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Dear Fellow 1997 Alumni,

We pray that your Spring is off to a great start.

Westmont is working to be a great resource for us in our careers, ministries, and friendships. We as alumni can also be a resource for one another by sharing our skills and opportunities we know of with other alumni.

If you're looking for work or Christian networking opportunities, reply to this email with your information. Or, for those of you who know of an opening at your business, church, etc, please send that information in as well. We'll collect your responses and put them in our next newsletter.

Below are two updates from Chris Kurz and Johnna (Brown) Sandor about their experiences since leaving Westmont. If you're interested in sharing an update on your experiences since Westmont, please contact us and we'll include it in a future newsletter.

We pray that God may richly bless you.

In Christ,
Tom and Nicole Katona, Class Agents for 1997

Click to see photo

Chris Kurz and family

It hardly seems possible that come next year, it will be 15 years since I graduated from Westmont. A lot has happened in those 15 years, the seeds for much of which were planted during my time in Montecito. From a professional standpoint, my education at Westmont prepared me well for Medical School at the University of California, San Diego where I graduated with the intention of pursuing Family Medicine. However, about 6 months into my internship in Anaheim, CA, I felt God calling me to step out in faith, off the Family Medicine career path that I had forged for myself. That step brought me to San Antonio, TX where God would deepen my experience of and appreciation for community, the ground work for which was laid by the discipleship group I was blessed to be a part of for two and half years at Westmont. Within nine months of my arrival to San Antonio, I met and fell in love with Elizabeth Warren. Two months later, I was deployed to Iraq as an Air Force Flight Surgeon. The separation truly did make our hearts grow fonder and we exchanged wedding vows two months shy of our one year dating anniversary.

Upon completing my Ophthalmology training, we were given our current assignment...Travis Air Force Base, CA (about half way between San Francisco and Sacramento). I was called to deploy for the second time this past summer to Afghanistan as an Ophthalmologist, taking care of US, NATO and Afghani soldiers and civilians with medical and surgical eye emergencies, mostly traumatic in nature. Being separated from my family for those 4 months was exceedingly difficult; however, my wife definitely was given the more challenging task of caring for our two daughters (Tessa- 4 years and Lucy- 15 months) solo. The summer's struggles set the stage for an enlightenment of sorts in the Fall as God really challenged us to rethink what Christianity in America has all too often come to represent...lives revolving around comfort and safety. As we have tried to be more intentional in listening to God, we have felt His call to add to our family through International Adoption and hope to bring home our son from China before 2011 ends.

Though we are planning to relocate to the southeast coast upon completing my commitment to the Air Force in the summer of 2012 to be closer to my wife's family, we are mindful of James 4:13-16 and trying to listen and obey God one day at a time. After all, as Annie Dillard says, "How we live our days is...how we live our lives."

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Johnna Sandor and family

Graduating from Westmont with a degree in Liberal Studies prepared me for my first teaching job at a little Lutheran school in Orange County, CA where I taught the first grade for two years. I also coached the junior high girls' basketball team and was the referee for the junior high girls' volleyball team. I still needed to get my CA teaching credential, so I started grad school at night. I graduated from National University with the CLAD and a Master's of Science in Curriculum Development and Instructional Leadership. It was a busy two years of my life, but I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of my teaching career and working with children of that age.

God had a sense of humor though, in this case, because since graduating from grad school, I have not since taught in CA. I moved to the state of Kentucky and taught the 4th grade while getting to know one of my best friend's older brothers, Jeremy, who was stationed there in the Army at Ft. Campbell. After knowing each other for nine years, we had been dating long-distance for almost a year and I was interested to see if this was the man God had for me to marry. He was in fact the one and we got married in 2000. After teaching a year, I got a job with Youth Villages providing weekly therapy for children in therapeutic foster care. Jeremy was an Arabic Linguist and was stationed with 5th Special Forces Group. Their area of operations was the middle east, of course, so the deployments were constant and often. We were getting tired of being apart, so we requested a transfer to Good Fellow Air Force Base in Texas. There, Jeremy could be an instructor and not deploy at all. The transfer was approved but not before September 11, 2001. This lead to the most difficult and longest deployment of all; Jeremy went to war in Afghanistan. My foundation was pulled out from under me and I was very distraught. I soon realized that the Lord needed to be my foundation, not Jeremy, and I needed to trust Him with Jeremy's safety and our future.

Thankfully, Jeremy returned safely and we were soon packing to go west to Texas. Once there, I taught pre-school at Head Start for two years. After that, I had the awesome opportunity to facilitate the Ready-to-Read Grant. In this job, I mentored daycare workers, who were making minimum wage and some only had a GED, and transformed them into pre-school teachers. I was also able, with the grant money, to transform their daycares into high-functioning pre-school classrooms. In addition, I taught the teachers a Continuing Education course 2 nights a month to help enrich their teaching styles.

Jeremy and I had been married five years by now and we were ready to start a family. In 2005, I had our first child, a boy named Brayton, two weeks before Jeremy got out of the Army. From there he was hired with the Border Patrol and we were headed further west to Yuma, AZ. Three years later in 2008, I had our second child, a girl named Briley. Our family was then complete. After being in Yuma for four years, Jeremy was hired as a Criminal Investigator with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This is his dream job. We were thrilled that ICE kept us in Yuma.

As the mother of two pre-school age children, I am blessed to be able to stay home and raise them on a daily basis. We are very involved in our church and belong to a wonderful small group. The friends and support system the Lord has provided here for us is awesome, plus, we are only three hours from both of our parents in San Diego.

I have so many good memories of my time at Westmont. Besides the curriculum, I learned a lot about myself and how to live with others. Westmont definitely set the bar high for what I expect from myself and those around me. The high-quality of people I met there is also amazing. I am blessed to enjoy continued friendships with people from Westmont. I hope my children have a similar college experience some day!

Growing in Grace and Faith: Waking Up

1984 alumnus James Banks reflects on how God has grown his heart since his time at Westmont:

Cari (Dotres) and I left Westmont over 25 years ago, but some memories are as vivid as if they happened yesterday. Read more.
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Please join the campus community in praising God for provision and seeking grace for a strong end to the semester, students dealing with family issues, and for those who have to leave Westmont for financial or other reasons.
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