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!
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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!”
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.
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.
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“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.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.