Kevin's Story: Living for Something Bigger
Kevin had a successful military career and a specialized set of skills that provided steady employment. But his job was very physical and company policy stated management jobs were for college grads only; he found that his life experience and “delightful charm” weren’t getting him very far.
After surviving a near-death drowning in Hawaii, marrying a Northwestern summa cum laude, and desperately trying to move up in his company, God caught Kevin’s attention; he knew it was time to pursue bigger dreams and go back to college.
New schedule, new knowledge
Kevin had tried online classes before Northwestern, but his wife encouraged him to take a course on campus. “Now that I’ve experienced that, I wouldn’t do it any other way. It’s just amazing the support and encouragement that you get from that group.” Kevin attends class one night a week at Northwestern and will soon receive his degree.
It’s challenging to squeeze three to four hours of homework in after a full day at work, but Kevin’s family is supportive of his decision to go back to school. “Everybody needs to recognize that this is an investment in the family and that good things are going to come from having a college degree.”
Prior to beginning the FOCUS program, Kevin didn’t think he could learn anything that he didn’t already know from various life experiences. Now he admits that assumption was completely wrong. “To my surprise,” he says, “It is incredible how much I’ve learned. So much of college you can’t shortcut. You have to go through the process. You have to write the papers to become a better writer. You have to learn how to study. You have to learn to think. You have to be challenged.”
Conquering the stalemate
Kevin took some of the business management tools he learned in his classes to an interview at his part-time job and the upper-management team acknowledged that although he did not yet have his degree, they were confident in his future. With a sigh of gratitude Kevin shared, “They decided to bring me on right now so that I would be a full-time employee”—and ready for management when he has his degree in hand.
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The idea of going back to school wasn’t new to Susan, a Christian Counseling major in the FOCUS Degree Completion program. In fact, she’d been pondering it for years. But something just shifted in her thinking and she knew the time had come.
“I finally just said, ‘I have to do this. I’m going to do it,” Susan said. And then everything moved fast and fell into place. “It was almost a last-minute thing. Within three weeks I made that decision and just finally did it.” That was in August and classes started in September.
Support behind the student
As a single mother of two teenage daughters, Susan has found the one-night-a-week format of the FOCUS program to be ideal. She’s received great support from family and friends who want to see her succeed, too.
“My family supports me a lot because they know that I have a goal and a vision to finish school and go on from there, so they’re really behind me,” Susan said. “My friends support me, too. When I go to class, one of my friends will come over and take the girls out so they’re not home alone.” She’s grateful for the reinforcement and creative solutions that have come along with her decision to return to school.
In addition to her school and parenting responsibilities, Susan also cares for her father, who recently suffered a heart attack and stroke. She finds that being busy is actually beneficial because it has taught her to manage her time well.
Professors and colleagues in a Christian environment
Susan chose Northwestern because of her strong belief in Christian education. And since coming she’s experienced great professors and great friendships. “I’ve been so blessed with the teachers,” she commented. “All of them have been just excellent and there hasn’t been a class yet that I’ve been unhappy with.”
Her classes are a place to learn and connect with others. “We’ve bonded as a group,” Susan said of her learning cohort. “I feel that closeness, so it’s kind of fun to come on Tuesday nights and see your fellow students and see how their week was and catch up with them.”
A new beginning
For Susan, FOCUS has been a life-changing experience. “I value the whole thing, just the experience of it,” she reflected. “I look at it like a new beginning.”
Susan is now contemplating going on to get her master’s degree and would encourage anyone to go back to school. “Just do it,” she said, “because you never want look back and say ‘I wish I would have.’ It’s better just to do it even if you’re scared. You’ll be able to if you have that desire to do it.”
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With a hectic schedule and a family to take care of, John was having trouble finding the right degree program to fit his busy needs. The community college he attended proved to be too much of a burden, prompting him to look at FOCUS.
“I came to one of the open houses and when I looked at the program, I wasn’t sure,” he recalled. “The night I wanted wasn’t right. The program wasn’t quite right. I looked at this and said, ‘You know, Lord, you brought me here. I’m going to sleep on this overnight.’ And in the morning, it was clear as can be. FOCUS was my direction.
One of the main draws of the FOCUS program for John was its accelerated format. “Going to community college was too much of a burden,” he said. “As I would add a class, it seemed like the requirements were growing faster than I could complete classes.”
Despite all of his commitments—serving as a lieutenant with the Anoka police department, being an assistant scout manager with a Boy Scout troop, participating heavily at church, acting as a marriage mentor with his wife, working full time as general manager, and raising a family—FOCUS allowed John to resume the activities he had given up to be in community college.
With his discipline rooted in design and engineering, John was approaching his classes with a desire to learn applicable skills. “Being promoted as general manager, I was looking for the other side, the business side, and a lot of the things I learned in class, I could apply the very next day at work. So it was very relevant. That would be my key phrase for the FOCUS program.
Looking to the future
John plans to remain with his company and feels he’s better equipped to be a significant contributor. Thanks to his classes, he’s been able to climb the ladder in his company and remain up-to-date on the skills and knowledge needed to stay competitive.
He credits God for helping him achieve his goals. “Looking back, I said, ‘Lord, it’s yours. You brought me here. You brought a lamp unto my feet, and we’re not going to let you down.’ And that is so true. I don’t know how it happened, but if I can do it, you can do it.”
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After serving a tour of duty in Iraq and leaving the Marine Corps, Sara was eager to return home to her family and get back to a normal life. But once at home she found herself instead in the midst of a marriage that was falling apart. It was a painful time, but in the midst of the struggles she recognized her spiritual needs and accepted Christ as her Savior.
Facing a new life as a single mom, Sara felt called to further her education to provide the life she wanted for her two young sons. “I knew that I wanted to go back to school and had the opportunity, and initially thought I was going to go into nursing, knowing that I could certainly use that in missions,” Sara recalled. “But over the course of several months I just was prompted, and I knew for certain that I was supposed to go into ministry.”
When she sensed God’s call on her life was for ministry, it completely changed the direction of her college search, and she was led to Northwestern. “Initially I was completely clueless as to what I was going to do,” Sara said. But she found that as she did what she needed to do to take the next step, and then the next step, God opened doors, and she saw many things fall into place so she could get her education.
The flexible one-night-a-week format was ideal for Sara. “I would spend my time with my kids during the day, and when they were in bed I would do my studies, so I did have quite a few late nights but I made it work,” she explained. “Praise God he’s just done incredible things in our lives to make it happen.”
Having a cohort of other adult learners helped Sara tremendously as she went through the FOCUS program. “The cohort is amazing—just to have that group of people you’re in class with the entire course,” Sara noted.
“You really do feel the family relationship with them. They’re willing to pray, they know the ins and outs of what you’re going through, whether it’s the personal issue or just the struggles with school—grasping some of the concepts and really helping you grow in your faith and walk. “As we continue to go through school and we’re building our relationships together too.”
Her professors have played a key role for Sara in her FOCUS education, too. “They have provided tremendous understanding,” she said, “helping to grow in our understanding of Scripture, helping us to really know how to properly read the Bible and apply it—not only mentally but spiritually.”
You can do this
Sara now has her bachelor’s degree in Ministries, a Christian counseling certificate and is enrolled in a master’s program through Northwestern’s Center for Graduate Studies.
Her advice for anyone thinking about returning to school? “I would tell them to bring it to the Lord first,” she said enthusiastically. “God prompted me. I knew that I wanted to go back to school, and I knew what it was that I was supposed to do; it was just a matter of utilizing the information that I’ve gathered. Just go for it!”
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As a devoted wife and mother with a good job at a small company, Shari had never given pursuing higher education much thought. But God laid a new plan on her heart and she felt prompted to enroll in the FOCUS Degree Completion program.
“One day I was sitting in my office thinking that if anything happened to this job, I would probably need a degree if anyone else was going to employ me for a similar position,” she remembered.
Enter the unexpected
Shari enrolled in the FOCUS Business Management program and a short time later when she was laid off from her job, she was grateful she had followed her prompting to go back to school. She was able to land a full-time position at a company that placed a “huge emphasis” on higher education, and even provided company-paid tuition assistance. “It was a blessing that I was already enrolled in a program,” she said.
For Shari, the support she received at work and from her husband, son and friends were key ingredients to her success and passion for her education.
Shari loved that FOCUS integrates faith in education. “Attending Northwestern College strengthened my walk with God,” she said. “It really starts there and takes off.”
Through her studies, she was able to take electives that were biblically based and learned to look at her subjects with a biblical point of view. “Going to a Christian college—” she recalled, “where we looked at everything through a faith lens, where prayer was a part of the program, where fellow students and instructors were also Christians—was an unbelievable blessing.”
Bringing her faith to the workplace
The faith elements and tightly-knit community of FOCUS gave Shari confidence on a new level. “Attending NWC impacted my life in many ways,” she remarked, “from strengthening my faith to giving me the confidence both personally and professionally to be all I can be for God.”
God has given her a passion for sharing her faith in the workplace and she serves on the leadership team of the Christian Employee Resource Group, which introduces faith speakers, prayer, and Bible studies in the workplace. Committed to helping others in their faith/work journey, Shari recently wrote a book, Walking in Faith: Stories of Hope and Encouragement for the Workplace.
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