Parents: Dwayne and Leigh Blaylock

     “(Lucy) has garnered enough respect from her peers that when she speaks, people listen.” – Libbo Crosswhite, mentor and guidance counselor

     “I try to do my best to set a good example for the younger kids of what an active youth group member looks like … I know that I will not get to see the immediate results of my actions, but I hope that I have helped lead to a change in our youth group.” – Lucy Blaylock


Leake Academy
First Baptist Carthage
Parents: Matthew and Elisa Boyd

     “Though Emily may not be the loudest in the room, she is the kindest. … I believe that one of Emily’s greatest strengths lies in her ability to make those around her feel comfortable, at home, in her presence.” – Anna Blount, youth minister’s wife

     “(I participate in a school program) where I write a letter each month to an assigned nursing home resident. The goal … is to remind nursing home residents that they are loved and appreciated even during lockdown.” – Emily Boyd


Jackson Preparatory School

Puckett Baptist Church, Brandon
Parents: Marcus and Whitney Canoy

     “One of (Kayleigh’s) best qualities that I have been able to witness is the way she leads team huddles for FCA. … She has (led) younger girls on the softball team in ways to live out their faith and how to make more disciples.” – Shane Bennett, Fellowship of Christian Athletes leader and former softball coach

     “I want to, in some capacity, defend those who cannot defend themselves. … maybe (as) a lawyer for inmates on death row, for small Christian organizations.” – Kayleigh Canoy


Madison-Ridgeland Academy
Broadmoor Baptist Church, Madison
Parents: Allan and Pepper Carter

     “(Cade) is more than capable of being a leader when necessary and follower when necessary. In other words, he is a team player and a team leader at the same time. In today’s world, that seems to be quite rare.”  Matt Bramuchi, teacher

     “The Christian leader who has impacted my life the most has been my mother. … She taught me how to share the gospel, view myself as a worthy and loved child of God, and most importantly, she taught me how to have a relationship with God.”  – Cade Carter


Madison-Ridgeland Academy
First Presbyterian Church, Jackson
Parents: Paul and Laura Chinchen

     “(Bess) has great feedback and will answer but wants others to be heard first. She is someone who tries her best to make everyone feel known and loved.” – Olivia Woodward, Young Life mentor

     “I was born at a small mission hospital in Africa. It is my dream now to work there. Malawi is a beautiful but impoverished country … In a country of 18 million, there are less than 500 doctors.” – Bess Chinchen


St. Andrew’s Episcopal School
Pinelake Church
Parents: John and Debbie Dillard

     “Although Emma Grace is one of the youngest of our regular volunteers, she has proved to be one of the most reliable and shows a level of maturity far beyond her years.” – Kaitlin Childress, The Mustard Seed outreach coordinator

     “My parents adopted me at the age of 9 months old, and the moment they told me was the moment I knew that God was 100 (percent) real. There is no other way that two people from Mississippi could end up with a baby half-way across the world.” – Emma Grace Dillard


Park Place Christian Academy
Wynndale Baptist Church, Terry
Parents: Kevin and Natalie Gaughf

     “(Madalyn’s) quiet Christian leadership and compassionate relationships within our student ministry are a glue that God uses to bond our group.” – Rev. D. Aaron Tucker, family pastor

     “(I originally professed Christ) so I could see my grandmother again. When I was 13 … I realized I was not truly saved. … I wanted Him to be the Ruler of my life, and I allowed the Lord to really change my life.” – Madalyn Gaughf


Jackson Academy
First Baptist Jackson
Parents: Chuck and Virginia Gautier

     “(Meagan) has a beautiful voice yet has never displayed any sense of arrogance. The students recognize her leadership ability and respect her accordingly. I will give personal testimony that she has found favor with the entire group!” – Slater Murphy, choir director

     “I am currently involved in a Tuesday morning Bible study …  I have attended this Bible study since seventh grade.  It has been amazing to see how the Lord has used this Bible study.  When I was in seventh grade, I admired the older girls that would take me to Bible study before school, and now I have the honor of driving the next generation before school and praying with them.” – Meagan Gautier


Park Place Christian Academy
First Baptist Church Richland
Parents: Heath and Christa Grice

     “‘Above everything else guard your heart, because from it flow the springs of life’ (Proverbs 4:23). This is Sarah Kate’s philosophy, and she lives it every single day.” – Carolyn Boteler, fellow church member

     “Growing up, my older relatives used to tell me stories about their lives. The stories I remember the most are the ones that were about helping other people and living to bring others to Christ. … My dream is to practice medicine, and in doing so, I plan to share my love for Christ.” – Sarah Kate Grice


Mississippi School of the Arts
First Baptist Meridian
Parents: Michael and Kathryn Harrison

     “(Sydney) is always unapologetic about giving witness to her faith, using her unique God-given talents in the arts. Sydney is exactly the kind of Christian young woman the world so desperately needs.” – David Bishop, music minister

     “Most of my peers (at Mississippi School of the Arts) are LGBTQ+, atheists, or practice other religions. … I am still trying to stay strong in my faith and preach the gospel … and if my peers do not listen, I try to be a great example of what a Christian is: kind, helpful, and patient.” – Sydney Harrison


Madison-Ridgeland Academy
Highland Colony Baptist Church, Ridgeland
Parents: Kenneth and Tresha Ivey

     “The faculty turn over responsibilities to Conner that no other student in the history of the school has been given. Conner is a leader on our campus. Not just a student who serves as a leader among his peers, but a leader to all age groups, from our 3-year-old students to our most seasoned faculty members.”  Frances Dykes, teacher

     “Far too many times, we as Christians get complacent in our small, believer-filled communities. As instructed by God, we are to go out and spread (His) Word so that others may have the opportunity to know (Him). I will do that in my life.” – Conner Ivey


Madison Central High School
Broadmoor Baptist Church, Madison
Parents: Ken and Karen Jones

     “Carson has a caring and giving spirit, one who encourages others to do their best through both her words and actions. She is bright, capable and hardworking. Her involvement is an asset to any group or organization.” – Lillian Knight, youth drama group director

     “Something that was (very) challenging to me personally was having a one-on-one gospel conversation with an 8-year-old girl (who) had next to no previous knowledge of it … I had to work through the fear of messing up … However, after that experience, I have been able to rely on God to give me wisdom more than I have before.”  Carson Jones


Jackson Academy
Word of Life Church, Flowood
Parents: Terrance and Latoya Lewis

     “(When) she was called upon to stand on a stage in front of roughly 200 (people) and share her testimony … Madison stood up, walked on stage, got the microphone and began to declare how Jesus has changed her life, with conviction and passion.” – Brian Butler, youth pastor

     “I desire to go on more mission trips and share the gospel globally …. I will continue to pray for our world and ask God to use me in ways that I cannot even fathom so that Heaven will be crowded. I also continue to ask the Lord to help me see Him in every situation so that I will overcome every spiritual attack.”  Madison Lampley


Kirk Academy
First Baptist Church Grenada
Parents: Hank and Lynn Lane

     “When I think of someone who honors Christ in their (life), I think of Anna Grace. My wife would say the exact same thing about her. I would trust her to be an influence for my son, and for her to model for him what it looks like to live your life for the glory of God.”  Tyler Bolen, youth pastor

     “My passion is talking to others about how great our God truly is. If I could make a career out of sharing the gospel, along with interacting with others and speaking, I know God would allow me to walk the path He has provided for me. Since I know God has allowed me to get to where I am today, I know without a doubt He will make a way for my future.”  Anna Grace Lane


Gulfport High School
Member of First Baptist Gulfport; Active in youth at Trinity United Methodist Church, Gulfport
Parents: Johnny and Margaret Marquez

     “I have been a counselor for 24 years, which means I have counseled thousands of students. Out of all the thousands, Lilly Marquez is at the very top of students who have a palpable love for Christ and use this love to make their school and community a better place.”  Cecilia Zahedi, guidance counselor

     “I felt like my bridge to God had been torn down because I was constantly overwhelmed with guilt and sadness out of longing to be a popular teenager. … once I recognized how I was letting the world attack me … my heart surrendered to Him like never before.” – Lilly Marquez


Germantown High School
Broadmoor Baptist Church, Madison
Parents: Neil and Jennifer Marsh

     “The best quality about Katherine Marsh is her boldness. She is not scared to talk to strangers. She constantly sees the best in everybody and truly wants the world to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” – Joshua A. Kinsley, high-school pastor

     “As someone who struggles with perfectionism, anxiety, and fear, I have a natural tendency to allow those things to control me. But with the reminder of (Joshua 1:9), I know I can rely on God for my strength to do hard things.” – Katherine Marsh


Franklin High School
First Baptist Church of Bude
Parents: Timothy and Rebekah Richardson

     “There is a special calling on Alana’s life to do ministry. I have so much confidence in this fact that I have actually attempted to recruit Alana to a leadership position at (my church).” – Ben Goff, campus ministry leader

     “(Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane) inspires me to trust in the Father and Creator of the universe in every situation in life because His will shall be done, and His plans for my life are greater than anything I could fathom.” – Alana Richardson


Madison-Ridgeland Academy
Christ United Methodist Church, Jackson
Parents: Greg and Elise Self

     “By saying ‘Yes’ to pursuing Jesus, even in her most shy (and) timid state as a (freshman), she has found her voice, her confidence and the ability to bring others to Him in a boldness that only God could have provided.” – Libbo Crosswhite, guidance counselor

     “I have realized the true joy I experience when I tell others about the gospel. … I plan to go out and talk about my faith, allow my actions to show the light of God in everything I do, and glorify God by using the abilities He gave me.” – Annelise Self


Simpson County Academy
BridgePointe Baptist Church, Magee
Parents: Jerry and Phyllis Smith

     “Jered is passionate about helping those that are less fortunate by way of his very own outreach organization, Season of Service. What most impresses me … isn’t his public persona; it is his involvement in the youth ministry and his dedication to (serving) others.” – Kim Stubbs, youth ministry leader

     “I believe God is calling me to pursue a career in sports medicine. … it is so important that athletes have a connection with Christ because sometimes they face roadblocks (injuries, fights with teammates, not enough playing time) and they need a spiritual connection to Christ.” – Jered Smith


Madison-Ridgeland Academy
Highlands Presbyterian Church, Ridgeland
Parents: Chris and Carla Snopek

     “(Lydia) spoke about Jesus and His Word in a way that I believe Peter and John did in Acts 4:13 — where it was utterly undeniable that she had been with Jesus. … that freshman girl has not stopped running (and I mean running hard) after Jesus a day since.” – Dani Craft, former central Mississippi FCA Area Rep

     “(Philippians 4:4-9) totally changed my perspective … I wasn’t as nervous for my cross-country meets or standing in front of my classmates sharing the Word of God. People started to notice this peace inside of me, and I was able to share this passage and the way God was able to lead me.” – Lydia Snopek


Kosciusko Senior High School
First Baptist Church Kosciusko
Parents: Mark Steed, Melissa Boswell Townsend

     “(Macey) decides she wants to accomplish something and sets her mind to reach those goals. … Macey has also started her own home/office cleaning service, T-shirt designing, and a Christmas gift-wrapping service.” – Chris and Courtney Cauthen, worship pastor and wife

     “2020 has been a road full of obstacles, high mountaintops, and especially low valleys. … Fortunately, we, Christians, can look at the glass half full. … In a world full of negatives, I want to be a part of the small percentage that is positive.” – Macey Steed


Madison-Ridgeland Academy
Fondren Church, Jackson
Parents: Van and Karen Stewart

     “I have watched as (Abbey) faces conflict and enters hard conversations with grace and a heart to reach a resolution led by her faith in Jesus.” – Jan Moncrief, Young Life leader

     “Doing things for others without benefiting myself is the best way to understand who Jesus was and to show His love to others. Striving to have more of a God-centered mindset instead of a self-centered one is the best way to live out my faith intentionally.” – Abbey Stewart


Warren Central High School
Crossway Church, Vicksburg
Parents: William and Neeli Watts

     “(Macy) loves serving others and loves to help anyone in need. I’ve watched Macy include people in activities when others didn’t even notice someone was left out. God has given her the ability to see others through His eyes.”  Jessica Gain, life group leader

     “(Joshua 1:9) constantly reminds me that I am not on this Earth to be popular. I am here to show God’s love to others through my life. I am never alone, and He will be by my side wherever I go.” – Macy Watts


Oak Grove High School
Destiny Church, Hattiesburg
Parents: Clayton and Christi Williamson

     “(I) was awed at the purity of (Ashlyn’s) heart for the things of God.” – Vickie M. Webb, fellow church member

     “I plan to live out my faith … by continuing to love people despite what they may believe, because that is what Jesus has told me to do. He loves me even though I helped put (Him) on the cross. Just because I have found Jesus before someone else does not mean that someone else will not find Jesus.” – Ashlyn Williamson


Parklane Academy
First Baptist Church, Summit
Parents: Marlon Lee Wroten (deceased), Jane McCaskill Loyacano

     “Recently, Alex suffered a tremendous loss. … His dad passed away just a few weeks ago, and he has continued to excel in his daily walk and is an inspiration to so many with his trust in God’s will and timing.” – Debbie Hodges, fellow church member

     “The verse that has gotten me through all of the pain and conflict is 2 Corinthians 12:9 …. I believe that God is saying (in this verse) that no matter the distress you go through, we can always seek Him, and He will lead us where He wants us to be.”  Alex Wroten


Pro-Life Mississippi