Alyssa Smith, ‘06 Tells Her Story
”You’re going where for college?” was a common question after I announced I would leave my family and friends in southern California to attend Grace University. People would say, “There’s nothing there but cows and cornfields.” My decision was unexpected to many, including me.
My dad and I had attended a seminar titled “How to Choose a Christian College” and the pastor referred to Grace as the “best Christian college” for its cost in the country. My dad, a native of the Midwest, suggested we visit Grace later that year. Despite an adamant “No!” my dad was persuasive. We visited Grace and I immediately felt welcomed by the students with whom I stayed and could easily imagine my future life on campus.
I was awarded a full tuition scholarship. That combined with federal grants and scholarship money from my parents’ mission organization, my school and living expenses were covered, including funds for travel home each year. As God often does, He provided beyond what I asked. I gratefully received this provision for school as clear direction that God had opened wide the doors for me to attend Grace.
Because I was planning to do mission work with children overseas, I selected Teacher Education as my major. A study abroad opportunity in Mexico allowed me to add an English Language Learners (E.L.L.) endorsement. My junior year, I served on the student mission organization Grace World Outreach. We wanted to involve students in consistent service to others (opposed to one-time trips or events), so I started taking a small group of girls to volunteer weekly at the Hope Center for Kids, where I later took a full-time job.
I had hoped to student teach overseas, but after that door closed, I did my student teaching in Omaha Public Schools. God began nudging my heart to consider staying in Omaha after graduation. My final few months at Grace were filled with a multitude of phone calls with my parents, many tears, and numerous nights in the “prayer closet” (our converted storage closet at the end of the hall), as I prayed through my future possibilities and plans.
In late April, I was offered a teaching position where I was student teaching and was also considering a position at the Hope Center for Kids. The Friday of graduation week was my deadline for giving the school district an answer. At the Senior Breakfast that day, a microphone was passed around for seniors to share their post-graduation plans. A huge knot grew in my stomach as the mic neared my table. My mind raced as I realized I had to share a decision I had not yet been able to settle with confidence. As the mic was placed in my hand, I stood and announced to everyone—including my parents—that I hoped I would be taking a position as Education Coordinator at the Hope Center for Kids that fall.
I graduated in May 2006 with my Bachelor of Science in Teacher Education with an Elementary Education and ELL endorsement and started my job at the Hope Center in September. I worked for five years as the education coordinator and then became the director. For the past two years, I have served as the Hope Employment and Learning Academy director. I oversee a program that provides part-time employment for high school youth, which includes academic support, employability training, and small group mentoring.
Eleven years ago, I could not have imagined Omaha becoming my home, but today I am very thankful that God brought and kept me here.