Anna Sugg is one of the most hardworking, positive, and enthusiastic people you will meet. Since graduating from Westminster in 2008, she attended Furman University, where she double-majored in political science and communications, worked the Romney presidential campaign in 2012, landed a position at Fox News in the booking department, and became Director of Television at the Republican National Committee. Her extensive experience, combined with her drive and tenacity, also landed her a spot on the Huffington Post’s list of Most-Influential Women in 2016 Election Media. She now works with CBS News as a producer for their digital streaming network CBSN. It’s a full plate, to be sure. The motivation behind everything she does, however, is her faith, says Anna. “I’m a firm believer that work is worship. I also believe that it’s not what job I have but how I do the job I’m given. Work matters. What we do with our work matters. Most of the jobs I’ve held have a relatively large sphere of influence – but for me, it’s more than that. I stay faithful in how I do my work, focus on glorifying God through my work, and keep perspective on the impact of my work,” she says. When reflecting on 2016, Anna clearly identifies it as one of the most challenging and growing years to date for her.Read more about Anna
Back at RNC, her work last year encompassed two sides – the campaign side and the media side. “It was incredibly interesting and humbling,” she says. “When people talk about ‘the media’ or ‘political operatives,’ those are more than just abstract terms to me. I know these people. It gave me an extremely interesting, personal, and complicated perspective – one I believe is an incredible gift.” The days were grueling. Anna had to institute a personal rule not to accept any producer calls before 7 a.m. She worked long hours – most nights getting no more than five hours of sleep – and her limited free time did not allow for as much connection and community as she would have liked. To top it off, she found herself in an extremely challenging and unique political situation. “It’s no secret that this was an extremely divisive and difficult election,” she says. Despite the hardships, Anna says she learned a number of valuable lessons during that time. “I learned that I am stronger than I think I am, and a lot of that isn’t me. There were several situations where I felt very weak and ill-equipped, and I had to remind myself that God will never put me in a situation that I could not handle without His help.” Reminding herself each day that God was at work – in the people and circumstances she found herself in helped, too. “Remembering that every single person is made in the image of God was essential for me and still is,” she says. “I think this goes a long way in our political culture. Every person is extraordinary, and every child of God deserves grace. Reminding myself that elections aren’t out of God’s control and my career isn’t out of God’s control helped me have perspective. Everything works to His good.”
While her Starbucks Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiatos helped her survive most mornings (“It’s God’s gift to mankind – especially really tired mankind!” she says), her church family supported her through the thick and thin of the 2016 presidential campaign. “My church family would send me emails and texts, take me out for coffee, go for walks…I even had one friend that volunteered during the Republican National Convention and made it her mission of the week to ensure my sanity. I was never without a hot cup of coffee, a snack, or a cell phone charger – I don’t think I could have made it through without her,” says Anna. Spiritual support from her church community group helped ground her as she immersed herself in the political world. “Politics and media aren’t exactly known for being rich soil for the Christian life,” she says. “A life of faith is extremely counter cultural. It’s one reason I was thankful former Westminster teacher Mr. Talley had us memorize Romans 12 back in 8th grade. The Christian life can be isolating at times in the world, but it’s worth it to hold fast.” From 8th grade and on through her high school years, Anna sees Westminster as having played a significant role in shaping how she lives out her faith in everyday life. “Westminster gave me a great faith foundation,” she says. “I was in Mr. Boesch’s AP Government class, and I learned more about civics, government, and the philosophical basis of our country than I thought possible. I wasn’t told what to think, but I was taught to use my faith-based foundation to come to a well-thought out and researched opinion.” At Westminster, she learned by example how to apply her faith to every aspect of her life, says Anna. “I learned how to look at everything with a Christian lens. Being a Christian is more than church on Sundays, and at Westminster, it was more than just Bible class. I had excellent role models, from Mr. Knerr who taught me to think critically as a Christian, to Miss Woodall, who taught me what it’s like to be a faithful and strong woman of God.”
The road from Westminster to college and career has, at times, put that faith foundation to the test. “Post-graduate life has been challenging for my faith, but I made a personal decision of faith my sophomore year of high school and have never looked back,” says Anna. Throughout her career, work has demanded a significant portion of her time and effort. “I was constantly traveling, always exhausted, and honestly, my quiet time really struggled. I was also immersed in a culture and industry that doesn’t prioritize faith in the same way I do. It took – and continues to take – a lot of learning experiences, disciplined time management, and some pretty frank accountability sessions with friends and family to continue to grow in my faith.” However, her faith in Christ is worth fighting for, says Anna, and she wouldn’t trade that growing experience for anything. “Yes, I would have loved to learn lessons without having to go through valleys, but it’s a challenge that has given me such a rich and personal experience of my need for Christ as well as the beauties of grace. It’s a walk that’s still continuing to grow, and I’m under no impression that I’m finished being stretched. Not even close.” In her new role at CSBN, Anna is already stretching herself professionally having just helped launch a show in January. It’s been an exhausting but rewarding experience to watch the show grow, she says. “It’s also an amazing time to be involved in covering presidential politics,” says Anna. “Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, everyone can agree that it is constant. My skills as a journalist and producer have gone through a crash course, and I’m excited to see how they improve in the months to come.”
In all the work that lies ahead, Anna is passionate about being a positive contributing factor in changing the way people talk about politics. “I firmly believe that Christians need to be leading by example – to be able to have these conversations with people that do not agree with them and engage on a personal and compassionate level. It’s tough. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. If anything, it’s a call to engage the world around us, and through the work I’m doing now, I get to be a part of that national conversation. I am so honored to be working in this field.”
In His perfect timing, God always places the right people and the right opportunities in our paths to help nudge us toward bigger and better dreams than, perhaps, we have imagined for ourselves. Ben Walker, 26, credits his Westminster teachers for coming alongside him during his formidable high school years and pushing him toward excellence, leadership, and confidence in his natural skillsets and abilities.
Today, Ben works as an account strategist for Google Marketing Solutions at the company’s corporate campus in Ann Arbor, Mich. It’s a life path he says he never could have imagined himself on, had it not been for the constant encouragement and mentorship he received during his years at Westminster. “I adored the teachers I had at Westminster and still think about the ways so many of them made an impact on me,” says Ben. During his sophomore year in particular, he remembers the profound influence Larry Birchler had on him. “I was entering advanced courses for the first time, and I grew overwhelmed early in the year and tried to transfer out of the honors versions of the classes [Mr. Birchler] and Dr. Shaw taught.”Read more about Ben
Ironically, at the time, Mr. Birchler served as both an upper school math teacher and the school’s registrar. In other words, Ben had to request course selection changes, including dropping Mr. Birchler’s honors classes, from Mr. Birchler himself. “He wouldn’t let me and expressed that I should be demanding more of myself. It turns out I ended up doing just fine in those classes, and the confidence I gained from seeing I could succeed in those challenging environments served as a major propellant in countless endeavors ever since. It was a small decision on his part, but I can’t imagine my life path looking the same without it.”
Following graduation from Westminster in 2008, Ben attended Indiana University, where he studied marketing, international business, and Mandarin Chinese. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 2012, Ben looked for an occupation outside the business and marketing industry for his first few years out of college. “I decided instead to commit two years to Teach for America,” he says. “I ended up teaching language arts and remedial reading at a middle school in Oklahoma City.”
Ben found himself in the shoes of the very individuals who had made such an impact on him in high school. “I got more than a little repayment for the hard times I occasionally gave teachers at Westminster,” he says. “But I cherish that experience and appreciate the many teachers who inspired me with their commitment to the craft. Many come to mind, but Mr. Snyder, Dr. Shaw, Dr. Holley, and Dr. Gibson all stand out.”
In 2014 and following the completion of his two-year teaching commitment, Ben began working at Google. The transition brought a lifelong dream of his into reality. “It’s always been a dream of mine to work for a tech company like Google, given their commitment to innovation, outstanding work culture, and global impact,” says Ben. “As my time with Teach for America wound down, it felt like the right time to pursue that dream through connections I had from Indiana University and Teach for America. I eventually connected with people from a handful of tech companies and found a particularly appealing role in sales at Google.”
Today, as an account strategist, he specializes in consulting and strategizing with mid-sized businesses in Canadian markets. While his role focuses primarily on sales, Ben says he enjoys the consulting aspect of his job the most. “My role requires understanding each company’s business model and offering advertising strategies that help them achieve their goals as efficiently as possible.” Working toward successful solutions is a key component of Ben’s work, and he sees it as an especially rewarding part of his job.
“Working at such a large scale company exposes me to nearly every industry imaginable,” he says. “It’s so satisfying to finally figure out a strategy that makes a business successful, especially when we’re able to massively cut down on previous inefficiencies. Digital advertising is often much easier to measure than traditional forms like TV and print, meaning the impact of various changes is often extremely clear. It’s always rewarding to see a company’s sales numbers improve by degrees once a winning strategy is found.”
In addition to his client work, Ben also invests time in training new employees within his department. This year, he received a Googler to Googler Award for North and South America for his work onboarding new company hires. Although Ben mostly trains ‘Nooglers’ (Google terminology for new company employees) at the Ann Arbor office where he works, he has also had opportunities to onboard hires in various locations around the world. “I primarily onboard people in Ann Arbor,” he says, “but I’ve also led trainings for new employees in Mountain View, Calif. Most recently, the [Googler to Googler Award] allowed me to train a large start class of Nooglers in Dublin that will be serving markets across EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa).”
In all of his work with Google employees and clients, building strong business relationships can be both the most rewarding and most challenging aspect of his job, Ben says. “Managing relationships can be a major challenge given the scale at which we work,” he says. “It can get difficult when I find myself getting pulled in a dozen different directions with extremely diverse needs.”
Despite the challenges, however, Ben loves the opportunity to help others. Reflecting on his years as a teacher with Teach for America, Ben says he’s always had a knack and a passion for helping others learn and succeed. This same drive is evident as he trains new hires at Google. “I love what I do at Google, but I quickly found myself craving a classroom environment, too,” he says. “[Training new employees] allows me to help others succeed while constantly sharpening my own product knowledge. It’s also a refreshing change of pace and a great way to stay connected to the ever-changing group of people who work in the Ann Arbor office.”
When thinking back to his years in high school, Ben has no doubt about the influence his time at Westminster had on him. He sees the academic preparation he received at Westminster as helping him springboard into the professional world. “[Westminster’s] curriculum did a fantastic job of giving me complex assignments and a ton of freedom in how I approached them,” says Ben. “The autonomy we possess at Google means success is impossible without a self-starting mindset around ambiguity, and I’m grateful I was exposed to these types of challenges so regularly in high school.”
Ben sees the communications skills he learned through various writing and speech classes and through his involvement in Westminster’s We the People program as directly benefiting his work at Google. “It was impossible to graduate from Westminster without spending countless hours developing diverse written and verbal communication skills,” he says.
“Westminster granted me so many opportunities to research a subject, carefully develop an argument, and defend it in writing and speech. The school’s language arts program was, without exception, outstanding in this regard, as was Mr. Boesch’s We the People program. My day-to-day at Google requires learning about countless businesses in every industry imaginable and turning that knowledge into actionable recommendations I can defend. The stakes are different, but I’m lucky to have experienced many similar situations well before I graduated high school.”
Ultimately, Ben is thankful for the spiritual preparation and growth he experienced while at Westminster. “Westminster did an outstanding job preparing students to answer a watching world with ‘reasons for the hope we have’ (1 Peter 3:15) and showing us how much sense the world makes through a Christian lens,” he says. Both in the classroom and on the athletic field, Ben says Westminster teachers and coaches provided him with a consistent model of what it looked like to own his faith and talk about his faith with others. “Westminster exposed me to so many outstanding Christian role models, along with countless opportunities to examine and sharpen my faith in preparation for college and beyond.”
This commitment to spiritual and academic preparation is at the core of a Westminster education. It profoundly impacted Ben’s life, beginning his sophomore year at Westminster and continues to influence the high-impact work he accomplishes at Google. Westminster defines excellence as the individual and collective pursuit of becoming better than we once were. It’s this excellence – reflected in Ben’s story and the stories of over 3,000 Westminster alumni – that propels our graduates into the world, into kingdom work, to engage the world and forever change it for Jesus Christ.
In 2011, Sarah Moore, 27, a second-generation Westminster alumna, started at Americans for Prosperity (AFP) as a development assistant, eventually began fundraising for the group, and was appointed as director of development in December 2014. The conservative advocacy group operates chapters in 35 states where it advocates for free enterprise and limited government, especially in the areas of healthcare, energy, and economics.
While Sarah was an engaged member of the We the People team at Westminster and pursued a political science degree from Wheaton College, she never had a desire for a career in politics or even fundraising. “I hate politics,” she says. “So many in D.C. view politics as an end in and of itself, instead of as a means to help others.”Read more about Sarah
Her interest had always been in political philosophy – specifically the intersection of politics and faith, government and church, power struggles and human nature. “Thought leaders like Kuyper, Aquinas, Rousseau, and Machiavelli piqued my interest in exploring where political philosophy meets policy, but it was ultimately civitas, love for one’s neighbor, that led me to this work,” says Sarah. “The political industry is a really dark place. So to work for an organization that seeks to positively disrupt a broken political system by advancing free market policies that help those our government has alienated instead of harming the poor, is an incredible gift. This is the work that God has called me to at AFP.”
When she first joined the development team, Sarah supported a group of major gift officers, helped plan events, and assisted with logistics and the planning – a diverse set of experiences that would be invaluable when she was promoted to lead the team a few years later. Although she initially felt unqualified, her track record has proved otherwise. She has raised more money than anyone else on the team.
“I had to start from scratch and build my own caseload,” says Sarah. “It was a numbers game – ‘how many meetings can I get?’ I traveled constantly because I wanted to figure out how to build as many relationships as possible. The numbers themselves are just a byproduct of relationships that are functioning well.”
From a young age, Sarah has worked hard with a healthy dose of integrity – two reasons she was promoted so quickly. “Authentic production doesn’t occur if you don’t exhibit humility and respect for one another,” says Sarah, noting how her own growth in these areas was encouraged by her family, church, and mentors at Westminster. “There were so many people focused on challenging me. My coaches’ and teachers’ willingness to make investments in me always humbled me,” she says, noting Scott Vonder Bruegge’s poignant journalism lessons and Mark Hearne’s deep love of history, passed on to many of his students. “Papa Hearne’s class is the only reason I remember key dates in history!” she says. “Westminster always made me hungry to learn. It’s rare to be in a Christian school where you actually get sound doctrine and a strong education.”
That education, like the one she received at Wheaton, she says, helped shape her worldview and, in turn, her political viewpoints. “God has called me to work for an organization that shrinks the scope of government in order to allow the church and other institutions to do their jobs, in turn allowing humanity to thrive and flourish the way God intended.”
In her role at AFP, Sarah manages 34 people, including the major gifts team, events team, support team, and communications team. She spends about a quarter of her time fundraising with the group’s high-level donors. How does she convince people her grandparents’ age to give? “At first, I thought my age was a disadvantage,” she says. “But then I realized I was the product they wanted to see. When they see a young person who shares their vision and values — who understands the threats
politically and culturally to our society — they get really excited.”
For Sarah, the most challenging part of the job is being the coach and the player at the same time. “It’s finding a balance between building out my portfolio and leading the team well,” she says. “People are the most important thing. Making time to invest in those people, to cultivate their talent and leadership, is my priority. In all organizations, it’s either ‘I’m here to serve you’ or ‘you’re here to serve me.’ Unfortunately in the political space, it’s usually the latter. But for me, my faith informs the way I want to lead. It’s about pouring into others so that they might succeed.”
This challenge also happens to be the reward. “I love seeing authentic, transformational growth in others – whether a donor, a peer, or someone on my team,” says Sarah. “There are two things that ‘sell’ in politics: crisis and hope. There is a great need, in both the private and public sectors, for Christian leaders who are able to expose others to the hope we have in Christ. I believe in exposing people to the gospel without smacking them in the face with it. This means loving people well. It is the greatest blessing to see others’ lives changed when they are exposed to the benefits of living a Christ-centered life,” she says. “Regardless of your industry or job title, because of this hope, we can see and encourage a better version of a person than he/she might ever have for himself/herself. The same for a team, the same for a country.”
“My time in D.C. has been characterized by learning God’s faithfulness as He consistently (and lovingly) nudges me outside of my comfort zone, giving me new responsibilities and opportunities for leadership, even when against my will,” says Sarah. “I would have never picked this job for myself, and frankly didn’t even know jobs like this existed! But the desire that God has placed on my heart is to build teams, inspire others, and cultivate leaders. It just so happens that in doing so, I get to work at a place where I can advance free market policies that allow for human flourishing. What could be more fun than that?”
As director of the theatre program at Chattanooga Christian School (CCS) in Chattanooga, Tenn., Mary Catherine Drexler Schimpf has been directing musicals and plays, teaching acting classes, and running a full-time musical theatre camp for children in the summer for a decade. She teaches all ages (kindergarten through 12th grade) but primarily focuses on high school students.
After graduating from Westminster in 2001, Mary Catherine moved to the Chattanooga area to attend Covenant College, where she received a B.A. in music in 2005. Her passion for theatre began and grew at Westminster and blossomed during her time at Covenant – not because she had a wealth of theatre opportunities in college but rather because of the lack of opportunity. “The music and theatre I had been immersed in at Westminster suddenly dropped out of my life, and I missed it deeply,” she says. “It wasn’t because of the performances; I missed the beautiful process of collaborating, problem-solving, and working together on a giant project bigger than any of us! I quickly came to realize that theatre was my life’s passion. So I went off in search of it.”Read more about Mary Catherine
Mary Catherine says former Westminster theatre director Susan Hauser Maynor ’86 originally gave her the idea for a musical theatre camp for children, which she has been running since 2002, first in St. Louis and now in Chattanooga, in an effort to build performance technique and inspire interest in the arts.
For her senior project at Covenant, she directed the school’s first musical, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, having played Sally in the same show at Westminster in 2001 under the direction of Mrs. Maynor. “Westminster equipped me with experience and a set of tools I could suddenly pull out and use!” she says.
Since moving to Chattanooga for college, the city has been home. After graduation, she was hired to choreograph the musical at CCS and has worked there ever since. While at Covenant, Mary Catherine met her husband Jon. “He helped paint sets for my very first musical and has helped me get through non-stop directing from that point on,” she says. The two have been married nearly nine years and have two sons, Max (6) and Luke (4).
Mary Catherine’s parents – Jim Drexler (former Westminster head of upper school) and Sara Drexler (former Westminster leadership coordinator) live nearby but have spent recent years in Indonesia working to start a Christian teachers’ college there.
“I credit Westminster and my parents with every bit of inspiration and preparation for the job and life I lead now,” says Mary Catherine, who, at age 5, acted in Westminster’s production of The King and I under the direction of Betsy Tyvoll. “It was a formative experience for me, and I was looking for theatrical opportunities from then on,” she says. “Growing up around Westminster meant that I was very familiar with high school life; those big kids might as well have been celebrities to me! I used to sneak into musical rehearsal in the ‘old gym’ and watch Kathy Eichelberger or Betsy Tyvoll direct the students. My mom would help with productions, and I would tag along every chance I got. So even before I was a Westminster student, I had found my niche – the arts.”
Mary Catherine says she learned about music and theatre as well as how an art form can be used to build one another up from a few special teachers. “Kathy Eichelberger, Tim Wilds and Susan Maynor are my heroes,” she says. “They taught me about collaboration, excellence and devotion to your craft. They inspired me beyond what I could explain in words because I draw on what they taught me every day. They changed me,” she says, also expressing gratitude toward her parents, who enabled her to have these experiences and continually pushed her toward excellence. “The reason for all of this rigor was perpetually clear to me: we are created in the image of God; we enjoy creating things because we are like Him in that way; and the arts provide an excellent platform for beautiful creation, which we can give back to Him as an offering of praise.”
On a sweet note, Sara, Mary Catherine’s mom, taught and mentored Susan when she was a student at Westminster. “Mrs. Drexler was a huge part of my story growing up,” says Susan.
Reflecting on her teachers at Westminster, Mary Catherine says she hopes she can have a fraction of their impact on her own students. “It’s about relationship – finding potential in kids and building it up in them,” she says. “Nothing brings me greater joy than seeing a show thrive because students are placed in their perfect roles. Watching students excel in theatre at Westminster gave me great confidence in taking the bold steps I have taken at CCS.”
Brad Tubbesing ’99 first noticed Caroline Taylor Tubbesing ’00 his 8th grade year at Westminster. Little did he know then that a couple decades later, she would be his wife and working alongside him with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), a ministry that seeks to help college students be transformed by the gospel of grace. Having first served in the campus ministry at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and now at Indiana University (IU) in Bloomington, much of their desire to work with college students stemmed from their own college experiences.
“In our fraternity and sorority houses, we saw how many students fill their lives with other things,” says Brad. “It was a timely opportunity to help them see that Jesus is what they truly long for and encourage them to begin a life of dependence on Him,” says Brad, who leads RUF at IU. His responsibilities include preaching at the ministry’s weekly on-campus large group gathering, leading some small group Bible studies, and overseeing the student leadership team.Read more about Ben and Caroline
Brad received a political science degree from Miami University in Ohio in 2002 and a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary in 2006. During seminary, he worked in several church- and ministry-related internships. Following graduation, Brad accepted a call to begin a new RUF ministry at UAH, where he served as the campus minister for five years. He and Caroline then moved to Bloomington in 2012 to begin a new RUF ministry at IU and help start Hope Presbyterian Church.
Caroline graduated from the University of Missouri in 2003 with a communication degree and began work as a wedding planner at St. Louis Wedding Design, where she stayed until 2005 before assuming a role as admissions administrator at Covenant Theological Seminary. Today, Caroline spends much of her time caring for their four children – Eliza (9), Adie (6), Jane (4), and JR (2) – but still devotes time to the ministry through hosting small groups of students in their home, leading Bible studies, and meeting with girls in the ministry one on one, in addition to working with their church.
At Westminster, despite knowing each other since middle school, the two didn’t start dating until Brad’s senior year at Westminster. They were married right after Caroline graduated from college, in June 2003. They say Westminster played a major part in preparing them well for the work they are doing with college students. “Westminster’s Bible courses had a very positive effect on me,” says Brad, naming Old Testament, Biblical Ethics, and Worldviews. “At a very important age, the teachers helped me form and solidify important truths about myself and the world around me. I learned that because of sin, the world is not the way it is supposed to be, but Jesus is bringing redemption. This foundation given to me at Westminster made me think about and make sense of the broken world around me – especially as I went off to college – and undoubtedly affects my ministry today.”
Both Brad and Caroline credit their Westminster teachers, coaches, and mentors who led by example and showed them the characteristics of godly leaders. Caroline appreciated how leadership was valued and encouraged at Westminster and as a result assumed several leadership positions as a student. “From leadership retreats to one-on-one talks with Mrs. [Sara] Drexler, I received much training on how to lead and care for others,” she says. “If I have any compassion for others and desire to help students see the beauty of the gospel, I attribute that to the compassion – and integrity and grace – to the example I saw in my teachers at Westminster.” Brad adds, “I remember how Mr. [Mark] Hearne and Mr. [Ken] Boesch gave me opportunities to excel in areas they know I was strong in academically, and how my soccer coaches showed me grace when I let our team down but also pushed me to play to my greatest potential,” he says. “The way they empowered me to take risks, challenge myself, and lead is something I reflect on often, as much of my job is empowering students to do the same – to lead and boldly follow Jesus where He has called them.”
Brad says they hope and pray that through RUF, many of the non-Christian students they interact with will see their need for God’s grace and come to a saving relationship with Him. For the Christian students, he says they pray that they would gain a fuller grasp of the beauty of the gospel. “Caroline and I hope that all their earthly desires – for friendships, a family, successful finances, or a certain vocation – would be lived out as a means to praise God for his goodness and grace,” he says, noting that they also pray that students would see the need to be involved in the local church throughout college and their lives. “We’re grateful that Westminster taught us many of these truths, which we now have the opportunity to teach to students today.”
A Match Made in Algebra
My senior year (Caroline’s junior year), we were a pretty new couple. During a morning class, Mr. [Rich] VanGilst told me to come to his classroom for lunch, as I would be serving a detention for talking too much in class. Little did Mr.VanGilst know that Caroline – my new crush – would be in his classroom at that same time (she was in VG’s college algebra class that took place during my lunch period).
Naturally, before the class started, I made sure I was in a seat within earshot of Caroline.The guy who just got into trouble for talking too much had no problem with whispering to Car- oline throughout the class. Finally, though, VG had had enough. “Mr.Tubbesing, do you care to share with the rest of us what you keep whispering to this young lady?” Without a mo- ment’s hesitation, I responded, “Mr. VanGilst. I’d rather not share. But let’s be honest. Can you blame me for talking to this girl? I mean, look at her!” And with that, Caroline got up from her desk and bolted out of the classroom.
Meredith believes that her Faith In Action senior service project at Westminster set her on the path to do what she does today, serving as head of school at Promise Christian Academy, an evangelical Christian school in St. Louis that serves and educates children with special needs.
Since 2007, Promise has been a Faith In Action site for Westminster seniors – 81 to date. The school has also hired two former senior service students – Sarah Dieckgraefe ’10 and Katherine Hickman ’11 – following college graduation. “I have been blessed to be able to help mold several young men and women in their journeys just as someone did for me,” says Meredith. Thirty percent of Promise employees are Westminster alumni, and 50 percent are members of the broader Westminster family.
Meredith graduated from Calvin College in 1993 with a B.S. in Therapeutic Recreation with an emphasis in pediatrics. She has served as head of school at Promise since December 2007.Read more about Meredith
By blending academics with faith and multiple therapies into each school day, Promise Christian Academy, founded in 2004, builds an “onramp for life” for its students with special needs. The school affirms the innate value of every child and works to discover and cultivate each student’s potential. While Meredith was a student at Westminster, one of the school year themes was “Walk your talk.” This particular theme has stayed with Meredith, as she strives to apply it to her work today. “I pray that I am ‘walking my talk’ and living out my faith in helping children with special needs and their families,” she says. “With Christ’s help, I am working the mission field in which He has planted me – working to further His kingdom, one step at a time.”
For the 2015-16 school year, Promise opened a fourth classroom, focused on secondary education and preparing students for life after Promise, which includes employment and higher/technical education. This particular classroom has begun participating in Westminster Chapel once a month!
To accommodate a growing student body, the school has purchased 4.2 acres of property adjacent to West Hills Community Church on South Outer 40 Road, where it currently leases classroom space. They are in the process of raising $6 million to build this new school so that they can open their doors, debt free, in August 2017.
Meredith and her husband David celebrated 22 years of marriage in August and have three children: Hannah (Westminster senior who is doing her senior service at Promise), Luke (Westminster sophomore), and Matthew (Kirk Day School 6th grader). Meredith is thankful for the unique opportunity to send her children to the same school she attended. In response to a question on her admissions application about why she wanted to attend Westminster, her daughter Hannah wrote, “I want to experience everything that my mom experienced.”
Meredith says, “As Hannah walked into Westminster on the first day of 7th grade, I was confident that she was walking the same halls that I walked, being taught by some of the same teachers I had, and receiving the same incredible education rooted in biblical truth that I received. Now, as a parent of two Westminster students, I am extremely thankful for the sacrifices that my parents and the founding families of Westminster made for me and my children, who I know are experiencing everything that I experienced and a whole lot more!” Meredith says that Westminster laid a strong foundation of faith for her and every other Westminster alumnus/a working alongside her. She says, “Westminster truly shaped us in how we see children with special needs as fully bearing the image of God.”
Greg Schoenberg ’08, assistant football and strength and conditioning (S&C) coach for the past three years, recently assumed leadership of the S&C program for the 2015-16 school year. One of former S&C Coach Dave Schall’s first students, Greg was quick to grasp his vision for the program. “When I was a student, Dave told us, ‘You may think you’re working as hard as you can, but you don’t know how much harder you can work. For those wanting to play in college, you may be in for a surprise,’” says Greg. “This hit home because I was a gifted athlete in high school but didn’t really know what it meant to take it to the next level. Dave helped me realize my potential.”Read more about Greg
Greg’s background in S&C spans most of his life. From a young age, Greg watched his older brother compete in and win bodybuilding competitions and eventually own his own gym. “All my life, and particularly throughout my journey at Westminster, I was always in and around a weight room, and I spent a lot of days before or after school training,” says Greg, who had played linebacker, fullback, and kicker on Westminster’s football team. Greg even held the single season field goal record until senior David Williams broke it in 2014. “It was fun coaching David and seeing him break my record!” says Greg. “Kicking is a tough position because as coaches, we expect every kick to be good. That leads to a lot of pressure. David and I tried to focus on one kick at a time; he did a great job and has certainly left some big shoes to fill.”
After graduation, Greg went onto play on a full scholarship at Washburn University – a Division 2 school in the MIAA Conference – in Topeka, Kansas. As a fullback on Washburn’s team, Greg says, he felt blessed to be coached by a strong Christian man. “Coach’s actions always pointed to Christ,” says Greg. “He always drove home his motto, ‘FAITH, FAMILY, FOOTBALL.’” Greg’s senior year, the team made it to the second round of the playoffs and lost to the eventual national champions but ended the season as one of the top 20 schools in the country. Greg was named first team All-Region and received All-American honors while studying to become a physical education teacher, a role he will assume in 2015-16 along with leadership of the S&C program.
Before approaching Coach Schall about returning to Westminster to help coach, Greg worked at a granite company where he was able to apply his gifts. “I enjoy working with my hands and doing physical labor jobs,” says Greg. “I see it as a ministry. God has blessed me with the ability to do some jobs that require hard physical work, and it’s an act of worship when I’m able to use the abilities He has given me.”
Greg also served as physical education teacher at Covenant Christian School for one year. “It was a great opportunity because I had a chance to teach many kids who will likely attend Westminster, so I’m excited to get to see and coach them again one day.”
When working with athletes, Greg says one of his goals is to create a fun and welcoming environment. He wants all students to feel comfortable signing up for S&C or coming into the weight room to work out after school. “I want kids to know more about S&C and nutrition; I want them to take hold of the truth that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and we are responsible to take care of them to the best of our ability.”
Greg says Westminster students have a greater chance to thrive in S&C now than they ever have before. “When I was a student here, there was almost no S&C culture,” he says. “Yes, we had sports, but the athletic program was nothing like it is now. Westminster athletics have been growing and improving rapidly because many coaches like Dave have poured themselves into the program and into athletes. I’m very excited for the opportunity to do the same.”
Greg married his wife Rebekah in July 2015.
After a successful college career at Samford University with a degree in biology and plans to pursue dental school, Tony Thompson followed God’s call to make a difference in the lives of children.
The Academy of E.P.P., an acronym of its mission to “empower students to succeed, partner with parents, and partner with community,” was founded by Tony’s mother Gay Thompson in 2005. It began as a summer camp and transformed into an official private school. When he graduated in spring of 2014, Tony became the owner and head of school. “While I had developed great relationships with well-established dentists and was very interested in becoming one, I knew God was calling me to something else,” says Tony. “Dentistry is something I could’ve done, but it would not have been my purpose. My purpose and passion is inspiring youth. I’m happy to have a job that I love and one through which I can glorify God.”
As head of school, Tony oversees the teachers and administration and believes his role is to motivate his students to value education and build character, as, he says, they need both to change the world. “I recognize that every kid learns differently, so I encourage the teachers to create lesson plans that will cater to each student – not just the majority. We also over-emphasize the importance of strong character and teach them self-affirmation daily.”
Over the years, Tony gained a breadth of knowledge by watching his mom. As he grew older, he became more and more involved, from doing janitorial work and camp counseling to facilitating transportation, tutoring, and administration. When he became head of school, Tony asked his own former head of school, Westminster Head of School Emeritus Jim Marsh, to mentor him and offer some advice on successful leadership. “I’m young and he’s wiser and more seasoned, so I asked him for insight on being an effective leader, ways to use resources, and how God works through those processes,” says Tony. “He didn’t hesitate to bless me with ideas, wisdom, and encouragement.”
Mr. Marsh visited Tony at The Academy of E.P.P. this winter. “Tony embodies the Westminster vision to prepare more young people to engage the world and change it for Jesus Christ,” says Mr. Marsh. “It was a personal joy to visit him at his school and see him working so hard to provide underserved children from St. Louis with a quality education founded on biblical truth and principles. Tony has taken on a tremendous challenge at a very young age with strong faith and character, energy, and excitement. He is truly changing the world of the children he serves.”
How did Westminster prepare you for your role as head of school?
At Westminster, I interacted with so many teachers, janitors, and administrators who showed me what it means to serve. Mr. Marsh in particular led by his humble service to students, parents, and teachers. If such a well-respected head of school can show great humility, who am I to be prideful about my title? It means nothing if I am not impacting lives. Additionally, Westminster convinced me of the need for the Gospel in education. Since becoming head of school at The Academy of E.P.P., I’ve placed a great emphasis on following Jesus. We pray, praise, and create a lot of dialogue about what it means to serve Christ here.
What have you learned from your former head of school Jim Marsh about being an effective leader?
There are so many things I’ve learned from Mr. Marsh. I think the biggest is when he mentioned he was always open to suggestions from his staff. He wanted to include everyone in the Westminster vision. That’s humility. There are some leaders who have a “my way or the highway” approach. That’s not Mr. Marsh.
How do you motivate your students to value education?
I do my best to show them where education can take them. For example, I was blessed to attend college, and just the other day, I told my elementary students that the things they are learning now are the things that helped me in high school, college, and in my current job. The majority of my students’ parents did not attend college, so I try often to share my own stories or experiences with them and pray that they would become the first in their families to go beyond high school. I try to make it “cool” to be smart.
How do you hope to make an impact in the lives of kids?
Through my role as head of school, I hope to push my students closer to Jesus. A lot of my students have very unfortunate backgrounds. They see and experience things that no child should. I recognize that there are no math problems, spelling words, or science books that are going to help them deal with the storms they have in their lives. My role is simply to show them someone – Christ – who can give them peace, love, and hope in the midst of tough times. At The Academy of E.P.P., we worship, pray, and talk about God everyday. I will never shy away from promoting Jesus in education. It’s the biggest impact that I hope I can make in any student’s life.
Follow Tony on Twitter at @tony_epp.
Some people bike for the exercise. Others bike for the competition. J.D. Hartwig bikes for an entirely different reason. He and fellow cyclists, friends, and Belmont University seniors James Richfield and Brennon Mobley, ride to raise funds to build a school in Mount Olivos, Honduras. Read more about J.D.
What began as a simple idea quickly formed into an exciting reality. “I was actually in St. Louis a year ago working an internship for the summer, and Brennon reached out to me with the idea for going on a really long bike ride,” says J.D. “I told him I wasn’t going to be able to go, because I had to get a job. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that it was too good an opportunity to turn down.”
The team’s soon-to-be third member James was planning his own cross-country bike ride at the time, but due to other responsibilities, the trip never materialized. Brennon talked with James about joining him and J.D. on their potential summer trip, and it immediately sparked in James a renewed sense of adventure.
“It was really cool to see how this crazy, ridiculous adventure was slowly becoming a reality,” says J.D. “God kept putting things in our path and presenting us with open doors. He’s still continuing to work in this endeavor, and it’s been really neat to see.”
J.D., Brennon, and James formed Riding with a Reason – a team with the intent of creating awareness and support for the 147 Million Orphans Foundation. The organization was founded by two mothers who combined care for 13 children, seven of whom are adopted. Once the women ran out of physical space and resources to care for more children, they created 147 Million Orphans with the goal of extending their love and support to even more children. The mothers had no experience or prior knowledge to help them run the non-profit. They were simply driven by a desire to develop a means to love more children.
“Similar to 147 Million Orphans, our team really doesn’t have experience in cycling as a hobby or a sport,” says J.D. “We’re just riding bikes – just like other people can. It’s something everybody can relate to. We hope to make an impact by doing something simple on a big scale.”
The team began their partnership with 147 Million Orphans in December 2013. “We wanted to work with an organization that was making a tangible difference,” says J.D. “In the end, it was a no-brainer for us to go with 147 Million Orphans.” Near the end of the month of April, J.D., Brennon, and James traveled to Honduras with the organization for a three-day trip during their college finals week. The trip was short, but the impact was long-lasting.
“We served in Mount Olivos, a disenfranchised community where the money raised from our biking adventure will go to build a school,” says J.D. “While there, we spent time meeting with people and investing in others’ lives. It was a great time to build relationships and also to lend a helping hand to work that’s being done down there.” Through their work with 147 Million Orphans in Honduras, the team realized the importance of building a school and establishing an educational presence in the Mount Olivos community.
Looking back, J.D. considers his time as a Westminster student as a launching pad that helped prepare him to take on a project of this size and intensity. “Going into my senior year at Westminster, I traveled to South Dakota for Summer Seminar, and that was the first time I really rode a bike for an extended period of time,” he says. “I rode something like 100 miles over four to five days, which is nothing compared to what we are doing on our cross-country trip, but it was the first time I rode a bike for hours on end. It was something small, but I picked it up pretty well and enjoyed it. Without that trip, I probably wouldn’t have pursued biking more.”
J.D. distinctly remembers encouragement from Westminster teachers who challenged him to have big dreams. “Dr. Timothy Gibson used to say, ‘Never doubt a small group of people that wants to change the world, because those are the only ones who ever will,’” says J.D. “Everybody can have a cool idea, but not everyone will necessarily see it to reality. I believe that the bigger and bolder your dreams are, the more responsibility you have to see them through. We may only be three college kids on this adventure, with little prior experience, but we have been amazed to see what has unfolded from putting our minds to something bigger than ourselves.”
*Update: On July 8, 2014, J.D. and teammates James and Brennon completed their cross-country cycling trip, ending their journey in Washington, D.C. The team exceeded their fundraising goal, raising over $58,000. The total amount will provide enough financial assistance to the Mount Olivos community to build a school and pay a portion of teacher salaries for up to two years.
Members of the Riding with a Reason team traveled to Honduras shortly afterward to visit the site and help with initial construction of the school. Plans for completion of the school building are scheduled for fall or early winter 2014. J.D. says the team would love to return to Honduras after the construction is finished to see the final product. “The trip was a great experience for me,” says J.D. “It taught me lessons in overcoming adversity and dealing with complex and unplanned situations. Most importantly, it helped me to realize what is really important in life and what is not.”
Service and leadership, collaboration and creativity, hard work and excellence. Susan Maynor believes these defining disciplines, ingrained in her as a student at Westminster, shaped her life personally, academically, and spiritually. In fact, it was in the midst of her high school career that Susan determined she wanted to return to Westminster one day to be a teacher, due in no small part to the impact and influence of her own teachers. “Sara Drexler taught me to be a servant leader well before senior service,” says Susan. “Her investment in me as a person, as a Christian, and as a female made a lasting impact on me.”Read more about Susan
Mrs. Drexler’s encouragement and example inspired Susan to demonstrate a servant’s heart in practical ways. She vividly remembers helping prepare for Westminster’s first Christmas Banquet, when she devoted hours to decorating for the special event for her fellow students. Experiences like this taught Susan the importance of approaching her life and work with a divine focus. “Mrs. Drexler taught me to see beyond myself, into a broken world in need of knowing the gospel.”
Her desire to impact the world for Christ was fueled by a passion for creativity and collaboration, which was also nurtured at Westminster through the many opportunities she had to participate in school musicals. “I was in Westminster’s first-ever musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in 1986,” says Susan. “I had the opportunity to be the choreographer for the first three musicals at Westminster because of the director Betsey Tyvoll.” Under Mrs. Tyvoll’s guidance, Susan began to explore the creative process and learned about the grace and perseverance involved in the preparation and production of any creative work. “I had never created anything so big nor so elaborate,” says Susan. “But Mrs. Tyvoll had faith in me, and she invested in me and helped me through the process.”
Through it all, Susan distinctly remembers Scott Holley’s influence in her life as a student, as he inspired her to always pursue excellence in everything. “[Dr. Holley] invested in me and provided me feedback both academically and spiritually – always with great insight and wisdom,” says Susan. Equipped with this drive to do her best, Susan went on to receive a B.A. in Elementary Education from Wheaton College and M.A. in Communications from Lindenwood University.
Early in her career, Susan spent several years teaching 6th grade at an independent school in Los Angeles, where she had the opportunity to start an after-school musical theatre program in which she wrote and directed several productions for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. In 1999, her high school dream to move back to St. Louis – and to Westminster – came to fruition. “God eventually opened doors for me to return to Westminster to teach,” says Susan. “I joined the 7th grade team and taught English and geography. I also taught upper school communications classes, including creative writing, graphic design, web design, and video storytelling.” Additionally, Susan helped direct and choreograph a number of school musicals, drawing from her own high school experiences in musical theatre.
“As both a Christian and a passionate educator, I want to serve in whatever capacity God calls me,” says Susan. In 2012, that meant relocating with her husband Todd and two sons Max (11) and Briggs (9) to Kansas City, where she currently works at an elementary charter school downtown. This year, Susan has worked to build a technology-rich, problem-based learning enrichment program for students in grades 3-6. “Our students produce videos for the downtown community, design their own creative works for local galleries, and participate in competitions,” says Susan. She also recently connected with the administration of Liberty Public Schools to assist in developing a new pilot elementary school, opening in August 2014, and she is a partner in Han’s Media, a small company for which she writes and designs digital communication pieces.
With nearly 20 years of teaching experience in both public and independent schools, Susan firmly believes in the value of Christian schooling to instill in students an understanding of who God is and to challenge them to think and act redemptively. “I believe that Christian education is an opportunity for young people to not only educate their minds but also to educate their hearts and spirits – and to begin to understand the redemption story that is in the fabric of our universe,” she says. Susan says that her time at Westminster helped grow her personal faith and equip her to make a difference in the world. “Westminster provided me a solid foundation of faith and learning, upon which I experienced the power of the cross and the beauty of the gospel,” she says. “I’ve often reflected that the cultivation of my faith during my high school years equipped me to better understand and traverse the challenges and brokenness of this world.”
Lane (Anderson) Koch, Class of 2004, grew up in a family in which politics was a common topic of discussion and being involved in the public process was regularly encouraged. Her life path, influenced not only by her upbringing but also by her experience in Westminster history and ethics courses, reflects the difference of a Westminster Christian Academy education. “My education at Westminster served as a foundation for my career in politics and government service,” says Lane. “The support I received from the faculty was invaluable to me as a young person.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree from Taylor University, Lane worked her way up through several political campaigns and organizations. She served as executive director of Romney for President 2012 in Missouri and now serves as small business liaison for Senator Roy Blunt.
Q: What motivated your interest in politics early on?
A: Neither of my parents was in politics, but I grew up in a household that was politically engaged. My parents did a lot of volunteering for campaigns, and I went along. One of my memories as a young kid was going to a watch party for Jim Talent.Read more about Lane
Q: How did your classwork at Westminster influence your decision to pursue politics as a career?
A: I got the political bug at Westminster in Mr. [Larry] Hughes’ and Mr. [Brian] Burkey’s classes. They both provided classroom environments In which students were encouraged to engage in spirited debates on ethics, political philosophies, and theology. Mrs. [Jill] Keith and Ms. [Cindy] Zavaglia helped sharpen my writing and communications skills; and Mr. [Jim] Drexler encouraged me to get involved in campaigns and politics outside the classroom. Beyond the career preparedness and self-confidence that my Westminster education provided, it instilled in me a deeper desire to serve the Lord and to help people like the constituents we serve every day.
Q: You interned with then-Senator Kit Bond during college. How important are internships for someone who is interested in a career in politics?
A: I always tell people that internships really open doors. My internship led to a great job for me. The McCain-Palin campaign was coming in, and they had asked for staffers. I was hired to be in charge of the grass roots campaign for the St. Louis region. I focused on recruiting volunteers and asking if they would make calls or go door-to-door. As we drew close to Election Day, we contacted voters and reminded them to vote for our candidate. There were even Westminster students who came to help!
Q: What is politics like as a career?
A: What’s nice about a career in politics is that you can mold it to fit your life. Campaigns are very hard work. That first campaign when I was a field rep was tough because it was 70 hours a week. If you really want to get into politics, you have to make it through that first tough gig. If you do a good job in one campaign, you know you’ll move up in the next job. It’s exciting for those who are really ambitious. I know quite a few Westminster students who have become involved in campaigns and told Mr. Boesch that I enjoy mentoring and developing interns because I want to try to help them by sharing my own experiences in the field.
I believe Westminster students who are considering a career in politics and public service have an edge because of the values and principles ingrained in them by their academic experience. We should encourage more people to enter public service, motivated not by self-interest but rather by a desire to serve and to make our state, country, and world a better place for the glory of God.
Lane and her husband (and Westminster sweetheart) Dan, live in Chesterfield, Missouri, with their daughter Langley.
During her freshman year of college, Rachel wanted to write a novel as an escape from her studies and college life. As her subject, she chose a true story that she had discovered online while a student at Westminster. She thought of it as a short-term project that she could finish in a semester and a summer – not something that would consume years of her life!
Read more about Rachel
The story, set in the 1960s, is one of a young Norwegian seamstress who fell in love with her country’s Crown Prince, a man who would spend years battling to be allowed to marry her. “I had always thought it was a story that needed to be told,” says Rachel. “So when I sat down to begin writing my novel in March 2008, it was an obvious choice for my subject. It’s a beautiful, historical story about a love that lasted and a Christian couple who was willing to persevere and fight for that love. I think young women today need better role models, and I’m excited about the potential for the influence of the book’s heroine Sonja Haraldsen,” she says. “Also, the book is set in a gorgeous country with the romantic backdrop of royal Europe, and it’s full of grand palaces, princesses, and beautiful dresses. That all made it wonderfully fun to write!”
Rachel, 24, currently works in communications in the Office of Alumni & Development at Washington University in St. Louis, her alma mater. She writes speeches for university officials, fundraising and acknowledgement letters, and articles for a variety of alumni publications, and she serves as the editor of the alumni newsletter @Washington. “I feel so blessed to be able to do something I love for a living,” says Rachel. In addition to her job at the university, Rachel does freelance work for Eagle Forum, where she writes several of Phyllis Schlafly’s radio commentaries each month.
Rachel says that during her time at Westminster, she received an exceptional, academically rigorous education that prepared her for her future. “I left for college with a solid understanding of all the subjects I’d taken,” says Rachel. “But what was most exceptional was how I was taught to see the hand of God in all of those subject areas. Christianity simply permeated the entire curriculum,” she says. “In Mr. [Tim] Hall’s physics class, we examined the fingerprints of God on the universe; in math classes, we discussed how the perfection of mathematics exemplifies God’s creation of a logical, orderly world; in history classes, we studied God’s hand and direction in historical events; and in English classes, we regarded literature as a reflection of God’s creativity.”
Not surprisingly, English classes were always Rachel’s favorite. “Westminster was where I first learned to analyze literature, and there was a strong focus on writing in all my English courses,” she says. “I learned skills that I would take with me to college and into my current career and also use as I wrote my novel.”
Rachel’s junior-year American Literature class with L.B. Graham was particularly helpful with the latter, she says. “In Mr. Graham’s class, we not only learned to analyze books for their literary value but also examined the authors’ writing styles,” she says. Rachel has kept in close touch with a number of her Westminster teachers. Pam Bye, Larry Hughes, and Florence Lewis even helped edit the manuscript of her novel.
Rachel lives in Florissant, Missouri, and attends Parkway Baptist Church. She has a number of upcoming book signings, including one at Pastries of Denmark in Creve Coeur, Missouri, on Saturday, May 10 from 2-4 p.m. and one at Barnes & Noble at Mid Rivers Mall in St. Peters, Missouri, on Saturday, May 31 from 1-3 p.m. In June, Rachel will be on a small book tour in eastern Wisconsin, and in July, she will speak at the Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa, during the town’s annual Nordic Fest.
When she is not marketing her book, Rachel is involved in the Norwegian Society of St. Louis, a club she joined several years ago during her research for the book. Now president of the club, Rachel says the culture, food, and most importantly the people are a great deal of fun. She says, “The irony is, unlike the rest of the club members, I don’t have a drop of Norwegian blood in me. I just love Norway!”
From a young age, Holly Cunningham has loved baking and entertaining. “I was always the friend who organized the sleepovers, the parties, and the events,” says Holly. In 1998, after working in sales for a few years and sharing her own treats with customers, Holly founded her own baking company, Hollyberry. In 2001, she launched a catering division to provide box lunches and buffets for corporate clients, as well as contemporary menus for events.
Read more about Holly
“I love to serve people like I do my own family – with real ingredients that taste amazing,” she says. Her company, voted “Favorite St. Louis Caterer” by the readers of Sauce Magazine for the past five years, has grown to become one of the largest catering companies in the St. Louis area.
Holly also oversees Campus Cuisine by Hollyberry, which serves as Westminster’s full-time food provider. She says working at Westminster has been her favorite experience of her career. “At Westminster, I have loved getting involved in the education aspect of our role,” she says. “From Garden Club field trips to teaching health classes and coordinating summer camp, I’ve had some amazing opportunities to show how food is God’s gift to us, how we can create new things from natural ingredients, and how we can enjoy these things together as a community.”
Holly says she learned a number of lessons as a Westminster student that she applies to her life as a businessperson today. “I learned how to do research and analysis at Westminster, so as a business owner, I know not to just jump into a new idea but rather listen to customers and do the research as needed to determine if it is a viable idea,” says Holly. “I also learned to write at Westminster. It may seem trivial, but it is so helpful to be able to write my own content for social media, speeches, and marketing materials.” Finally, Holly says, she learned what it means to put God at the center of her life. “He is at the center of my success and my company,” she says. “No matter what we are doing or working on, my staff (not all of whom are Christians) know that we give credit to God for the opportunity to serve and be of service to others.”
Serving others has been a priority for Holly throughout her career. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a worldwide philanthropic society of professional women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage, and hospitality. On a local scale, Holly, named to the St. Louis Business Journal’s prestigious “40 Under 40” list in 2010, has partnered with the St. Patrick Center and its BEGIN New Venture Center to create the “Gifts that Give Back!” program; established a mentoring program with Big Brothers Big Sisters; and partnered with SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and Dierbergs Markets, Inc., to create “Home Run Bars,” the official snack of the 2012 “Homers for Health” initiative.
In her spare time, Holly enjoys sailing with her husband Guy, playing the harp and singing with their identical twin daughters Isabel and Genevieve, 12, and experimenting with new recipes – many of them found on Pinterest! The family attends church at The Journey – Tower Grove and resides in Webster Groves.
“WCA instilled in me a drive for excellence,” says Kristen, current director of curriculum and professional learning in the Fox C-6 School District. “I always felt that every endeavor, program, initiative, class, and activity was created and implemented with a high standard of excellence and in return that same standard of excellence was expected from me as a WCA student.”
While at Westminster, Kristen was a member of the cheerleading team, choir, and the hospitality committee, and she played Snoopy in Westminster’s first-ever musical You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. She received her B.A. in music education from Missouri Baptist University and her M.A. and specialist degree in education administration from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has worked in public education in district as a teacher and middle school principal for 21 years.Read more about Kristen
“When I became an educator, it was very important to me that I replicated in my classroom and school what I experienced at WCA,” says Kristen. “My life quote (from Aristotle) definitely has its beginnings during my time at Westminster: ‘You are what you continually do; therefore excellence should be a habit and not just an act.'”
Kristen’s passion for developing positive character in students has taken her on an incredible journey in public education. She has been a keynote speaker at conferences all over the United States and has spoken at a U.S. Senate Briefing in Washington, D.C., which focused on the importance of including social, emotional, and character development in U.S. educational reform documents. Educators from all over the United States and six foreign countries have visited her middle school to learn best practices in character education. In 2006, Kristen’s school was named a National School of Character from the Character Education Partnership in Washington, D.C., and was featured in a USA TODAY article, “What Schools Can Do.”
Kristen says, “My passion for character education definitely comes from the Christian values and character traits that I learned from WCA. I will always be grateful for the firsthand experience of how academic standards and character development can be woven together in a curriculum that produces student achievement. So many public school educators view character development as a ‘separate program’ that they just don’t have time for. They are so missing the boat! WCA is the greatest example of how academics and character work hand in hand to produce top-notch students and citizens.”
Liz Forkin Bohannon ’04 is the founder of Sseko Designs, an ethical fashion brand created to educate and empower women. Sseko hires high-potential young women in Uganda to make sandals to enable them to earn money, through dignified employment, that will go directly toward their college educations and ensure that they will continue pursuing their dreams.
In a small Ugandan village lives a community of intelligent, ambitious young women. These women have a chance to become leaders in their impoverished country because of one alumna who is driven to succeed and make a difference.Read more about Liz
Liz Forkin Bohannon ’04 moved to Uganda in fall 2008, intending to use her journalism degree to assist a youth development organization with its communications and fervently desiring to learn. Although her passion for the “least of these” had been growing throughout her years at Westminster and in college, she had never experienced the effects of extreme poverty firsthand.
During this time in Uganda, Bohannon met a group of young women, mostly her age, who quickly became friends. Bohannon was blown away by their commitment to their education, which they called an incredible gift. “I was amazed at their commitment not only to learning their subjects but also to learning how to love well, how to reconcile their lives, and how to lead their country,” she says.
The Ugandan school system leaves a nine-month gap between secondary school and university for students to earn tuition money before continuing onto college. However, in an impoverished and male-dominated society, many of these young women struggle to find fair work, and there is no respect for women who are not in leadership positions. “When I learned this, I was thinking, ‘Here are the brightest women in Uganda, but they will never be seen as anything of worth in their country because they can’t find work to continue their education,’” says Bohannon. “This was not okay.”
Her first thought to organize a fundraiser was interrupted by a friend who said that these women need jobs, not donation. Bohannon wanted to start a business that would accomplish two goals: provide tuition for these women through a sustainable monthly income and contribute to the overall economic development of Uganda. Coming up with a product that American women would buy was key and not at all difficult: shoes!
“It seemed so simple at the time,” says Bohannon. “I sketched a sandal I thought was really beautiful, and then I spent weeks wandering around the city and through markets looking for materials and anything I could use as a tool to make them,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I laughed out loud at myself a lot and cried, too. It was so frustrating.” But after several weeks, Bohannon had constructed a prototype: the first Sseko sandal. Sseko Designs was born.
Sseko (say-ko) comes from the Ugandan word enseko, which means laughter. “It’s a word that characterizes much of my time with the Sseko girls,” says Bohannon. The socially proactive “not-just-for-profit” enterprise recognizes the power of business and responsible consumerism to support sustainable economic development, which in turn affects a country’s official systems. “Although consumerism makes many empty promises, responsible and proactive consumerism can change lives,” says Bohannon. “Learning entrepreneurial skills such as how to FedEx mass shipments and how to use a computer empowers the girls to become respected doctors, lawyers, politicians, writers, and teachers who will bring change and unification to their country and world.”
Bohannon says that while charities do have a place and are wonderful organizations, they can sometimes be more of a hindrance than help. “We need to give people in underdeveloped countries opportunities – not stuff,” she says. “Until a country can sustain profitability in a business, it will always rely on aid.”
“I know I can’t alleviate global poverty, but I can educate people about how to help,” says Bohannon. “I dream about the change these women will bring – and about the people who see these shoes as something more than a lifeless product on a shelf, but rather as the lives and dreams of the women who made them.”
In addition to the Sseko team’s work in Uganda, they design and source ethically made products from around Africa that create jobs, empower artisans, and help end the cycle of poverty. Sseko was recently named one of the top five most promising social enterprises in America by Bloomberg and also received the Social Venture Network Innovation award.
Steve is the chief executive officer at ChangeNFX, a company that owns and operates more than 30 digital assets in the area of e-commerce, web directories, branded application development and gaming. He formerly served as director of development at Westminster – a role in which he helped cultivate relationships with alumni, parents, and donors who are passionate about Christian education and the vision of the school.
Steve has more than 20 years of business, communications, and development experience from his tenure at WorkNet Communications (Kansas City, Mo.), Nortel Networks (Kansas City, Mo.), US Net (Clayton, Mo.), and Historic Floor Company (Saint Louis).Read more about Steve
He and his wife Angie, who serves in advancement at Westminster, live in St. Louis and have three sons (two of whom attend Westminster) and a daughter. As an alumnus, Steve says he hopes his children will experience the same transformational education that he did as a student at Westminster. “I think it is absolutely necessary for today’s kids to have positive Christian role models – like the teachers at Westminster – during their high school years,” says Steve.
In high school, George was a busy student. In addition to taking challenging classes, he was an active member of the Scholar Bowl team (which won the Missouri state championship his senior year) and participated in National Honor Society, Peer Counselors, We the People, Chess Club, Cross Country, and Refuge of Nations (formerly People of Refuge), a refugee ministry run by former Westminster teacher Timothy Baldwin – among other activities. “I learned from the very best,” says George, noting teachers such as Andrew Shaw, Tim Hall and Sra. Joan Dudley. “Women and men like those teachers, as well as John Lewis, Jim Drexler and Jim Marsh, were tremendous examples of Christians who held themselves to the highest standards and set an example for the next generation to truly lift high the Cross,” says George.Read more about George
While at Harvard, George also taught organic chemistry, led the nation’s only student-run homeless shelter, led the campus political debate organization, hosted a weekly radio show and was active in a number of Christian groups on campus.
George worked as an investment banker at William Blair & Company working on executing mergers and acquisitions, as well as financing, for a broad range of industries. George says Westminster prepared him well for what would become his professional career.
He is currently a private equity investor at Concentric Equity Partners, focusing on business services and financial institutions. Next year, he will attend the MBA program at Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Jonathan is a 2010 graduate of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, where he received a B.A. in Interior Design. While at Samford, he was a resident advisor and was involved in Sigma Chi fraternity and Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society.Read more about Jonathan
As the final project of his undergraduate interior design education in the fall of 2010, Jonathan embarked on a semester-long thesis project in which he detailed a proposed plan to repurpose the historic Birmingham Branch of the Federal Bank of Atlanta to meet new academic and community needs. He designed the project around the idea that design schools must engage the surrounding community in order to be truly effective in design education. The design school proposed in his thesis integrates an architecture school, public café and gallery, and a field trip space for elementary and middle school students, all housed in a central downtown Birmingham location. Jonathan presented the project in December 2010 and recently won the IIDA (International Interior Design Association) Alabama IDIE award for Best Student Project. His project was selected from a field of participants from the University of Alabama, Auburn University, University of North Alabama, Virginia College and Samford. He was recognized in March 2011 at the organization’s biannual awards gala in Birmingham. Jonathan said, “It was an honor to receive the award and be recognized among my peers and the local design community.”
Jonathan plans to stay in the Birmingham area, where he is applying for jobs at local design firms. He is also considering applying to Archeworks in Chicago and working internationally withArchitecture for Humanity. In the meantime, he is working with a team of individuals to bring aTEDx event to Birmingham this fall. In whatever sector he ultimately lands, Jonathan desires to be an educator in some capacity. “One of the greatest joys in design is helping another person use his or her strengths and abilities to create something beautiful.” To see more of Jonathan’s work, visit his website, www.jonathanhaasdesign.com.
Jonathan’s sister Abigail ’02 currently resides in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband Casey. She recently began her own calligraphy business, Abigail T Calligraphy. Their nephews Joe and Ben Isaacs are current Westminster students!
Lauren Cawein’s passion for studying the Bible and theology led her to Seoul, South Korea in 2010 where she teaches Bible and English speaking and writing to middle school students at Saemmul Christian Academy.
Westminster began a partnership with Saemmul in 2009 to better enable both schools to honor Jesus Christ in and through the education they provide their young people.Read more about Lauren
Since the partnership began, Westminster and Saemmul faculty members have traveled overseas to visit their partner school, and for the past two summers, Westminster students have traveled to South Korea to help lead English camps for Saemmul students.
Lauren received a B.A. in Religious Studies with an emphasis in Biblical Studies from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri. She then enrolled at Covenant Theological Seminary and began working toward a Master of Arts in Religion & Cultures and Theology. During her first semester at Covenant, Lauren learned of a job opening at Saemmul Christian Academy, applied, and was chosen for a teaching position. She decided to put her Master’s degree on hold to pursue a teaching career in South Korea.
Armed with what she had learned from her undergraduate degree, one cultural class at Covenant, and a year of experience as an assistant teacher at Hope Montessori Academy, Lauren prepared to move to South Korea to teach the Bible to Korean students. When she got the job, she was attending South City Church where she connected with former Westminster teacher Tim Baldwin, who talked with her about teaching the Bible.
Beginning her second year of teaching at Saemmul Christian Academy, Lauren remarked, “I feel so blessed to be doing what I do. When I felt like the Lord was calling me to study theology and the Bible I had no idea where that would lead me in my career. In fact, many people were concerned about how effective I would be in the corporate world with such a degree. But I knew it was the only thing I wanted to study, the only thing that captivated my heart, so I stuck with it. I remember graduating from college and jokingly saying to my friends, ‘Maybe one day I’ll go overseas and teach theology.’ It was a dream in my head, but two years later it’s a reality, and the Lord is providing me with what I need to teach these students His heart and His words.”
As Lauren develops her own teaching style, she has drawn inspiration from some of her Westminster teachers. She hopes to demonstrate passion and charisma like Bible teacher Larry Hughes, who taught Ethics during her time at Westminster. She has even played a few of the movies she watched in his class for her students at Saemmul! Lauren often thinks of her French teacher, Jill Darrah, and hopes to emulate her by showing her students unconditional love and patience.
Lauren admits that teaching has been challenging at times. Many of her students do not know much English, so she must be creative in the ways she teaches them. “Sometimes I feel like it went well, and sometimes I feel like a failure. In all things I’m truly learning what Jesus meant when he told Paul, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor. 12:9). It truly has nothing to do with my abilities. It has everything to do with who God has called me to be as His image bearer and covenant child. And I will fail and I will succeed, but in all things it is He who receives the glory.”
Barth is the founder and president of Continuum, a company that works to help families who are struggling to care for their aging parents.
Founded in 2002, Continuum has established several adult daycare centers and has grown to become one of the largest home care providers in the St. Louis area.Read more about Barth
Barth discovered his heart and gift for working with the elderly while doing his senior service at Westminster, where he volunteered at Delmar Gardens Nursing Home in Chesterfield. He received a degree in business administration from the University of Kentucky and went on to become a healthcare consultant at Ernst and Young. He enjoyed the healthcare industry but wanted to work with clients more directly, so he enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis for a dual master’s degree in business administration and social work with a concentration in gerontology. He started Continuum shortly after completing graduate school.
Barth and his wife Catherine have three daughters and are members of The Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church.
Lauryn graduated from Lindenwood University in 2008 with a major in Business Administration and a minor in Spanish. Putting her business skills to work, Lauryn worked for State Farm Bank in Earth City, Missouri for two years, but her artistic and creative skills were still very much a part of her.Read more about Lauryn
In 2004, Lauryn had the opportunity to work in the event planning and catering industry as an assistant wedding planner for St. Louis Wedding Design. She decided to pair her business skills and artistic talents, and in 2010 Lauryn launched her own business called Creative-Stations, which specializes in creative, classy and fun food and beverage stations. Their most popular request is personalized candy buffets! Lauryn and the Creative-Stations team had the opportunity to create a beautiful candy buffet at the wedding reception of her brother, Justen Beasley (‘07) and Samantha Bond (‘08) in December 2010.
Lauryn and her husband Barnes were married in August 2010 and currently attend The Journey, Tower Grove. They enjoy being involved with their community group and serving the community with other members.
Sandra returned to Westminster to perform a concert on October 14, 2011. Over 350 students, parents, alumni and community members were in attendance. During her high school years, Sandra, along with classmates Tommy Halloran and Jesse Heirendt, wanted to add music to Westminster’s Chapel program, so with the support of several faculty members, they took it upon themselves to do just that.Read more about Sandra
Sandra recalls that choir director Kathy Eichelberger was especially supportive. The addition of worship and praise songs “really transformed the whole experience of Chapel,” Sandra said. She graduated from Belmont University in 1999 and released her first album, The Crucible, a year later.
Eleven years ago, Derek Webb was on a coffee run for his bandmates and heard Sandra playing from the stage of the small Nashville coffee shop. Webb picked up her record and played it for the band, who then invited McCracken to join them on the road. She and Webb quickly discovered that they were kindred spirits and were soon planning a future together—a future that now includes two small children, a recording studio in their backyard, and the non-stop adventure of touring as a family.
The couple has released 18 projects individually (10 for Webb, 8 for McCracken) and one EP as a duo, Ampersand in 2008. Reflecting upon their 10 years of marriage, McCracken and Webb are now taking an even more intimate look at the honest work of co-parenting, co-writing, co-recording, and co-performing, documenting their partnership on their latest collaborative album, TN EP.
Continuing their evolution as a duo from Ampersand, Webb and McCracken (who played all the instruments on the album) have seamlessly blended their artistic instincts to create an unflinchingly honest record that is markedly different from their solo work and unique to this collaboration.
“Homespun recording has come a long way,” McCracken says. “The fact that Derek and I have been able to make records in our backyard has created a space of total creative freedom. Derek is uninhibited as a producer and engineer. There are no filters between the spark of our initial ideas and the final recordings.”
TN EP includes five new, original McCracken/Webb compositions as well as two surprising cover songs, Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound Of Silence and Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time.
Derek and Sandra are currently booking fall 2011 shows in support of TN EP with an emphasis on ‘living room’ style shows and small listening rooms. If you have a suitable space or home (a large living room, campus house, photography studio, or other common space) and could host at least 50-75 people for one of these concerts, visit Sandra’s website.
After graduating from Westminster, Chris enrolled at Southeast Missouri State University, where he earned a B.S. in Political Science and Criminal Justice in 2007. During college, Chris was involved with a myriad of leadership positions including campus ministry and student government.
He moved to Memphis after college to intern with Eikon Ministries. Following his internship, Chris served as a resident pastor in diverse student ministries at Fellowship Memphis for almost three years. He received a Master of Divinity from Mid-America Seminary and is now employed by Downtown Presbyterian Church in Memphis as a team pastor.
When Abby enrolled at Westminster during her sophomore year of high school, she had no idea that 15 years later she would be teaching at Westminster and managing its summer camp program Camp Westminster.
One of Abby’s most vivid memories as a Westminster student is the first Chapel she attended.Read more about Abby
She says, “Having come from six years of public school, Chapel was so different than anything I had experienced at school before. It made Westminster feel like a community—a group of people not just joined together by geography but by a bond of faith.” She also loved Spirit Week as a student and still enjoys it as a teacher today!
Abby is in her seventh year of teaching at Westminster. She has taught a variety of classes, including statistics, geometry, algebra II concepts, algebra 1, 8th grade French, and currently advanced math concepts and intro to economics. Abby very much enjoys working with high school students. She says, “They are funny, thoughtful, and creative, and I love getting to know them throughout the year.” Abby received a B.S. in Economics from Truman State University, so she is especially passionate about explaining the principles of economics and helping kids see the connections between their own lives and current events.
Abby completed her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Covenant College in 2012. While completing her final year of graduate work at Covenant, Abby received the challenge from Mr. Marsh to revamp Westminster’s summer camp program. Her graduate school assignment was actually to create a strategic plan template, but Mr. Marsh shared with her his vision for a completely new, robust summer camp program, utilizing Westminster’s new campus and abundant facilities. So Abby began an intense research phase to identify the recurring elements found in the most excellent camps and worked to create a family-friendly camp structure that allows families to choose specific camps and dates according to their interests and scheduling needs. With much research, hard work, and many enthusiastic camp instructors, Camp Westminster was born! In its first year, Camp Westminster’s enrollment doubled from Westminster’s previous summer camp program.
Camp Westminster offers a variety of half- and full-day camps for boys and girls in grades K-8 during the month of June. The staff includes dedicated and enthusiastic Westminster teachers, coaches, and athletes who help campers strengthen their God-given skills. Abby says, “It’s so rewarding to see so many kids on campus during the summer! The teachers and coaches that run the camps are invaluable. The kids have smiles on their faces all day long, and they go home tired and happy! Kids in elementary and middle school get to know teachers and coaches that they will one day have if they come to Westminster, and middle school students entering Westminster in the fall make new friends before school even begins!”
Abby and her husband of four years Dave met on a coed ultimate Frisbee team based in Iowa. They have continued to compete on ultimate Frisbee teams every year since they met, but Abby is taking this year off as she and Dave prepare to welcome their first child in September! Abby and Dave are members of Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton, where Abby’s father is the senior pastor.
Alek recently completed the fall semester of his senior year at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He will graduate in May 2013 with a B.S. in Geology and Geophysics and a minor in Music.
During the summer of 2012, Alek had the opportunity to intern with Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold at the company’s copper mine in Morenci, Arizona. His internship led to Alek accepting a full-time position as a geologist at the same mine where he served as an intern.Read more about Alek
While a student at Missouri S&T, Alek has been active in numerous geological societies and serves as President of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. He also participates in the campus Fencing Club, plays flute for the symphony orchestra, and attends a local church near the university. Alek credits Westminster with preparing him well for college. “Westminster was key in my academic development, and I am very grateful for my time spent there.”
Alumna Madison Nye ’10 recently traveled to Uganda, where she worked with IChooseYou Ministries to provide Christian education to children who are starving, abandoned, or have no family support.Read more about Madison
Throughout the summer, Madison helped create gardens for the kids’ families, played and danced with the little ones in the schoolyard, helped run a medical clinic, and hosted a sleepover for a group of girls in the village. Madison says, “It was the most rewarding experience of my life, and I cannot wait to go back! God’s love is so evident there and it truly changed my life.” She would like to share the following letter about her experience with the Westminster community.
I wish I could tell you everything about Uganda and my experience there, but it is nearly impossible. First of all, it is the most gorgeous place I have ever seen. I served in the town of Mbale, nestled in a valley between huge mountains. Every day, when I woke up and looked outside, I saw lush greenery and waterfalls in the distance. But the most beautiful part of Uganda was its people. As cliché as it may sound, I fell head-over-heels in love with the people of Uganda. They are the most joyful, uninhibited, and transparent individuals I have ever met. The conditions in which they live are far worse than you hear about or see in pictures. I met a family with 11 kids living in a mud hut the size of my bedroom – a real eye-opener. But the biggest shock was simply how joyful they are. Poverty, violence, and death surround them, yet they are the happiest people on the planet. It is revolting to think about how ungrateful and moody we can be while blessed to live in much, much better conditions.
These people truly LOVE Jesus. They praise Him day and night, and, take it from me – there is nothing sweeter than hearing 150 small children singing their heads off to the Lord. We attended chapel at the school and church, and they do not even use instruments. They produce all of the beats and rhythms solely using their voices, hands, and feet.
Another great experience I had was walking through Namatala. The kids all ran up to us and grabbed our hands, just excited to see a “Muzungo” (white person). The majority of these kids were obviously suffering from malnutrition, and if they were clothed, they wore dirty, ripped scraps – yet they were all smiling. We met one single mother of nine who was concerned about one of her sons who had refused to eat or drink for days. In our medial book, we were able to find a formula to treat malnourished children, and thankfully the boy finally started drinking again. I also had the honor of helping a man who was involved in a terrible motorcycle accident. I held his hand while we cleaned his wound, and he returned the next day so I could check on him and redress it. It was a really cool feeling to be able to see concrete progress, and he was so gracious and thankful. It made my heart happy!
I must say that the biggest connection I made was with a vivacious, beautiful, 11-year-old girl named Justine. I met her on my first day in Uganda, and we instantly clicked. We danced in the schoolyard until it was time to leave. Later that week, we had a family day for all of the IChooseYou kids, and they performed several songs for us. I knew that Justine and I were meant to be friends when I saw her organizing everyone into their lines and leading the songs and dances in the front. She was literally my Ugandan mini-me! She pulled me up on stage and made sure I knew the dances and the words to the songs (although I had to pretend a little because we were singing in Ugandan!). She has such a sweet little heart and she is so happy, even as her father passed away from AIDS and her mother and sister also have HIV. It’s amazing to see a little girl who lives with so much hurt praise God with a loud voice and happy smile every day. Hearing her and the other kids sing out to Jesus with their pure, uninhibited voices is something I will cherish in my heart forever.
Still, my favorite memory of the trip was the sleepover I hosted for Justine, Vicki, and Winnie at our hotel. The girls donned our swimsuits and hopped in the pool – something they had never gotten to do! Then they took a bubble bath with running water, which was another huge treat. The girls relaxed in white, comfy robes while we played UNO on my bed, and then they stuffed their faces at dinner. The excitement and joy they felt from experiencing such a “special” night was priceless; they were able to experience this luxurious gift that I had always taken for granted. It made them so happy, and it was so easy and fun for me to do! Next summer, my goal is to host a sleepover for all of the IChooseYou middle-school girls so they can all experience a night of fun and luxury! I plan on bringing a suitcase of t-shirts, pajama bottoms, and toothbrushes so that each girl can take home a special “PJ bag,” as most of them sleep in their school uniforms because they cannot afford pajamas.
During my entire experience in Uganda, I was so encouraged to see what an impact IChooseYou Ministries is having on the village of Namatala. IChooseYou allows Americans to sponsor children in Namatala through monthly or yearly donations, which provide them with Christian education, food, uniforms, books, and medical expenses. Sponsorships are huge for these kids. While I was there, I visited one sweet girl named Vicki who had been diagnosed with Malaria. She was very sick but would not have received her IV and medicine if she hadn’t been sponsored. An individual’s donation literally saved her life. If you think you might feel called to sponsor a child throughIChooseYou, please let me know!
Now that I am back in the U.S., it has been an interesting adjustment. On the outside, I feel like I have slipped right back into my old routines. But I cannot get the people of Uganda off my mind. I struggle with beating myself up in regard to how privileged I am when I think about the awful conditions in which my friends in Namatala live. However, it was cool to see how my contribution changed one life and how that life has changed several more. I know God doesn’t expect me to go and fix all of Uganda’s problems, but I truly believe He has given me the charge to love people like Justine fiercely. He loves me fiercely, and I intend to do the same. The Ugandans taught me more about my faith and changed my life in many more ways than I even could have done for them. Every day, I miss them and hope they are doing well; I cannot wait to get back there next summer. It was truly the most amazing experience of my life. I would love to talk to you about it further if you are interested, so feel free to email me!
Love and thanks,
Joanna’s heart for missions coupled with her passion for photography led her to consider using her gifts to support missionaries in a nontraditional way. Earlier this year, Joanna began taking photos of families in her church as a hobby. Around the same time, she met a couple who was raising support for ministry work with Cru, and she felt the Lord leading her to help them raise support through her photography.Read more about Joanna
She soon realized that she wanted to continue to help other missionaries and support her church missions through photography. “I decided that all the money I make through photography will always go to missions. I saw an opportunity to give in a way I had never thought of before—to use this gift from God to glorify Him and take part in His word and kingdom expansion to all parts of the world. It has been a blessing for me to be able to support missions above and beyond in this way.”
Joanna’s husband Adam also shares her love for missions. In fact, the two met while training for an internship with MTW in Nairobi, Kenya while they were college students. Their team spent two months working with a national pastor in Kenyan slums, teaching children and caring for orphans and others at risk in the community. Joanna said, “We soon discovered that we both had a passion for missions and a love for the Kenyan people. Our desire is to do long-term missions sometime in the future.” Joanna and Adam were married in June 2011 and attend Crossroads Presbyterian Fellowship, where they serve together on the missions team, and Joanna serves in women’s ministry.
Joanna is a graduate of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2011. She works at Barnes-Jewish Hospital as a registered nurse on the neurology floor, where she cares for patients who suffer from neurological conditions such as strokes, seizures, brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, and myasthenia gravis.
Although David graduated from Westminster more than 20 years ago, he built friendships during his time at Westminster that are still intact today. “I remember Westminster as a supportive and protective environment. It was a place that encouraged my development and prepared me for college while I had fun and built lasting friendships.”Read more about David
David is a 1992 graduate of Drake University where he received a B.A. in English. He used his English degree to start his career in the software industry as a technical writer. He has worked in the software industry for over 15 years, including 10 years in the San Francisco Bay area working for Silicon Valley companies in various roles. In 2006 David moved to the Dallas area to begin work for CA Technologies, where he is employed in product marketing.
Recently David has become more connected to Westminster through some of his high school friends who now have children attending the school. He is especially passionate about giving to financial aid for families, making Westminster accessible for future generations of students and families. “It’s rewarding to see what Westminster has become, knowing it’s a part of my history. It isn’t an option for my kids since we live in Texas, but I’ve decided to start giving to Westminster to contribute to the financial aid available for families who might otherwise not be able to afford it. Westminster offers even more to students today than when I attended, and I’d like to help make that environment possible for more kids in the hope that it might give them a step up on preparing for college and the rest of their lives.”
David lives in McKinney, Texas with Toni, his wife of 19 years, and his three sons: Henry (12), Theo (9), and Liam (18 months). David and his family are members of First United Methodist Church of McKinney, a growing and vibrant 150-year-old church in the town square of what used to be the small town of McKinney. David said, “We love the combination of the message, the community, and the history of the church.”
At Westminster Christian Academy, our greatest hope for our graduates is that they leave us equipped to engage the world and change it for Jesus Christ. Lisa Bachman Jones is doing just that through her artwork. Lisa reached out to Westminster about contributing to the school’s vision in a nontraditional way—through a series of abstract paintings based on Westminster’s mission, vision, and core values. At the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, Lisa’s paintings were placed on display in the Grand Entry, and Westminster hosted a reception to launch the exhibit, which was scheduled to conclude in December. However, the paintings have received such a warm welcome from students, parents, and school visitors that the exhibit has been extended and will remain in the Grand Entry through the end of the school year in May.Read more about Lisa
The series consists of 10 paintings based on Westminster’s mission, vision, and core values. Lisa has donated one painting as a gift to the school, and the remaining nine paintings are available for purchase, with 70% of each sale given back to Westminster. Paintings may be purchased at Westminster until the conclusion of the exhibit or through Lisa’s website.
In the ten years since graduating from Westminster, Lisa has worked with museums, galleries, schools, businesses, churches, and musicians as an art maker, educator, and curator. She earned a BFA in Painting from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee in 2006. That same year, she obtained her Tennessee teaching license for K-12 Art Education. A year after her graduation from Belmont, Lisa was introduced to the Rymer Gallery, which has represented her work in Nashville for the past five years. Lisa is currently focusing on new studio work for the Rymer Gallery, producing abstract animation, curating a correspondence art project, and researching materials. Her work has been recognized with grants and awards from Belmont University and The Tennessee Arts Commission.
Lisa resides in Nashville with her husband of three years, Pete, and her stepdaughter Mia. Lisa and Pete met at FIDO Café, where Lisa works as the head baker and bakery manager. The couple has made keeping up with their creative gifts a priority, and both keep studios within their home.
During her visit to St. Louis for the exhibit opening this past August, Lisa spoke to Westminster art classes, sharing her artistic process and giving students a glimpse into her life as an artist. For more information about the exhibit or Lisa’s artwork, you may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Other works by Bachman are on display at her website. Fifty percent of all sales from Bachman’s website generated by the Westminster community during the duration of the exhibit will also be donated to Westminster.
Kelsey has always had an interest in exercise and nutrition, but when she developed a stress fracture from too much running, her interest grew into a passion for understanding how the human body works.
She decided to study kinesiology and received a B.S. in Kinesiology and a minor in Biblical Studies from Biola University in La Mirada, California. While a student at Biola, Kelsey was involved in intramural sports as well as Teen Challenge, a ministry that provides Bible lessons for elementary school children in Southern California.Read more about Kelsey
After college graduation, Kelsey completed an internship at the Central Institute for Human Performance in Kirkwood, where she worked alongside professional strength coaches as they trained professional athletes, including Cardinals players David Freese, Matt Holliday, and Chris Carpenter. Now a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Kelsey is employed as a trainer at The Fitness Edge in St. Louis, where she helps people achieve their goals in health and fitness. She specializes in weight loss, functional fitness and strength and conditioning. Kelsey said, “God has given us one body, and we are to use it for His glory. I chose to go into strength coaching and personal training in order to keep my body healthy and in the best condition possible, so that I can face whatever may come in a day’s work and help others achieve stronger bodies and a healthy lifestyle.”
Kelsey attends Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton. Kelsey’s younger brother Caleb is a 2012 graduate of Westminster and will enroll at Calvin College in the fall. Her sister Leah is a rising senior at Westminster, where her father, Rex Janssen, teaches geometry and coaches golf.
If you’re interested in contacting Kelsey about personal training services, you may reach her at email@example.com or 636.399.7806.
Jordan Reinwald played the part of Joseph in Westminster’s 1997 production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and recently had the opportunity to return to Westminster to see the show performed for a second time, 15 years later, by Westminster students.Read more about Jordan
After seeing the show, Jordan said, “The blending of the narrators’ voices, the brothers’ distinct individuality, and the pure depiction of the character Joseph was an accomplishment unto itself. The show is chock-full of comedic bits, which rang true for this group of hardworking performers. Canaan Days was simply a great lesson in stopping a show, and the brothers didn’t fail. Even the show’s familiar moments of forgiveness and redemption gave me spectacular chills. The entire cast and crew have to be entirely proud of their enormous dedication and final product.”
After graduating from Westminster, Jordan enrolled at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he received a B.F.A. in Theatre Performance and a B.S.B.A. in Marketing in 2001. In 2000, he had the opportunity to study abroad at Middlesex University in London and a year later, decided to prepare and audition for The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), one of the oldest and most well-respected acting schools in the world. Jordan graduated from LAMDA with a Post-Graduate Degree in Classical Acting Studies in 2003.
Jordan’s acting career then took him to New York City, where he appeared in off-Broadway productions, print ads, and found work as an extra. After three years, he left New York in hopes of making a fresh start in Chicago, as he wanted to see firsthand the business side of films and commercials. Jordan freelanced as a Casting Director Assistant at TP&R Casting, where he worked on dozens of projects from George Clooney’s Leatherheads and HGTV shows to the filmThe Express. While Jordan was experiencing success in his career, he describes feeling like he was in “survival mode.” Jordan shares, “Looking back, I can’t believe how much pain I was experiencing because of my unwillingness to allow God’s voice to penetrate me. I needed to go home. After 10 years being away for higher learning, worldly living and traveling, I moved back to my hometown in 2007.”
Once he returned to St. Louis, Jordan rededicated his life to Christ and joined St. Louis Family Church and Service International in a number of service projects like tornado and flood relief. Jordan said, “I needed to serve in order to come back to the realization of Christ’s servanthood.” He was anxious to exercise his acting and creative abilities but knew he “had to give God the controls if there was any chance of succeeding.” Soon Jordan began acting in local commercials, pilots, training videos, feature films, and even took on featured extra work for the film Up in the Air. The St. Louis Repertory Theatre Company employed Jordan as an official union actor, and he joined the Actor’s Equity Association, traveling with their Imaginary Theatre Company for six months, performing for children’s audiences in Missouri and Illinois. In 2010 Jordan decided to play title role in a three-month film production called Walther, which has played in over 5,000 churches and various film festivals. In addition, Jordan has been part of St. Louis Family Church’s regular theatre productions from Godspell to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, where he again had the opportunity to play Joseph!
Jordan met his future wife Jenni in 2008 after returning to St. Louis, and the two were married on October 1, 2011 at St. Louis Family Church. Jenni is a surgery scheduler at St. John’s Mercy hospital. Jordan and Jenni are involved with their church through musicals, youth trips, service relief and nursery work.
While David and Stephanie were students at Westminster, Stephanie attended most of David’s soccer games but had no idea he would become her husband just a few years later. Though they were only separated by one year in school and Stephanie’s sister Courtney was in David’s class, the two didn’t know each other well during their time at Westminster.Read more about David & Stephanie
They didn’t reconnect until several years after they had graduated from Westminster and were living in different cities. Long emails led to phone conversations, which led to the first of many dates, and they were engaged 8 months later! David and Stephanie were married at The Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church on September 3, 2011. The couple has chosen to go into service-oriented professions, with David as a counselor and Stephanie as a nurse. Stephanie said, “We are both passionate about working with people and seeing growth and change that comes with it. Many days are challenging, but our professions have proven to be rewarding for both of us. God continues to strengthen us and provides opportunities to serve Him through serving others.”
David received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2008 from Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, where he played soccer all four years. He went on to study counseling at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis and received his M.A. in Counseling in 2010. David is working to complete the required hours to become a licensed counselor, and he currently works in private practice with Diane Powell & Associates, as well as in social work with Mercy Hospital’s behavioral health department.
Stephanie received a B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2009. Following graduation, she enrolled in nursing school at Columbia College and received her Registered Nurse License in 2011. She is now employed with St. Luke’s Hospital as a cardiac R.N.
David and Stephanie’s siblings are also Westminster graduates. Stephanie’s sisters Kristin ’00 and Courtney ’04 are employed as Residency Program Coordinator for Mercy Hospital’s Family Medicine residency program and Account Executive for CBS Radio, respectively. David’s brother, Brian Stair ’07, is finishing his first year of law school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. In December 2011 he married Sarah Grimes ’07, who will begin working at KPMG as an accountant this August.
Kelly and her husband, Shane, along with her siblings and their spouses, Jim and Megan Beckemeier and Casey and Michael Obertop, hosted an event at Westminster for alumni who graduated in the 90s. The event was an occasion for alumni to reconnect with one another, tour Westminster’s new campus, and learn about the long-term vision for the school.Read more about Kelly
Kelly said of the event, “The opportunity to hear from Jim Marsh about God’s amazing provision and faithfulness, as well as the vision for each and every student who walks the halls, not only reminded us of all God did in each of us through Westminster, but also opened our eyes to the great work that He continues to do there.”
During her senior year at Westminster, Kelly served as a peer counselor to a group of seventh grade girls. Throughout that year they met weekly for donuts and devos, attended each other’s sporting events and performances and spent time chatting about life. Those relationships, rooted in Kelly’s desire to share the love of Christ, grew into lasting friendships, still very much alive 15 years later.
Since graduating from Westminster, Kelly has become a talented photographer, physical therapist, involved member of her church and community, wife and mother. Kelly developed a passion for physical therapy while still in high school when she suffered a severe ankle injury, and her therapist helped her return to what she loved—tennis. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences and a Master’s in Physical Therapy from Mizzou and worked full-time as a physical therapist at a local outpatient, orthopedic clinic from 2002 to 2007, serving as assistant director of the clinic during her last three years there. She continues to do part-time, private work in physical therapy. “I love physical therapy because it’s a unique opportunity to help people heal physically and return to the things they’re passionate about, whether that be sports, hobbies or just everyday life without pain, while also having the opportunity to minister to their soul through listening, physical touch, encouragement and care.”
Kelly officially launched Relic Photography in 2010 after years of being a passionate hobbyist. She considers photographs to be treasures, as they tell the stories of people’s lives, passions and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. After marrying Shane in 2004, their wedding photographer hired her as an assistant and she began to learn the technical side of photography. Several years later, she combined those skills with some photo-editing knowledge shared by a friend to start her own business. Kelly feels “unbelievably humbled and blessed” by the quick growth of Relic Photography and the opportunity to capture so many important moments in people’s lives.
Kelly and Shane have two girls, Emery (4) and Adley (3), and are expecting their third child, a boy, in a few weeks. They are members at The Journey – West County and have served there in a variety of roles. Currently, Kelly leads a community group and volunteers in the nursery. Kelly and Shane are also involved with a local organization called Mission St. Louis that exists to transform the city of St. Louis through education, empowerment and economic development by connecting churches with neighborhoods in need.
Now an accomplished teacher herself, Jennifer fondly recalls memories of her Westminster teachers and actually credits her Western Civilization and Church History teacher, Mr. Tim Baldwin, for inciting her interest in becoming a teacher. Now serving as English department chair at a high school in Texas, she screens many new applicants each year.Read more about Jennifer
This role has allowed her to better appreciate the incredible quality of teaching she received at Westminster: “Nowhere have I encountered a faculty that is, collectively, as knowledgeable and as caring as the group of teachers I had in grades 9-12.”
Jennifer teaches 12th grade English and Advanced Placement Literature at Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Worth, Texas. She was recently honored by the Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts as the 2011 Outstanding High School Educator. The National Council of Teachers of English also recognized her at their annual conference in Chicago in November 2011 as a High School Teacher of Excellence, an award given to only 15 teachers nationwide. In addition, Keller Independent School District named Jennifer Secondary Teacher of the Year in May 2011.
Jennifer graduated from Taylor University in 1997 with a B.A. in English Literature and French and later earned her teaching certificate and an M.Ed. in Secondary Education from the University of North Texas in 2002. She has taught at Fossil Ridge since 2000 and also teaches junior college composition courses online. In addition, Jennifer is a teacher consultant with theNational Writing Project, and as part of her local network, she and other teacher consultants have been involved in a grant which funded the study of best practices for teaching writing to English Language Learners—students whose primary language is not English. Also through her work with the NWP, Jennifer provides professional development for local school districts on the teaching of writing.
Jennifer said, “I will always believe that my education at Westminster was one of my most formative experiences, academically, personally and spiritually.” Some of Jennifer’s favorite memories of her Westminster teachers still impact her today: Mrs. Pike’s listening ear, Mr. Hearne’s dry remarks in U.S. History, learning to speak up in Mr. Parker’s Biblical Ethics class, Dr. Holley’s list of “The Awful Eight,” and performing in the Touring Ensemble and three musicals under the direction of Kathy Eichelberger. Jennifer shares her philosophy of teaching and what she learned from her all-time favorite teacher, Mr. Tim Baldwin, in an essay that she submitted to her school district with her Teacher of the Year application and also shares with her 12th grade students as a model for a writing assignment each year.
Jennifer and her husband, David, live in Fort Worth, Texas, and have two sons, Ethan (8) and Asher (4). They attend The Hills Church of Christ where Jennifer and David both sing in the Praise Ministry. Jennifer also occasionally teaches the Young Adults Sunday school class.
Hayley developed a passion for helping individuals with disabilities while serving at Litzsinger School during her senior service at Westminster and decided to become an occupational therapist. She also credits reading the book, From Brokenness to Community, by Jean Vanier in her Worldviews class at Westminster for helping her to understand the transformative power of Christian community for people who have experienced abandonment and rejection due to disability. Through serving at Camp Hope for children with disabilities, Hayley experienced firsthand the truth that “value does not come from what you do but from knowledge of being a child of God.”Read more about Hayley
Hayley recently returned from Quito, Ecuador, where she completed a six-month internship with Camp Hope, a foundation that serves individuals with mental, physical and economic disabilities through an educational center and orphanage. At Camp Hope, Hayley worked in a prevocational classroom with seven students ranging from ages 15 to 22. She assisted the teacher in helping the students learn tasks of daily living, such as how to make a bed, wash dishes, tie shoes and get dressed—tasks which allow the students to become more independent. Hayley’s host mom in Ecuador, Maricela Miranda, has been involved with Camp Hope for the past 23 years and described Hayley as “a loving, compassionate person who naturally fit with the needs of Camp Hope and connected with children with special needs.”
Currently in her senior year at Wheaton College, Hayley is pursuing a degree in Applied Health Science with a certificate in Human Needs and Global Resources. After graduating from Wheaton she plans to take a gap year before continuing her education in occupational therapy.
David is a 2010 graduate of Westminster Christian Academy. He currently lives in San Diego where he is a part of TWELVE, a nine-month experience through the Rock Church where exactly twelve students from across the U.S. focus their time on intimacy with God, hands-on ministry training, self-discovery and traveling the nation and world impacting people for Christ. David began his experience with TWELVE in September 2011. He spoke in Chapel as part of Westminster’s Chapel series, “Christianity at Westminster,” the purpose of which is to address specific issues that Westminster students face within this community. In addition to speaking in Chapel, David spoke to parents on in Westminster’s Theatre about why young people are created to change the world for Jesus Christ. David believes that “as young people, we may only make up 25% of the population, but we’re 100% of the future!”
Jason is a graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, where he earned a B.B.A. in Finance in 2007. While at SMU, Jason had the opportunity to study abroad at the University of Oxford (University College) in the summer of 2005. He was also involved in Reformed University Fellowship and was a member of Providence Presbyterian Church.
For three summers during his college years, Jason served as a camp counselor at Alpine Camp for Boys, a Christian summer camp located in Mentone, Alabama. He worked as a counselor to 8th grade boys for two summers and served as head counselor in 2007.Read more about Jason
After receiving his undergraduate degree, Jason enrolled at Washington University School of Law, where he received a J.D. in 2010. Wanting to specialize in tax law, he went on to study at New York University School of Law where he earned an LL.M. in Taxation. He has been admitted to the Missouri Bar and recently passed the New York Bar and is awaiting admission. While at Westminster Jason was involved in the We the People competition, and he believes that it helps prepare students for college and their careers. “It was great training for researching, clear and concise writing, and public speaking.”
Jason currently resides in New York City where he is employed by PricewaterhouseCoopers in International Tax Services-Financial Services. He serves asset management and alternative investment clients in structuring cross-border transactions for tax efficiency. He also advises clients on information and tax reporting obligations in order to avoid adverse tax classification status with governmental tax authorities. He attends Redeemer Presbyterian Church and is involved with a small group through Redeemer.
Caroline received a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Purdue in 2008. From 2008 to 2010 she worked in the Developing World Healthcare Technology Lab in the Pratt School of Engineeringat Duke University. The lab seeks to meet the unique medical instrumentation challenges faced by developing countries. To achieve this goal, team members prototype appropriate medical technologies and train nationals to fix and maintain healthcare technologies.Read more about Caroline
One of the projects Caroline worked on while at Duke was a packaging device for AIDS prevention, which involved packaging liquid medication that treats HIV and prevents the passage of HIV from mother to child. This treatment had a very high efficacy and is currently going through clinical trials in Tanzania. Nine months of the year Caroline conducted research in the lab, and during the summer she coordinated and led groups of volunteer engineering students on visits to the developing world for one month of language and engineering training and a second month of hospital work, teaching local technicians how to repair medical equipment. She traveled to Tanzania in 2009 and Central America in 2010.
In January 2011 Caroline married Tony Howard. They are members of Chesterfield Presbyterian Church in St. Louis where Tony is director of KREW high school student ministry. Currently, Caroline is employed as in industrial engineer working on process improvements in pharmaceutical manufacturing for Covidien. More than seven years after graduating from Westminster, Caroline reflects on the quality education she received. “ We were able to go to school in a Christian environment without sacrificing the level of education. At Westminster, there’s no academic trade-off for Christian education.”