Reverend Coley Chestnut is the Director of Student Life at Concordia College Alabama. A Selma native, Rev. Chestnut has yet to give up hope on the college he calls Selma’s “best kept secret.”
Reverend Chestnut grew up in Selma during the time of school integration. “Selma as it is now was still working out racial challenges that existed in the community.”
The move of integration was not an easy one for black students, who faced adversity when joining the integrated Selma High School. While Reverend Chestnut attended and graduated from that school, he remembers that Alabama Lutheran (now CCA) served as an alternative for black students, many of his friends, who faced problems and challenges while moving schools.
“Concordia still offers that beacon light of hope-that sunshine of possibility even if sometimes in your community things are not as we would want them to be,” he says. “People from all over the world have come here to find and gather themselves and go on to be successful in life."
Q. What was Selma like during school integration?
When Rev. Chestnut says there are students on campus from all over the world, he means it. Almost 100 of the school's 350 students are from international countries. "Concordia offers this unique opportunity to meet these students where they are and to take the time and help them build foundationally upward until they are ready to meet challenges," he says.
Rev. Chestnut says the faculty and staff have been concerned about the students moving forward, but everyone is thankful for the school fair in March. Around 40 colleges showed up to offer enrollment to CCA students and many were able to be accepted that day.
Beginning in July, the campus will sit empty - another factor that is concerning to Chestnut.
"Concordia sits in the middle of Selma right from downtown. A huge campus. Consumes a lot of acreage. If nothing is taking place productively on this campus, one can see that it would become a place of blight and ruin. Which would just not be good for a city that has it’s share of struggles."
Rev. Chestnut continues to remain positive about the future potential of the school. "We have a community of people that need to be at Concordia College Alabama. Their hope and their dream is right here. And we need to find someway that in this vast country where God has blessed so many lives, that they can make this happen."