As the new school year begins, we asked Adventist young people to reflect and respond to a series of questions about their experience with Adventist schooling:
Many of you attended or currently attend an Adventist college. What is/was your favorite part about attending an Adventist college? What was your least favorite part? Was it yours or your parents' decision for you to attend an Adventist college, and how did this affect your feelings about attending? What kind of impact (good or bad) do you feel attending an Adventist college had or will have on your future career or life goals? Do you feel an Adventist college experience is important for Adventist young adults? Why or why not?
Below are their responses:
Givan Hinds, 21, Andrews University Graduate, Current Student in Loma Linda University’s Masters of Public Health Program
I've always attended Adventist institutions. Matriculation through Ruth Murdoch Elementary School, Andrews Academy, and recently graduating from Andrews University, has made me a bona fide native of this small Adventist community. Living in the area I've heard referred to as "Jerusalem" has allowed me to hear the most lauded Adventist preachers, learn from the most learned Adventist professors, and work alongside some of the most earnest Adventist peers.
It wasn't "my decision" to attend an Adventist university...mainly because I don't believe it was my decision to make. Often times, it is thought that those in my age group will be inevitably upset with such decisions that were not "their choice." Well...yes, but not necessarily. My mom left employment at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to return to school at the age of 40. I could see how maternal instincts would've made her compare large-scale city life to a small, Adventist village, and decide that such a place would be ideal for a child of six. She completed two degrees at Andrews, and I moved up the ranks alongside her. Now we can share a legacy at an educational institution, a dream that had a slim chance of being realized since both my parents attended school in their home country of Guyana.
When we reached AU, it seemed everyone around me was a lifelong student of the Adventist system: from the Crayon Box (the on-campus daycare) through their doctorates at Andrews University. They shared amazing legacies with their parents, and even grandparents who attended Andrews University when it was Emmanuel Missionary College! As a history-lover, I deeply treasure sharing a legacy with my mother at an Adventist institution which has been a source of both bumps and bruises, as well as triumphs and testimonies.
That being said, Adventist institutions have their fair share of mis-dealings, miscommunication, and even miseducation. After all, Adventists are human, right? Yet the reason I am most proud of attending an Adventist institution has expressed itself most recently after my first class with Professor John Matthews. Entitled "Philosophical Foundations for Professionals," it built upon the knowledge I had garnered in my freshman year when I took "Western Heritage" at Andrews. As I revisited ancient, Middle Age, modern, and postmodern philosophers alongside other aspiring professionals, I saw the regression from a world that interacted with God directly, to a world that denied His existence. It was the first time that I became more than usually satisfied with being a Christian.
In a world where it is increasingly more popular to move on from the "crutch" of religion, to discredit the Bible, and to want nothing to do with a divine Creator, I've realized that our postmodern society which allows for incredulity toward metanarratives, fundamentally cannot allow the Christian metanarrative to be unheard or stricken from the "rule books." In postmodernism, it is the overall experience of the individual that must be examined for bits of value, relatability, and truth. At my Adventist institution, my comprehensive experience has allowed me to both walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and fear no evil. I've learned how to defend, embrace, and even share my faith, and that is an invaluable aspect of my Adventist education that I will forever treasure.
Jonah Valdez, Current Student at La Sierra University
I am an incoming senior at La Sierra University.
La Sierra has taught me to have patience in my own Adventist community. It has done this by offering me various moments to be cynical toward Adventism.
The world calls La Sierra "liberals" and "radicals" and "progressive." Although much of the Adventist world hurls these as insults, I take these words as compliments. There are some great professors and students who teach and embody these apparent labels. But as an institution, we certainly have a long way to go before we can proclaim the full extent of any of those ideological terms.
We as a university must move past our institutional biases and bureaucratic concerns to truly uphold the Gospel. The Gospel seeks to love and empower the oppressed; a risen Christ has offered us the hope to do so. Yet we still oppress members of our own community. Being "liberal" in a broader Adventist context is a tricky political game, yet this reality should not give rise to capriciousness and evident hypocrisy. It is disheartening for a school to marginalize subgroups of its community for the purpose of public image, while it still preaches love, acceptance, and supposedly stands against injustice. We cannot deliver the very thing that we loathe. There have been moments when our calls for "social justice" seem less like preaching and more like marketing.
Sure, I am speaking in relatively abstract terms, but it is far better than silence. I love my community and I speak boldly for the cause of wanting to improve the place in which I have spent the last three years of my academic, social, and spiritual life.
As much as La Sierra has caused me to become cynical toward Adventism, I have still decided to hope in this 150-year-old denomination that is still handling some growing pains. Why?
Because it's home.
Anonymous, Southern Adventist University Graduate
I was lucky enough to attend an Adventist university by choice; I could not imagine being forced. Adventist education created a comfortable learning environment thanks to the strong investment of a few key professors. They took the initiative to foster life-long mentorships with me, which have continued as I begin my career. As an institution, I did not always agree with the principals and actions of my school. Compared to public school, I felt a lack of perspective which occasionally trickled down to some classrooms. Yet as a whole, I left with a sense of achievement because of my own initiative. Unless someone is pursuing careers in Adventist healthcare or education, I would not recommend going into debt because of an Adventist university. However, the smaller community does provide plenty of leadership opportunities which could be just as helpful.
Carlton P. Henkes, 25, Journalist, Walla Walla University Graduate
I was a city boy who needed an escape. The stench of smog and toxic attitudes were infecting my soul. For a change of scenery, I made a list of several colleges across the country and overseas. One of them was Walla Walla University, my father’s alma mater. It wasn’t high on my list since I was concerned about my individuality. My concerns began to fade after WWU offered to pay for a hotel, food, and half the cost of a plane ticket for me to check out the campus first hand. I fell in love with the town; its restaurants, shops, and friendly people made a deep impression on me.
My four years at Walla Walla gave me the best experiences of my life. The comfortable student-teacher ratio allowed for engaging class periods and one-on-one help when needed. I was blessed with leadership positions, and several on-campus jobs that allowed me to support myself while gaining experience doing what I love. Because of the university’s Adventist values, I was able to develop my skills in an environment of trust, generosity, and mutual respect. It was a breeding ground of intellectual privilege and free thought.
Taylor Pittenger, 20, Current Student at Pacific Union College
School is just around the corner for me. I’m embarking on my senior year of college, and I still need to sign up for one more science class to be on track for graduation. It’s exciting to know that in less than a year I’ll have a degree and be on the road to the rest of my life. During college I changed my major, found a loving boyfriend, and most of all found a sense of fulfillment through ministries I’ve been involved with. Getting an education is one thing, but I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today if I didn’t choose to go to an Adventist college.
In today’s world, getting an education and finding a job can be a difficult task for some. My generation sometimes has a hard time finding their place in the world with a less than stellar economy and a difficult time finding stable work. Higher education seems to be the answer to get ahead in life. With that in mind, is it actually beneficial to go to an Adventist college where tuition is higher and opportunities are seemingly limited? For my story, the answer was yes, and it was completely worth it.
Living on a small campus, it really seems like you know everybody. This is both a blessing and a curse. For some reason, it’s easy to be in everybody’s business. There are rumors and stories swapped around about people you don’t know very well. Overall this behavior seems to be the norm. One of my peers critiqued going to a smaller school as “very high school” due to all the drama that seems to take place. In all honesty, I think for the most part that problem and feeling fades throughout the years, mostly because people mature and get over this mindset.
College for some individuals is a huge maturing stage of their life. It’s the first time they’re away from home and they suddenly gain several responsibilities, as they balance time, money, and energy. It’s a growing process as you learn to take care of yourself and also help others. Now more than ever, I see students trying to be proactive in the church. As people grow up, it’s easier to get a grasp on what it really means to be an Adventist. Ultimately, the mission of the Adventist church rests in the hands of the Millennials.
When I was a freshman, some of my friends and peers had a hard time assimilating and, for those who didn’t grow up in academy, a hard time getting used to Adventist culture. Things like a vegetarian cafeteria, buildings closing down for Sabbath, or vespers were strange to them. In my heart, I knew that there was a bigger mission and message that my school, and Adventist schools alike, are trying to produce. Being an Adventist is more than just being a vegetarian or going to church on Sabbath; it’s about being a follower of Christ and helping others with their journey.
Things like mission work are such a huge part in some students’ journeys. Many student missionaries really take the time to make a difference somewhere other than home. For those who stay on campus, ministries of all kinds are fostered. Projects to help nonprofit organizations, to help uplift students’ spirituality, and ministries to help the local community are all phenomenal student-led programs. These kinds of activities give me hope for the future of our church.
It’s incredible to see what happens when we all come together to worship. During my time at school, I’ve met the most organic Christians I may have ever met in my life. I’ve noticed in the hearts of students that having a worshipful experience in services and programs is essential to their growth. People desire to be spiritually fed. There are so many students around me that are actively wanting something with Christ. I’ve learned that part of being an Adventist is being a disciple and creating more disciples. It’s not just about gaining members to our faith – it’s about recognizing someone’s spiritual gift and helping to foster that gift. By doing this we can help people be spiritually fed.
In truth, not all students find their spiritual needs met in church. There are plenty of students who find that sense of community in their dorms instead. I’ve seen families form amongst some students in the dorm that truly resemble a place of worship.
I understand that not every student’s experience is the same, but I find it clear that God is actively working in the lives of students each and every day. There is something so powerful to see a group of your peers discussing spirituality in day-to-day conversations that makes me feel like we have what it takes to make a difference in our church and our world.
Do I ever regret going to an Adventist school? Never. I know that my relationship with God and with others wouldn’t be the same. I’m currently studying to be a high school religion teacher. My hope is that when I’m a teacher I can help students find their way to Christ. Adventist education changed my life for the better; now I want to dedicate the rest of my life to help do the same in someone else’s life.
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