Male mentor working with female student

Two Saint Paul alumni have dedicated their time and talents to empowering young people to create positive change. 

With 39% of youth ages 12-17 living in low-income families, the American Psychological Association points out a number of risks facing children living in poverty:

  • Chronic stress affecting memory and concentration
  • Difficulty completing education
  • Risk of abuse and neglect
  • Behavioral and emotional problems
  • Poor physical health outcomes

In light of these challenges, Denise Graves (MASM ‘06) and Justin Zeigler (MDiv ‘07) have answered God’s call to offer hope to young people grappling with difficult circumstances.

Graves and Zeigler remind us how Saint Paul prepares graduates to provide much-needed leadership and service, both in and out of a church setting.

Male mentor working with male student

Denise Graves, MASM ‘06

Denise Graves understands that there are streams of consciousness connecting all people, and that transformation takes place one breath, thought, word and step at a time. 

She founded Peace Ministry as a Vacation Bible School for teens living in troubled communities. Many of these young people live in fear from witnessing drive-by shootings and other violent acts.

The work of Peace Ministry focuses on being, pursuing and participating in Peace. For Graves, Peace means all people living with full dignity. It includes adequate housing, enough food, living wages, creative expression, meaningful existence and a sense of purpose in life.

Through Peace Ministry, Graves helps teens cultivate healthy relationships with others, themselves and their communities. She accomplishes this through a number of services:

  • Life coaching, spiritual counseling and integrative healthcare
  • Face-to-face meetings in person or online
  • Vision boards
  • Group activities
  • Multi-faith spiritual study
  • Strategic planning

Graves teaches young people that change begins with transforming their own internal dialogue and self-image. “When we claim that power and direct it with right intention,” she says, “we transform ourselves and the world.”

Through her seminary courses, Graves learned that all people want connection, but are limited by time and circumstance. “My time at Saint Paul opened doors to new resources that help me serve the diverse people of God.”

Justin Zeigler, MDiv ‘07

One survey found that 70% of young people feel uninspired at school. 

Justin Zeigler has set out to change that in his role as Dream Director for a Connecticut high school where over half of the students live in poverty. 

But what does a Dream Director actually do? 

In partnership with schools across the United States, The Future Project enlists Dream Directors like Justin to provide life coaching that instills a sense of belonging, belief, purpose and power. Under the guidance of a Dream Director, students complete unique projects that engage vital skills and catalyze change. 

Justin encourages students to create projects that align with their passions and provides a listening ear for those needing to talk about their problems. He feels like his biggest responsibility is to simply help teens understand themselves, what their passions are and how to nurture their dreams. On International Women’s Day, for example, Justin was “thrilled to support my student who dreamed of hosting an assembly to celebrate women.”

He feels that working outside the church is an excellent way to serve people in the unique way God has called you. Seminary taught him to “create spaces where people feel loved, heard, seen and directed to live deeper, more meaningful lives.”

Are you looking for creative ways to advance your own innovative ministry? We invite you to explore how a Master of Divinity and other masters degrees from Saint Paul can help you answer your call.

You may apply online or call our admissions office at 913-725-8289.


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