Leah Sweetman ’21 (pictured left)  and Vinnie Adams ’10 (pictured right) in Nicaragua 

It’s more about who you know that cares enough to help you succeed

At Trinity, classes are taught from a Christian perspective, providing students with the tools they need for lifelong learning, community-focused decision-making, and a strong sense of calling and vocation. For Leah Sweetman ’21 and Vinnie Adams ’10, refining those tools led to careers in Nicaragua – a clear example of following God’s call in their lives.

Growing up in the Midwest, Sweetman knew from a young age she wanted to live in a different country. “I looked for a college that let me grow in my independence but was still close enough to home where I could visit frequently,” Sweetman said. “I was really impressed by Trinity’s academic programs and valued that I could continue my athletic career on the softball team.”

Working toward a degree in cross-cultural ministry, Sweetman leaned on her advisor, Dr. Benjamin Ribbens, to achieve her goals of studying in Ecuador during her time at Trinity and still graduating in just 3.5 years.

Shortly after graduation, Sweetman began a one-year internship with Resonate Global Mission, serving with local ministries in Nicaragua. “As my internship ended,” Sweetman said, “I was unsure what my next steps would be. I had a job offer in the U.S. working in the field that I had spent my life working toward. However, I felt called to stay in Nicaragua. God miraculously opened the door to teaching. It became evident to me that although I felt underprepared and a bit overwhelmed, it fit exactly what I needed for my personal, professional, and spiritual growth.”

Sweetman began teaching English and social studies to 7th- and 8th-grade students at Nicaragua Christian Academy (NCA). “Although I didn’t graduate with a degree in education, NCA took a chance on me and valued the skills I gained at Trinity.”

Today, Sweetman holds the role of Intercultural Facilitator at the Nehemiah Center in Nicaragua, connecting programs in Nicaragua to their North American support network through fundraising, hosting international teams, navigating cultural conversations, and witnessing a transformation in the lives of new Christians. She’s still involved in NCA coaching and substitute teaching.

“I am so thankful for the opportunities I have had, and the way God is using organizations like NCA and the Nehemiah Center to transform lives in Nicaragua – as well as pouring into their employees like me.”

Adams’ relationship with NCA formed when he was a junior in high school, spending a semester studying at the school. “After the semester, I felt convinced that I wanted to go into education, specifically special education, Adams said. “My cousin is a former student at Elim Christian School, and Elim was the type of place that kept coming to mind when I imagined my working future. Knowing that Trinity had a strong relationship with Elim, I wound up at Trinity in the SPED program.”

During his time at Trinity, Adams traveled back to Nicaragua and was a student teacher at NCA. “This marked my second time living in Nicaragua and was a big part of forming my love for the country. There were relationships I formed during this time that I was able to circle back to when I was in the discernment process of moving here. Pete Post, Don Woo, Rhonda Mattson, and Joy Meyer were some of the professors at Trinity who influenced me the most.”

Adams currently spends part of his time working with the church outreach ministry at Tesoros de Dios, traveling to local churches to give theological and practical presentations about disability ministry, as well as visiting with and praying for families in their homes. He also fulfills pastoral duties at an international church in Managua by preaching sermons, planning worship, leading meetings, creating communications, and spending time in prayer with community members.

Both Sweetman and Adams have responded to God’s call to serve overseas, and both credit Trinity for providing the tools they need to shine His light in Central America.

“Trinity prepared me for life after graduation by helping me articulate what I believe and how to practically live that out,” Sweetman said. “For me, life abroad has given me a great appreciation for the world that God created, as well as reassurance in the way He is the same across languages, borders, and cultures.”

Adams shared, “God continues to direct and work, and it’s been a fun journey to be on.”

If you’re interested in exploring job opportunities at Nicaragua Christian Academy, visit this link to see current openings.

Noah Pavlovics (pictured right) out in the field during his first week on the job

It’s more about who you know that cares enough to help you succeed

Story summary: Business fellows mentoring with alumni provided customized and relational time with the student that helped grow the students network and ultimately was a catalyst for him landing a job in California soon after graduating in December.

Many folks have heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” But in many ways, it’s more about who you know that cares enough to help you succeed. And for Trinity students, their interactions with alumni regularly result in discovering just how much they care about their success.

In 2021 Trinity’s business department launched their new Business Fellows program for some of the top students in the program to experience an enhance level of career support and advice by paring them with an alumni mentor. This past fall, Noah Pavlovics ‘22 learned first-hand just how valuable Trinity’s alumni network can be.

During the summer of 2022, Noah received an invitation to join the Fellows program from department chair, Sundeep Vira. After applying and being accepted to the program, professor Vira partnered with the Alumni office to find a good pairing and connected him to Jeff Wiedenaar ‘96. As a graduate of the business program himself, Jeff was excited to a very relational way that he could give back to his alma mater.

“I had let Trinity know about a year ago that I’d love to come alongside students and help give back in this way,” Weidenaar said. “Trinity was there for me when I was a student, and it was a way I wanted to give back and express my gratitude.”

Shortly after being paired up, Noah and Jeff met up at Trinity’s Bootsma Bookstore/Cafe to meet face to face and discuss some goals for their time together. Learning that Noah planned to graduate in December, they set out an accelerated timeline to help Noah to think about his next steps and ultimately find a place to work after graduation.

“Jeff was awesome,” Noah said. “He not only helped me re-write my resume and update my LinkedIn profile, but also challenged me to think about my goals for after graduation and inspired me to achieve them.”

One thing that became clear after their first meeting was that Noah desired to find a job back near his hometown in Southern California. Realizing that his personal network was limited in that area, Jeff turned to Trinity’s alumni office for names of other alumni living in that area and worked with Noah to help him craft an email to reach out and ask if they might be willing to help.

And in true Trinity fashion, they did. Noah’s introductory emails lead to other introductions including board members and staff with networks in that area. They in turn connected him to people they knew and trusted who had more direct work experience in business development, and specifically in the construction field. Noah began applying for jobs and eventually received a multiple offers from employers.

“Not every job Noah applied to was something he was seeking, but I still encouraged him to apply because you’ll never know you don’t like something until you explore it,” Weidenaar said. “I encouraged him to keep his options open and have a backup plan, even if it wasn’t his first choice.”

Once the job offers came in, Noah had even more advice he was able to glean from Jeff. “Jeff took the time to help me navigate some offers that I had gotten, and was sounding board to help me process the options that would be best. He was incredibly reassuring, encouraged me not to rush a decision, helped me think about how to negotiate a salary if it wasn’t what I looking for.”

“I encouraged him to take some time over Christmas break to really pray about the decision,” Jeff said. “Not only that, but he needed to remember that there can be more to a job offer than just a salary. Other benefits can factor in to the overall package so he needed to weigh the pros and cons to come to a conclusion.”

In January, Noah started his new job at Arena Staffing in Temecula, CA. What originally started as a conversation around coffee lead to connections with Trinity alumni and staff who put him in touch with the company.

“I was blown away by how understanding everyone was, and how they rallied around me to help me succeed,” said Noah.

As Jeff reflected on the he realized Noah wasn’t the only one who was blessed by the process. “I realized having worked in the business world now for 25 years all I didn’t know when I was seeking that first job. It was so encouraging to be able to give back and even more rewarding because Trinity facilitated it which was great. It’s a tangible way to show Christ’s love back to students.”

Now that both of them have joined the ranks as Trinity alumni, they plan to keep in touch. And you can be sure that Noah will be one of the first in line to raise his hand and be a Business Fellow mentor in the near future.

If you would like to get more involved in opportunities like the Business Fellows program, be sure to sign up as a member of the TrollNation Network. You can also join the Trinity Alumni Group on LinkedIn to be made aware of future volunteer opportunities.

(L-R): Luke Snodgrass ’24, Nicholas Bermudez ’07, Jeremy Klyn ’02, Andy Gurczak, Carter Sheehan ‘23

Trinity has always placed a significant emphasis on gaining professional work experience as a student

Trinity has always placed a significant emphasis on gaining professional work experience as a student. As a result, every graduate receives hands-on practice through an internship. Luke Snodgrass ’24 and Carter Sheehan ’23 not only gained valuable experience through a marketing internship this past summer, but they also had the unique opportunity of being mentored and managed by Trinity alum Nick Bermudez ’06.

Bermudez is the CEO of M2E Chicago, LLC, a company that helps businesses make marketing easy. “I help small businesses explore a variety of options to strengthen their different marketing channels,” Bermudez described. He started the company in 2010 and has experienced tremendous growth. From building compelling websites to working with print marketing to providing automation software, M2E covers it all.

“Trinity is still attracting the highest-quality students”

AllCity Adjusting (a public adjusting firm) is one of M2E’s national brand-building clients and sought out Bermudez’s expertise on a large project – where Snodgrass and Sheehan stepped in. Through their internship, they performed in-depth research to help create an educational portal for training future adjusters. Bermudez described it this way, “Every state has different guidelines, so they compiled a 50-state spreadsheet that compared study guides against state guidelines to create a standard study guide for future adjusters. As a result, agents will be able to generate a study guide for their state almost instantaneously. It will be entirely automated.”

This undertaking wouldn’t have been possible without Snodgrass and Sheehan. AllCity’s team faced the challenge of not having the time to perform the research themselves, so they requested help from M2E and, in turn, interns from Trinity. Owner Andy Gurczak shared, “[Snodgrass and Sheehan] were amazing, hardworking, and ethically well-mannered. They understood the vision and committed to it.”

Gurczak and Bermudez oversaw the project and were impressed with what these interns brought to the table. “Carter and Luke showed me that Trinity is still attracting the highest-quality students,” Bermudez shared. “They are both men of integrity; they have already achieved a level of humility, composure, focus, and respect that many people in their thirties, forties, or even fifties haven’t achieved.”

Many of those skills have taken shape during their time at Trinity. When asked how his coursework prepared him to be an effective intern, Snodgrass shared, “Professors who took the time to invest in students’ overall skills played a big factor. In addition, my classmates, and their perspectives also better prepared me for this role. Because of their skills and interests during group work, I was more prepared to contribute in a meaningful manner professionally.”

Sheehan reflected, “It was great to work with people that genuinely care about my growth as a professional and a human. I was super grateful to be able to help this company with their noble cause, but I was also happy to gain a couple of mentors in the process.”

The growth that takes place during an internship is what makes the hands-on experience so valuable. Bermudez invested in these students and challenged them to build upon what they’d already learned in the classroom.

Jeremy Klyn ’02, Director of Alumni and Family Engagement at Trinity, shared, “This connection has been an incredible reminder to me of just how amazing our students are. I think our alumni office and those familiar with this place can become so used to the high level of quality and excellence we see every day that we can take it for granted. This experience is yet another reminder of just how much our students (and alumni) shine in the work they do every day, largely because it is an extension of their faith and calling in this world.”

By Christy Wolff ’10

Born in Singapore, Sam Mahtani (‘10) and his family moved to the U.S. when he was just five years old. His dad, a pastor, led churches in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Seeing his dad make a difference by spreading the Gospel inspired Mahtani to do the same – but instead of preaching, he found joy in sharing Christ’s love through soccer.

Currently the Assistant Women’s Soccer Coach at Belmont University (Nashville, TN), Mahtani helps players grow in their relationship with Jesus through his leadership. “You can speak into students’ lives when you have a relationship already built,” Mahtani shared. “This is a big part of why I went into coaching.”

His decision to become a coach didn’t happen overnight. For many years, Mahtani wasn’t sure what his next steps after high school would be; a four-year college wasn’t on his mind. He considered being a chef and even applied to a cooking school in Chicago, but realized he’d likely be working hectic hours and didn’t want to be pushed into such a specific job in the cooking industry.

Open to other options, Mahtani’s sister-in-law – a Trinity alum – encouraged Mahtani to check out the campus. Before he knew it, he was officially a student at Trinity.

His interest in athletics grew once he joined the basketball team during high school. He played soccer to stay in shape and just enjoyed the game. During his freshman year at Trinity, Mahtani formed friendships with members of the soccer team by playing intramural soccer together, which led to Mahtani trying out as a walk-on player. By the spring, Mahtani was officially a player on the team. He grew exponentially in his role on the team, from a walk-on tryout to starting defender to captain his senior year.

“At Trinity, I learned how to gain common ground and understanding across the board; whether you’re from a different background, have a different viewpoint, or have a different skin color, I could find common ground and build friendships.”

Mahtani’s passion for playing soccer grew into an interest in coaching, which led to him becoming the men’s basketball team manager as a freshman and pursuing a minor in coaching. He joined the coaching staff at Illiana High School (Dyer, IN) – a role that helped him identify his calling.

After graduation, Mahtani took a marketing job at Trinity. “I wanted to coach at Trinity and needed a job that would be flexible and allow me to coach. The marketing department at Trinity allowed me to do that with my boss, Kim Fabian, who worked with my schedule.” This meant that Mahtani balanced a full-time job, assisting in coaching the women’s soccer team and working toward his master’s in coaching and athletic administration.

His hard work paid off with the opportunity to start both the men’s and women’s soccer programs from scratch at Providence Christian College (Pasadena, CA). His primary focus was on recruiting. “We had two kids at the school interested in soccer, so I had to recruit two full soccer teams in January to play that August,” Mahtani said. He also juggled a handful of athletic director duties, such as hiring staff, coordinating equipment and gear, renting soccer fields, making travel arrangements, and creating a process for the program.

Mahtani used these skills to volunteer at the Western Region Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Sports Camp held at UCLA. Mahtani oversaw several coaches and leaders, and together they created a unique program for 60 young girls. “During the camp, students were asked to share their testimonies, and I shared mine, too. We provided a space to help students share their stories,” Mahtani shared.

Six years after starting the program at Providence and eager for his next challenge, Mahtani accepted a coaching job at Belmont University – where he still works. His wife, Roxy, is a Tennessee native, meaning they would be closer to the family after living in California. They welcomed their first child in April 2022.

Mahtani reflects on valuable leadership skills that he developed at Trinity, such as managing people, presenting himself, and communicating clearly. These were fine-tuned by professors, coaches, mentors, and faculty. Mahtani pointed out that professors welcomed one-on-one conversations with their students – a valuable benefit to being a part of a smaller campus and having accessibility to professors.

“At Trinity, I learned how to gain common ground and understanding across the board; whether you’re from a different background, have a different viewpoint, or have a different skin color, I could find common ground and build friendships,” Mahtani said.

Growing up in the Church, Mahtani wanted his years at Trinity to be a time of growth for his faith. “I learned that there are a lot of Christians on campus who have a different viewpoint than me, and that’s ok; it doesn’t remove the fact that we’re all Christians and understand that Jesus died for our sins.”

Today, Mahtani is helping others develop their faith while enjoying a shared love for soccer. “It’s not about saying I love Jesus and I love soccer; those two go hand in hand for me. I am now in a place where I get to coach at a Division 1 program, allowing me to have an impact by sharing the Gospel through relationships. I want to be the catalyst in players’ lives by putting them in a position to learn more about Christ and be there to listen.”

–By Christy Wolff ’10

Josh Stammis ‘17 felt the call to ministry during high school and knew that Trinity was the place he could thrive the most after just one visit to campus. “Trinity was the only place I visited where people who walked past me said ‘hello,’ even if they didn’t know me,” Stammis recalled. “The community at Trinity is radically hospitable.”

What began as a business communications degree during his freshman year turned into a focus on theology. “God gave me the gift and skill of communication,” Stammis shared. “Pastors need to know how to communicate well and essentially how to lead a small business by sharing your vision and getting others on board.” The business classes he took early on equipped Stammis with the tools needed to one day lead a church.

Dr. Bethany Keeley-Jonker, associate professor of communication arts, helped Stammis grow even more in his communication skills. “She developed my craft as a communicator,” Stammis recalled. “Through her teaching, I learned how to get a pulse on how people connect.”

Professor of Theology Yudha Thianto, Ph.D., also made an impact on Stammis by leading the class in a way that was intended to promote conversation among students. “He helped with self-development skills, taking ideas and responding to them instead of just memorizing what we’re told to do,” Stammis said.

“Trinity was the only place I visited where people who walked past me said ‘hello,’ even if they didn’t know me. The community at Trinity is radically hospitable.”

His classmates helped Stammis grow and shape his faith. “I gained inspiration from the community around me by seeing how much faith meant to my peers.” Gathering for campus-wide praise and worship on Thursday nights Outcry offered Stammis a new perspective on his own faith. He felt inspired to be a life-giving source to a community. “It was a great blessing to be the one who says ‘hello’ to someone I’d never seen before and share that hospitality with visitors — just like it was shared with me,” Stammis said.

After graduating from Trinity, Stammis went on to study at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and earned his Master of Divinity in 2020 – a difficult year to find work. “Some churches had a hard time meeting weekly for worship, let alone meeting to interview pastors,” Stammis pointed out. He took on an interim pastoral role in Sheldon, Iowa in the summer of 2021, which provided Stammis with the opportunity to develop his skills as a pastor, sermon writer, preacher, and community builder.

Stammis then received a call from Lakeview Christian Reformed Church in Lakeview, S.D., in October 2021. Located in a small town of 100 people where the closest neighbor is at least a half-mile away, residents naturally feel isolated. “Gathering in worship is a big service to the community around us – catching up with neighbors and interacting with others,” Stammis said.

A church of 40 members, about a dozen of them are children. “It’s a huge blessing and also a grand responsibility to see the next generation develop in their faith and make it their own, not just what their parents or I tell them,” Stammis said.

Recognizing his gift of communication, Stammis is thankful to God for giving him these skills to intentionally share the Gospel message with others. “God has shown me that giving back to His Kingdom through pastoral leadership was something beneficial, not just for myself, but for the community around me, too.”

While many elementary school-aged kids are interested in riding bikes and playing outside, Anna (Spotts) Sall ‘17 had a different interest: the medical field. After learning that her childhood best friend had a liver transplant as a baby, Sall’s curiosity grew, so she began going to her friend’s medical appointments in Chicago, which continued through high school. Sall’s dream to become a doctor was heavily influenced by this early experience — and Trinity helped make that dream a reality.

Sall desired to find a college that helped prepare her to be a doctor and supported her passion for running. During a campus visit, Sall met with Trinity’s Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Track and Fie Coach Bob Brickman and several athletes who made her feel welcomed. “The student-athletes I met felt like family and made me feel comfortable. I didn’t necessarily feel that at other schools I visited. I knew Trinity would be a good place to grow in many different ways,” Sall said.

With a dream to go into medicine someday, Sall majored in biology at Trinity – as well as English because of her love for the subject. “Both degrees benefitted the other by providing a unique perspective on all of my classes.”

Sall also held the role of Resident Assistant (RA) during her junior and senior years. The Residence Life staff who oversaw the on-campus RAs helped build Sall into a leader among her peers. “They were a huge part of my spiritual development and finding who I was and how I could help the people around me.”

Not only did Trinity thoroughly prepare Sall through classroom knowledge, but her experience as an RA also prepared her to show Christ’s love to her patients. “Being an RA for two years helped me grow in how I relate to people and listen to them with empathy and care, which is a huge part of patient interaction.”

“Dr. Carlson was my biggest motivator when I was a student; he taught me how to study, learn, and push myself. ”

After graduating from Trinity, Sall took a gap year and spent her time researching bench procedures at Loyola University Chicago. She also had the unique opportunity of filling in for Professor of Biology and Chair of Sciences Clay Carlson as the adjunct professor of his microbiology lab during his sabbatical. “Dr. Carlson was my biggest motivator when I was a student; he taught me how to study, learn, and push myself. It was a fun challenge being on the teaching side of things and to work with Dr. Carlson in this capacity.”

Sall noticed that her relationships with professors at Trinity were unique compared to her graduate school friends who went to larger schools. “Having those relationships with professors at Trinity and seeing how much they invested in us as students made the whole experience more meaningful and special,” she said.

Sall recently graduated from Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and plans to start her residency training this summer at McLaren Greater Lansing in Lansing, Mich.

As Sall continues to work toward becoming a doctor, she credits Trinity for keeping her grounded in her relationship with God. “My faith was strengthened at Trinity, which I needed throughout med school — especially during times of uncertainty. I wasn’t sure if I would have a residency placement, so I depended on my faith a lot and came to it for comfort and guidance.”

Through impactful mentors, encouraging peers, and insightful coursework, Sall felt supported by the Trinity community as she pursued her dream of becoming a doctor. “The community on campus really allowed me to grow into myself and become more comfortable with who I am as a friend, leader, and teacher. I experienced a lot of change throughout my four years at Trinity.”

–By Christy Wolff ’10

Trusting friends, family, and the Trinity community

Over the past two and a half years, Mariah (Nelesen) Slenk ‘20 has experienced the body of Christ surrounding her like never before. Through several difficult medical diagnoses and the Covid-19 pandemic, Slenk knew she could trust her friends, family, and the Trinity community to support her when she needed it the most.

In February 2020, just months away from graduating from Trinity with a degree in graphic design, Slenk was hit with intense chest pain which soon spread to her back. After learning about these symptoms, her parents (Pastor Marc ‘91 and Tracy ‘92) back in Michigan urged Slenk to go to the hospital. Ten years prior, Slenk’s mom had experienced an aortic dissection – a serious condition which causes a tear within the aorta, compromising the blood flow. Worried about their loved one, Slenk’s parents and boyfriend, Clay, at once drove from Michigan to Illinois to provide their support.

“My parents understood what was going on, but I didn’t quite know – I just remember being really scared,” Slenk recalled.

After a CT scan and test of her heart, her greatest fear was realized: It was determined that Slenk was also experiencing an aortic dissection.

Surgery became an option to help repair the tear, but the doctors were not sure how Slenk’s body would react to surgery considering how fragile she was. At this point, she could not even walk. They decided not to do surgery and instead placed Slenk on strict bed rest.

Questions began filling her head: Will she walk again? Will she be active like she was before? Will she finish her senior year?

That is when the Covid-19 pandemic shook our world. Trinity decided to move classes online for the rest of the semester, which turned out to be a blessing for Slenk. “I thought I would have to finish the semester online by myself, but all of a sudden we were all in the same boat, finishing our courses online,” Slenk shared.

“We know that God has been so faithful, even when it has been difficult to see. When Clay and I have not been able to pray, we know there have been other people praying and lifting us up when it has been challenging to talk to God. It has been a beautiful picture of the body of Christ – that is what we are called to be.”

With graduation behind her and focusing on recovering at home, Slenk set her sights on graduate school. She was accepted into the graphic design graduate program at the University of Illinois Chicago and was also awarded a fellowship which included a financial scholarship and the potential to have a teaching assistantship as well. “This was good news amidst a really challenging time of recovering at home,” Slenk recalled.

Following Slenk’s first semester of graduate school, Clay proposed at a park with their family hiding in cars nearby, waiting to express their excitement – and the couple began dreaming about their wedding.

Fast forward to the summer of 2021. “At this point, I had recovered well from my dissection. I still had limitations, but I was finally getting back to normal.” By the time the dreary days of winter came around, Slenk had gone through months with back-to-back surgeries after other medical diagnoses and was recovering well, when she received a phone call on January 11, 2022, that would once again shake her world. She had cancer.

Eight short days later, Slenk’s fiancé ended up in the ER because he was not recovering from a bout with pneumonia. The phone rang In the middle of the night, and it was Clay’s mom calling to share the overwhelming news – Clay was diagnosed with leukemia.

“I was in shock,” Slenk recalled. “I thought there’s absolutely no way this is possible and that there has to be some mistake.”

In the weeks and months that followed, both Slenk and her fiancé underwent chemo, surgeries, and, in Clay’s case, a stem cell transplant. “We’re on a journey that a lot of people don’t understand unless they’ve been through it, so it’s created a stronger bond between us.”

Shortly after receiving her diagnosis, Slenk received text messages from the art professors at Trinity checking in and seeing how she was doing. “To wonder where God is and then to see Him so clearly through other people has been amazing. That is how we have seen God work the most, through His people who care about us, love us, and lift us up.”

Because of their treatment plans, the couple decided to move their wedding up. On April 9, 2022, Clay and Mariah Slenk wed at a small, intimate ceremony in Zeeland, Michigan. “We agreed to forget about cancer for a little while and just enjoy this time of getting married.”

Slenk recently underwent her fifth of six chemo treatments, and her blood work showed that the tumor marker the doctors have been following is coming down. “I can finally see the finish line.” Her husband is recovering well since his transplant and has had minimal side effects.

Slenk is hopeful for her future and the opportunities that await her, including finishing her master’s program. “We know that God has been so faithful, even when it has been difficult to see. When Clay and I have not been able to pray, we know there have been other people praying and lifting us up when it has been challenging to talk to God. It has been a beautiful picture of the body of Christ – that is what we are called to be.”

–By Christy Wolff ’10 

 For Scott Vermeer ‘12, what began as an interest in social work evolved into service with the U.S. Air Force Reserve and ultimately a career as a prosecutor — and he credits his experience at Trinity for helping him identify his calling. “I’ve finally hit my stride,” Vermeer said. 

Making the decision to attend Trinity came easy for Vermeer. “I researched schools on both coasts; I was set on going far away for school,” Vermeer shared. Born and raised in Michigan, he visited Trinity’s campus on a whim. “As soon as we drove away, I told my parents, ‘That’s the one.’ We didn’t even make it to the highway before I decided.” 

Helping people in his work was a priority for Vermeer, which led him to pursue a social work degree. As he worked through his studies, Vermeer kept running into roadblocks that caused him to question his career path after graduation. “Social workers do so much good, but they get barred from accomplishing a lot of things because of rules and politics,” Vermeer said. This led him to pursue law school, but not before joining the U.S. Air Force Reserve. 

Two weeks after graduating from Trinity, Vermeer began boot camp while simultaneously applying for law school. He was accepted into St. Louis University and joined an Air Force unit near the school where he learned how to do emergency room medicine at 35,000 feet as a flight medic. Vermeer was eventually deployed — after a year and a half of training — and served in 11 countries in just a few months. 

Finishing law school brought him a job with a private general practice firm in Washington, but he was laid off toward the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly one year later, Vermeer, his wife Jenn, and their two daughters moved to Boise, Idaho, where he accepted a job as a prosecutor, a role he still holds today. “Having a background in social work has served me well in my job,” Vermeer said. “It’s about connecting people with resources and meeting them where they’re at. In the legal world, my work in the juvenile division is intended to assist kids by giving them the tools they need to be successful.” 

Vermeer found ways to merge his passion for social work and his loyalty to the Reserves, including adding First Sergeant to his resume, protecting the health, welfare, and morale of about 400 troops. “I am essentially a social worker, ensuring that the human side of these groups are taken care of,” Vermeer shares. “Emotions and mental health have a massive role in the military and needs to be considered when looking at a person.” 

Vermeer credits a handful of professors at Trinity for equipping him with the tools needed to do his work well. Charles Emmerich (former professor of political science) instilled in Vermeer that the importance of politics and secular law can’t be separated. “I didn’t know I was going to law school at the time, but looking back, he really encouraged me toward that path.” 

Dr. Erick Sierra, professor of English, was Vermeer’s manager at Trinity’s on-campus Writing Center. He showed Vermeer how to lead, manage, and teach others. “He taught me that the goal wasn’t to give answers to students, but to help them learn how to do better on their own and to find their own answer,” Vermeer recalled. “This greatly helps me in my work.” 

In addition to these key tools, Vermeer stays grounded in his faith. “As a prosecutor, I focus on the big picture: the rehab and fixing the wrong instead of just punishing the individual,” Vermeer said. “My faith plays a big part in that, keeping in mind Christ and His forgiveness.” 

Recalling the support, mentorship, class experience, and campus life that led Vermeer to where he is today, he is quick to credit the intentional community at Trinity that he is proud to be a part of. “There wasn’t one specific Trinity experience that formed me; it’s the pervading support. Trinity truly is a family.” 


–By Christy Wolff ’10 

Choosing a college came easy for Lauren Baker ‘19 after an impactful experience during a visit weekend. “I remember hanging out with my host student and her friends, eating cookies and drinking smoothies at the BBC, and being struck by how normal it was for them to talk about God. I wanted to be a part of that type of community that welcomed that,” Baker said. 

Fast forward to today. Working as a travel nurse, Baker intentionally strives to bring that community with her wherever she goes. 

As a nursing student, Baker desired to balance her coursework with life outside the classroom. “I wanted to see all of Trinity’s little corners, especially being part of a department that can take up a lot of your time if you let it. I chose to experience a lot–singing in choir and ensembles, working with the athletic department, to name a few–and that’s what I got out of it.” 

Originally from Whitinsville, Mass., Baker grew up hearing about Trinity from her parents, Darrell and Laurie, who graduated from the College in 1993. She valued the proximity to extended family and the accessibility to Midway Airport so she could easily fly home for the holidays. “I used to host prospective students when I was at Trinity and I would tell them that they have four years to live anywhere they want and highlighted how close everything was to campus,” Baker shared. 

During Baker’s junior year, she became a Resident Assistant (RA). “I’ve always been wired for leadership–not the loud, stand-on-a-stage kind, but more through mentorship, running small groups, and creating relationships through activities and conversation with women younger than me.” After having a positive experience with her own RA as a freshman, Baker was inspired to fill this role. 

One of the benefits of holding the RA position is forming a relationship with the dorm’s Resident Director (RD). Weekly meetings to discuss ways for Baker to mentor younger women grew into a season of being mentored herself. “I went into this role expecting to mentor others, but both years I was blown away by the way I was mentored, which allowed me to lead better. This was all very unexpected for me, and I still hang onto their advice to this day,” Baker shared. “Having adults who could see all the good in me when I felt insecure and unsure of the future created a balance of gaining self-confidence and self-discipline at the same time. I try to carry that balance of confidence and humility with a growth mindset into each new season of my life.” 

Baker invested much of her time and energy into her nursing classes, so forming these relationships helped pull her out of the “nursing bubble,” as she puts it. “When I was near tears thinking I was going to fail nursing school, I received a lot of encouragement from the adult mentors I had on campus.” She points out that Trinity staff and faculty are in their positions because they are passionate about reaching college-aged students. “You may not realize how much these staff members care until you’re part of a relationship with one of them; they dedicate their lives to this.” 

Not only did Baker complete the nursing program, but she was able to land a job shortly after graduating. During her interviews, Baker often talked about her Trinity experience as much as she talked about her nursing knowledge. “Hiring managers can see I’m a good nurse on paper, but they want to hear something that makes me stand out.” 

After spending 18 months at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Mich., Baker wanted something new so she became a travel nurse. “This was a difficult transition because I was stepping into situations where the hospital might be short-staffed. That’s why they were hiring temporary nurses like myself.” 

Changing positions every three months can also be a challenge. “I’m constantly the new guy, figuring out what’s next, applying for a new position every few months, and changing my license over to a new state,” Baker described. “It’s both a great adventure to learn and grow and also sometimes lonely and hard moving every three months. It’s all very humbling, and I felt prepared for all of these different experiences through my education in the nursing program at Trinity.” 

She goes on to say, “As a travel nurse, I feel like a tiny bandage on a giant gash that is the world of nursing shortages right now, yet I can only control what is mine to control, which starts by walking in with a positive attitude. Coworkers at these placements pick up on the positivity, and therefore often summon more energy to give to their own patients. They ask for my perspective based on my varied experiences. Meanwhile, I am learning from them too, and my gratitude for the opportunity to make a living by traveling around the country and growing as a nurse overflows in my work.” 

Currently working at a Mayo Clinic-owned hospital in Minnesota, Baker craves community and often finds that in church settings wherever she’s currently working. “At my first placement in Washington, I ran into a Trinity alum at church and she invited me to sit with her, which went a long way.” 

One way Baker is showing her appreciation for Trinity is through her membership in the Trinity Alumni Nursing Association (TANA). This cohort of alumni nurses regularly network with one another, which helped Baker find her first job after college. She is also a member of the alumni board representing the nursing alumni base as a whole, including her role with TANA. 

Baker also reflects on how she grew spiritually during her four years at Trinity. “I feel like I was able to make my faith my own in communal and relational settings at Trinity. I learned to set my eyes where it mattered even when the demands of academics and leadership were louder.” 

Her investment into the Trinity community didn’t stop when she graduated. “I went from being a consumer by just attending classes or events to becoming an investor by being a part of campus life. I walked away wanting to continue supporting Trinity and I am genuinely invested in where Trinity’s going.” 

–By Christy Wolff ’10

Stephen Henderson ‘08 is clearly demonstrating what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus. After his youngest child received an incurable medical diagnosis, Henderson began the important work of involving himself in the redemptive process of healing this broken world. He credits Trinity for preparing him for this journey: “Trinity begins equipping us with the knowledge and skills to serve in our spheres; we have to figure out how we’re going to use that to serve in God’s Kingdom.” 

Originally from Pella, Iowa, Henderson and his wife Lacey ‘08 graduated from Trinity; he majored in history with minors in education and special education, and she earned a nursing degree. Both immediately started grad school – with a baby on the way! “I have pictures of me and Lacey doing homework for grad school with our newborn daughter on our lap,” Henderson recalls. Over the next several years, they would welcome three more children – with one more due October 2021. 

In 2018, Henderson was nearing the finish line of obtaining his doctorate degree. He had completed the coursework, written his dissertation, and was scheduled to defend it before October when his fourth child was due. Everything worked according to plan, and the Hendersons welcomed Estella in October 2018. 

Two months later, he was preparing to walk across the stage at his doctoral graduation. “For years, I longed to acquire the earthly title of being a doctor; I wanted the recognition,” he described. But as his new title was announced – Dr. Stephen Henderson – he heard the topic of the first chapter of Ecclesiastes repeat in his head: Everything is meaningless. “The Spirit was prompting me that something was coming in my life that I hadn’t experienced that was going to make everything else seem meaningless.” 

Six months after graduation, Estella was diagnosed with Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood (AHC), an ultra-rare neurological disease that affects one in one million kids. “It’s like having seven difference neurological diseases in one person,” Henderson explained. AHC causes episodes of paralysis, uncontrollable muscle and eye movements, intellectual disabilities, difficulty walking, and behavioral disorders – among other challenges. 

“The early days of seeing these symptoms in Estella were filled with lots of emergency room visits, speeding down the highway wondering what was wrong with our daughter.” 

When the family finally received a diagnosis, they were told there was no cure. As Henderson said: “It’s like being told your own child has no hope for her future. We retracted into ourselves. We didn’t socialize, we didn’t take her into public, we didn’t even share what life was like with others.” 

Henderson realized that it’s important to walk through the grieving process and wrestle with God. He spent the better part of one year pleading with God and shouting at Him, questioning why He would let this happen to his family – to his own child. 

“I came to the conclusion that the evil disease that my daughter has is not from God nor was it caused by God nor was it given to us by God; there is evil in the world and it exists because we live in a fallen, sinful, and broken world.” He went on to say, “If we, as Christians, are called to be part of the redemptive process of renewing God’s creation, then I’m called to redeem the world and rid it of this sinful disease.” 

With that prompting, Henderson became involved with the Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood Foundation (AHCF), an internationally known foundation that has funded millions of dollars in research, with the mission to end AHC. 

His own fatherly desire is much the same: to find a cure for Estella. “My quest to cure AHC, along with my colleagues at AHCF, is my way of reclaiming a broken part of God’s creation.” 

The painful symptoms Estella experiences can come on so quickly. “You just don’t know when an episode is going to happen for her. You can see her body slowly start to shut down to where neither of her arms work, and within 20 minutes she could be completely paralyzed and could stay like that for days.” These events are known as “episodes.” They can last minutes, hours, or even days. “Just imagine your child writhe in pain, screaming uncontrollably while you watch helplessly. That is life with AHC.” 

Being stripped of every aspect of feeling in control, Henderson shared, “Maybe this is what God is talking about when He tells us to rely on daily bread – when you have nothing left that day and have the complete inability to control anything in your life.” 

One thing that brings him joy in the midst of these life-altering challenges is watching how his three other children treat Estella. “They look at Estella and love her for who she is: their baby sister. That’s an image of how God looks at us. He loves us for who we are and doesn’t see our brokenness.” Elena (10), William (8), and Adriana (4) clearly model Christ’s love to Stephen and Lacey. And with their fifth child due any day, Henderson said, “God is giving us an opportunity to have a little more joy in our life where sometimes there exists much sadness.” 

When Henderson reflects on his years at Trinity, he recalled how Dr. Pete Post (assistant professor of special education emeritus) made a lasting impact in his life. “Dr. Post continually pointed out that parents of special education children and children with special needs are very aware of what they cannot do, and our role as teachers is to emphasize to those parents and that child what they can do,” That has been true of doctors, too, who repeatedly tell Estella what she cannot do. 

Henderson, now associate academic dean and the chair of the education division at William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa, shares these insights with his own students. “My students get to know me personally and professionally like at Trinity. I knew early on in my career that I wanted to do for others what my professors did for me as a student.” 

Before holding his position at William Penn, Henderson taught at Pella Christian Grade School. “When I was so new in education and would have behavior issues in my class, I would email my questions to Dr. Post and he would turn them into case studies; he would present them to his class and I would receive emails from his students with their ideas and findings,” he recalled. 

Others at Trinity impacted his life as well.  “I owe a small part of who I am to the influencers in my life, particularly Dr. John Fry, Dr. Bob Rice, and Dr. Pete Post.” These professors showed their care and support during particularly challenging times, such as when his own mother passed away during his sophomore year. “I wanted to drop out of school, but these life mentors stayed with me and became a major part of my life.”  

To this day, Henderson remains in contact with Fry and several other professors at Trinity. 

The Henderson family’s is one single story in a world full of brokenness, and he wants others to be mindful of the suffering that exists in the quiet margins of society. “We have the ability to be the hands and feet of Jesus to help those who are suffering. It doesn’t have to be AHC; we are called to help in the redemptive process of hearing these people and responding.” 

With that calling, he continues to keep his feet firmly planted in his relationship with God. “My daily prayer includes two points: Asking God to please give Estella a good day, and if He doesn’t, then I ask Him to please give me the feet to walk the path that’s laid before me.” Henderson is filled with hope for what the AHCF is doing as they partner with some of the best scientists in the world. “My daughter might not be made whole on this side of Heaven, but I have hope that one day she’ll get to run and play because of what Jesus has done.” 

To support Estella
If you feel led to donate to Estella’s cause, please visit her page: https://ahckids.app.neoncrm.com/estella