Dear Class of 2007,
Merry Christmas! It has now been 2 and 1/2 years since we, the Class of 2007, crossed the stage at graduation, and it is now time for the very first edition of our Class Newsletter! A few of our classmates have written about what they've been up to since leaving Westmont. A huge thanks goes out to them for their updates:
I hope that you will enjoy this bit of Christmas reading as much as I have!
- Chandra Morris
- Kian Ameli
- Holly Humphrey
- Matt Kletzing
- Jonathan Ekblad
During my time at Westmont, I discovered and developed the skills that I needed to further my education, my career and my ministry. I found that I enjoyed working in teams, writing stories and working with youth. I graduated in 2007 with a BA in English and a Minor in Theatre Arts. I work for a real estate appraisal management company which is one of the most successful companies in its industry. I love being in constant communication with appraisers, lenders, real estate agents and homeowners. One thing I never forgot about Westmont was the sense of community, which most people don't think of as being beneficial in a professional sense, but in my current field of real estate I find it very important.
I also work at my local church in the Los Angeles area by serving in the junior high ministry and in the college/post-college ministry. I absolutely love my students and their families! Students have been hit with some difficult trials recently: Sudden losses of parents, the suicide of a school peer, financial hardships, school violence, and a transition of pastors. Together we are reminded that Christ is alive and well through it all. It has been amazing to see!
The college/post-college ministry has grown from a handful of young men and women into a large gathering of 700-800 that also includes a weekly mealtime and small groups, along with childcare. I help at the Connect Center answering questions and providing information about any services or other ministries. My family has been at this church for about four generations and for a long time I didn't know how I could use my gifts. I was always very shy growing up and my time at Westmont led me to realize that the church is a community that can use everyone.
Right after graduation I thought I was going to go to law school, but to "get by" I was working with a gym as a personal trainer and loving it. I've been certified to train since just after high school, but never thought that I would really do anything with it. As I was signing up for the LSAT I realized that my true passion was fitness, and since then I've been going full steam into the health and fitness world.
I'm just finishing my STOTT Pilates certification, which has been a real challenge for me because of the different pace from weight training. After the year I spent in Santa Barbara I moved to the San Fernando Valley to pursue a Masters degree in Biomechanics at Cal State Northridge. The program was great, but I couldn't stand living in LA. I know it's kind of played out and cliche but the community at Westmont ruined me from interacting with poorly built social groups. I couldn't stand the cold, standoffish attitude put off by so many people in LA.
After the first year of the program I moved from LA to the East Bay in California and I’m planning on opening up my own gym within the next 6 months to a year. My roommate and I produce a Podcast that's in iTunes top 40 for health and fitness, which is as much of a blessing as it is a surprise. When we started doing this neither of us thought we'd get up in the ranks this quick. Not only is it a great feeling to have people I have never met send me e-mails asking fitness questions and thanking me for just talking, it's a great forum to actually help people deal with weight and fitness issues. Overall I'm excited about where life is going, just got to keep going for what we're passionate about, right? Check out my website and podcast at http://www.truefitnessacademy.com.
I graduated from Westmont in 2007 with a Bachelor's degree in Kinesiology, with the intention to attend Physical Therapy school. After I moved back home to Redlands, CA I worked for one year as a physical therapy aide in a private clinic to gain experience. In June of 2008, I started my first year of PT school at Loma Linda University, in the heart of the Inland Empire. I am now half way through my three-year Doctorate program. Physical therapy is such a great career field. I love that I will get to work one-on-one with patients and help them recover from injuries and surgeries while getting to build relationships with them at the same time. Physical therapy is such a healing profession, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Another exciting thing has happened recently in my life. This past July, I got engaged to a wonderful guy named Jake, who is my best friend and the love of my life. We are going to get married in March 2010. Jake is also going to school to become a physical therapist, which I think is awesome! I mostly spend my time going to class, studying, and planning a wedding. It is difficult to juggle everything, but I make time for the things I want and need to do, like staying active and hanging out with friends. Even though I am in graduate school, I still make time for my social life! My goals for the future are to finish PT school and get a good job, so I can support my husband and myself while he finishes his program. I want to work for about 3-5 years in an outpatient Orthopedic PT clinic to gain invaluable experience under a mentor and with other physical therapists who can teach me things I haven't learned in school. Then, Jake and I want to become traveling physical therapists for a few years to help pay off our school loans and to see more of the United States! After that, we have discussed the possibility of living in a different country for awhile to practice physical therapy and travel around Europe!
Salaam, Shalom, Peace from Jerusalem!
Matt and his sister
Two and a half years ago, I crossed a scorched desert otherwise known as the Jordan River Valley and stepped foot into Jerusalem for the first time. The skies greeted me with a hailstorm and heavy rain, however brief. "Hm," I thought, "foreboding." I came here to begin an M.A. in Religious Studies at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, to travel, and, well, because like we've all found out, you have to do something after graduating. One degree, two years, three apartments, four Semitic languages, and a whole lot of hummus later, I've discovered that I also came here "to study hard things . . . and to temper my spirit on their edges" (Annie Dillard).
At times, the Promised Land can seem anything but promising. Ethnic divide, competing religions, injustice leading to hatred and slander and victimization. While perhaps more physically safe than, for instance, my hometown of Chicago, Jerusalem seems like no place for a soft heart or a sympathetic disposition. No place to seek answers to my own struggling questions while so many are fighting around me. Until that is, I remember that over this city, with a broken heart, Jesus himself wept. In this city, with a broken body, Jesus himself died. And from this city, with a broken tomb, Jesus already showed us that God is still with us. So maybe this is just the place to find, well, temperament. Now when it rains here, in a land parched in more ways than one, I remember that like Jesus' tears, "the rains God sends are an expression of God's grace" (Joel 2:23).
I am gratefully reaping the fruits of two tempered years this Thanksgiving in a new research position at Hebrew University, a new apartment in Jerusalem's Old City, a new nephew, and (re)new(ed) energy for living out the great news that this Christmas, too, Immanuel, "God is with us." I don't yet know what's next, but I do have confidence in the present. I pray that all of you may rediscover that quiet confidence in God this season and may rest in our Father's love, because let's face it, "Life is too big for men and women to live" (Michael Arlen).
Merry Christmas wherever in the "mind of God" (...do I have to cite Ben Patterson?) you happen to be!
No matter where you come from, we are one.
Currently I'm in Barcelona, Spain, having just traveled across two continents, three countries and five different languages. The other day while trying to say thank you in Spanish I accidentally said thank you in Twi, the lingua franca of southern Ghana-the country I just spent 26 months in the Peace Corps. After graduating from Westmont in 2007, I left for Ghana almost immediately, embarking upon a journey as a volunteer that will leave me reflecting for a lifetime.
In the Peace Corps, just before finishing training, I was sent to my community for a site visit. While trying to open a bank account in my market town Kumasi, Ghana's second largest metropolis, my Ghanaian counterpart dropped me off at the bank and pointed in a general direction saying, "the lorry station is that way, just keep on walking." While searching for the station I wandered through crowded streets, dodging aggressive market woman selling wares atop their heads, oncoming traffic threatening to obliterate me, and the occasional wandering goat just looking for a patch of grass to munch on. Upon reaching the station I was greeted by plumes of car exhaust and a sea of people—a crowd so intense I thought I had wandered into some sort of sporting event, only it wasn't a sporting event, but the line for the lorry that would take me to my village. Although posted to a small, rural village, it is located near Kumasi, a city resembling a giant unending village rather than any urban metropolis. This mixture of rural poverty and urban sprawl perfectly exemplifies the juxtapositions of the developing country of Ghana: urban/rural, modern/traditional, developing/underdeveloped—and created a unique space I would inhabit in the two years to come, a place that would allow unique project opportunities and intriguing social interactions.
Although my official title as an Environmental volunteer necessitated that I plant trees and develop projects to generate income for farmers, I ended up doing more health and water sanitation work: writing a proposal to procure money to build a borehole that would provide safe and clean drinking water for my village and organizing a large scale HIV/AIDS mobile testing campaign with a local university to reduce the stigma behind getting tested. But beyond developmental projects, the strength of the Peace Corps lies in the relationships that are formed and the bonds that are built through living for two years with a community, learning and speaking a different language, and participating in a culture different from my own. For anyone interested in a similar experience, I highly recommend it.
Again, thank you Chandra, Kian, Holly, Matt, and Jon for your contributions!
Merry Christmas and may God bless all you fellow Westmont Graduates. If you'd like to be included in a future edition of our class newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch with me.
P.S. Have you moved lately? Had a child? Changed jobs? Gotten married? Update your profile on Westmont's Alumni Directory and stay in touch with your classmates!