In addition to preaching God's unconditional love, leaders at a Murray Hill church are pushing their members to get back in school. "Education builds discipline and your earning potential," said the Rev. Zamekio Jackson, co-pastor of Kingdom People Christian Center, a year-old non-denominational church at 600 Edgewood Ave. S. "A lot of our members have a poor self-image and need encouragement and confidence."
Jackson, a 1985 Lee High School graduate, grew up in Murray Hill and said he is enjoying serving the dynamic area. The church has more than 200 members on paper; however, about 30 to 75 show up for 10 a.m. Sunday services. Jackson said his church's creed is acceptance targeted at people who have never been to church or who have been turned off by church. "We do the loving. We let God do the changing," Jackson said. "Whether you are a liar, loser, thief, divorcee or live an alternative lifestyle, you are welcome here. Shouldn't we walk in the same posture as Jesus did?" Meanwhile, church officials have been helping their members get back in high school or to register for community college or a vocational program. It's natural for a bivocational co-pastor, the Rev. Nashon Nicks, who works as a college recruiter for Strayer University on the Southside. Nicks said at least two members have taken up trades and others have started working on their associate's degree. But the best success story, they said, is A.J. Coleman, who is playing football on a full scholarship at North Carolina Community College, where coaches are impressed. A.J. played drums in the church's band. Church officials learned A.J. had graduated from Lee High in 2009 after a stellar football career and good grades. He scored 1,400 on his SAT college entrance test. Nathan Aiken, the church's business manager, worked with A.J.'s parents, made some calls, sent highlight films to colleges and landed A.J. a scholarship. "Aiken made it happen. If it wasn't for him, A.J. would still be here, working and not going to school," said A.J.'s father, Autry Coleman, who added that he and his son didn't know about sending tapes, interviews, time lines and paperwork required. Aiken, originally from New York, said he was once in A.J.'s place, an accomplished student who fell through the cracks. He said his mission today is to help young people and their parents do what is needed to find a college scholarship. "Those guys are doing really great things over at the church," Autry Coleman said.