Mercer Memories: Jim Hollandsworth, DIV ’07

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Jim Hollandsworth graduated from Mercer’s McAfee School of Theology in 2007. He lives in Atlanta and is the executive director of the Path Project. He has two children, 9-year-old Kate and 7-year-old Will, with wife Melinda.

Here are five things to know about Hollandsworth:

1. He started his career as a pastor.

Hollandsworth became a pastor at a Loganville church after graduating from college. He thought he’d do that type of work for the rest of his life, until he got to know the Mexican immigrant families living in a low-income, mobile home neighborhood near his home. Those relationships ultimately changed the course of his career.

“I kind of felt like God was leading us down a different direction,” he said.

Jim Hollandsworth

ABOVE: Jim Hollandsworth. TOP PHOTO: From left, Lupe Sevilla, Path Project co-founder Melinda Hollandsworth, Sophia Abara, Emmanual Soto, Path Project team member MacKenzie McKay, Bryan Sanchez, Luis Garcia, an unidentified student not in program, and Path Project co-founder Jim Hollandsworth are shown at South Gwinnett High School’s graduation in May 2016.

2. He and his wife created a nonprofit.

Most of the kids in this neighborhood were dropping out of school before graduation, so Hollandsworth and his wife began offering homework help. That evolved into an organized program with a mobile home community center and the Path Project nonprofit organization.

Jim left his position at the church in 2013 so he could focus on the organization full-time. The Path Project’s mission is to empower kids living in mobile home neighborhoods to graduate from high school. Today, the organization has seven sites in the Atlanta area and one in Tennessee.

3. His nonprofit works with hundreds of kids each week.

About 550 kids, from 3-year-olds to college students, attend programs with the Path Project each week. The graduation rates in the neighborhoods have been rising, and 88 percent of students involved with the Path Project now finish high school and have a plan for their future.

Hollandsworth said he’s watched 15 kids in the first neighborhood graduate.

“When we first met them, they didn’t have hope for graduation and weren’t thinking about college,” he said.

“To see those kids now and to know that we’re part of it in some small way is really cool. They’re literally breaking the cycle of poverty in their neighborhood by graduating from high school and going to college.”

4. He wants to do more.

Hollandsworth and his team want to expand The Path Project into other communities in metro Atlanta and across the Southeast, including in Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina.

“We never thought it would be what it is,” he said. “It definitely keeps us busy, but we love it.”

The nonprofit received $100,000 from the Chick-fil-A Foundation this year as the True Inspiration Awards S. Truett Cathy Honoree.

5. His public speaking and pastoral care skills came from Mercer.

“Leading a team is not that dissimilar from leading a church staff,” he said. “We’re a faith-based nonprofit, so a lot of things that I learned in seminary about pastoral ministry and a lot of the practical stuff has really translated well. I was not a very good public speaker when I started seminary. Taking preaching classes was really transformative for me.”

Mercer now has degree programs that combine practical theology studies and nonprofit work, which is great for people who are specifically interested in a faith-based community career track like Hollandsworth.

Visit www.pathproject.org to learn more about the organization.

From left, Omar Hernandez, Path Project founders Jim and Melinda Hollandsworth, Sophia Abarca, Bryan Sanchez and Emmanuel Soto are pictured at Gwinnett Estates mobile home park in April 2016.

From left, Omar Hernandez, Path Project founders Jim and Melinda Hollandsworth, Sophia Abarca, Bryan Sanchez and Emmanuel Soto are pictured at Gwinnett Estates mobile home park in April 2016.

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Andrea Honaker