By Rev. Dr. Sunny Brown Farley
Every semester, Wesley House at Tyler Junior College opens its doors to a new batch of students who come with ample enthusiasm and abundant hardship.
Rev. Erin Muckleroy, campus minister and director at Wesley House, said many of the students lack supportive family structures but they come to change their life trajectories through education. They move into the ministry dormitories, then the staff does its best to make their college experience a success.
“Our students know that TJC is an opportunity to better their lives. It’s an opportunity they are given that is special and they want to make something of it,” Muckleroy said. “They show up with the determination and grit to create another narrative.”
Since hardships are common, the ministry is dedicated to meeting the spiritual and physical needs of the community which expands beyond the two dormitory buildings onto the remainder of campus and sometimes into the surrounding neighborhood.
This is why the campus ministry recently opened a food pantry stocked with canned goods, microwaveable meals and shelf-stable items. It also has non-food items that prove useful to struggling students – like refurbished computers, winter clothes and hygiene products.
“We are trying to create a space that if a student is food insecure they can come and get some food. We are trying to be helpful but discrete,” she said. The same goes for the other supplies, she said.
Many students who live at Wesley House are the first in their families to pursue a higher education. At the beginning of this school year, three students moved in from the foster care system; two moved in from low-priced hotel rooms; one came from a homeless shelter and one was previously living in a car, Muckleroy said.
Students pay to live at Wesley House, but it is the cheapest housing on a campus that lacks enough residential spaces for all the students who need it. Students may qualify for financial assistance, grants, or scholarships to offset the cost.
“At Wesley House, they are offered grace, love and guidance”, Muckleroy said. They are fed – both spiritually and physically – through Bible studies at a nearby Whataburger, regular worship experiences, small groups, free Tuesday lunches and more.
Students, particularly those on staff, have the opportunity to learn life skills, too.
“We have great student leaders and a business administrator who understands the mission – all of these things contribute to the success of Wesley House,” Muckleroy said.
She said the students pray for one another and are “each other’s cheerleaders.” They support each other in study groups and grow closer as a community through activities like dodgeball tournaments and holiday-themed parties.
“My goal is to encourage everyone to be whoever it is God wants them to be and to nurture whatever gifts God has given them,” Muckleroy said.
Many United Methodist churches and ministries have supported Wesley House and the campus ministry at TJC over the years. Contact Rev. Erin Muckleroy at Wesley House to learn more about this ministry at or , 903-592-3866.