Southwestern Adventist University is focused on ensuring that students can attend, regardless of their financial status. Each year, hundreds of donors make a gift that lasts - allowing 84% of students to receive financial aid toward their education.
Beginning this year, the university is sending a token of appreciation to those who donate $250 or more. The Mizpah Gate, known as the historic entrance to campus and as a symbol of the SWAU Alumni Association, has been chosen as the first in the ongoing Christmas Ornament Series featuring campus structures.
Caroline Torres, junior biology major shares about her time at SWAU, the impact donors have made in her life and what she loves about the Ornament Series.
What led you to choose to attend SWAU?
I wanted to know what it was like to attend a Christian university after attending public schools my whole life, and my parents who are Adventist wanted me to try out Adventist education. My sister and some church friends had previously attended SWAU, and they encouraged me to enroll. I am very glad I did.
What is one moment that occurred at SWAU that impacted your Christian walk?
I have experienced some incredible Jesus moments during Friday Night Vespers. You can always feel the presence of the Holy Spirit there, especially as the praise team leads out in worship. I have arrived very stressed out and have experienced a sense of calm rush over me as I entered the sanctuary. It is like God is telling me, “Don’t worry. I’ve got you.”
What does it mean to your family to see you thriving through this journey? How do you anticipate that your degree from SWAU will impact your professional future?
My mom has told me that one of the happiest days of her life will be when I graduate from SWAU. It is my family’s dream to see me succeed in my career. I was born with a rare genetic disorder known as Angelman Syndrome. It causes severe neurological impairment that leaves many with the condition unable to walk, talk and eat on their own, while enduring countless daily seizures. I was also born completely deaf and with hip dysplasia in both hips. The doctors told my parents that I would never be able to walk, talk or hear and at best would need constant care for the rest of my life. With all this in my future, my parents never gave up on me. I started out in a wheelchair, eventually learning to walk with a walker, and it was not long before I started to walk on my own. Today, most people have no idea that I am deaf or that I have Angelman Syndrome.
What are your goals for the future, and how has SWAU prepared you to pursue those dreams?
I want to get a master’s degree in immunology and infectious diseases and then get a doctorate in tropical medicine in order to help people who are suffering from preventable and easily treatable diseases in third world countries and help those who do not have access to medical care. I also would like to come up with treatments and/or cures for neglected tropical viruses. I want to help those in developing countries because my family comes from a country where poverty, disease and suffering were and are still rampant to this day.
SWAU is helping me reach these goals by giving me the foundation of knowledge my career requires. Also, attending SWAU and seeing the diversity on campus and the Christian environment has made me realize that God wants us all to use our knowledge and education to serve others; this is what I want to do with my life.
Who is someone from SWAU that has made a difference in your life?
The biology professors Dr. Schwarz, Dr. Amy McHenry and Dr. Madhiri have all been inspirations to me. They have all encouraged me and told me that I can do anything I put my mind to.
Dr. Madhiri has spent hours helping me understand the sometimes confusing concepts of chemistry. He asks about my goals and always gives me advice. Dr. McHenry has also helped me a lot by mentoring me in my career path; she specialized in malaria. She also inspired me to have interest in becoming a missionary doctor. Dr. Schwarz’s Microbiology and Immunology class has been my favorite class overall and has helped me learn more about my own interests.
What was your previous perception of financial aid, and how do you view it now?
My experience showcases that every dollar counts. I come from an immigrant family that has a poor background, and my family takes education very seriously. This is due to the fact that most people in my family are uneducated, and almost everyone in my family cannot afford college tuition. I am able to attend SWAU by the grace of God, through financial aid provided by the school and government and some money left to me by my dad before he died.
What is your message to someone who wants to come to SWAU but feels that finances are a hindrance?
Don’t give up. No matter what, don’t give up. Don’t give up on your dreams. Don’t let finances be the reason you don’t do what you were called to do. The God who opened the Red Sea, the God who created the countless stars and knows every single one by name will move mountains and bring people from the furthest corners of the world to help you. He sees you; He loves you and He will make a way where there seems to be no way. For Him, using someone to give you enough money to cover your college tuition is as easy as blinking is to you, so don’t worry about it. Pray, trust in God, and He will help you. God will never give up on you. Ever.
What are your thoughts about the Ornament Series?
I think the Ornament Series from the Office of Advancement is a beautiful way to thank donors who are committed to giving what they can to help others. The ornaments will be something that can serve as inspiration to the children or grandchildren of donors, as well as the donors themselves.
What is your message to young alumni who feel they don’t have much to give? Why should they be excited about the $10 a month ornament pledge?
I know $10 may not seem like much, but Jesus said that the woman who gave her last two mites gave more than all of the rich people who were giving bags of money. It’s not about how much you can give. It’s all about helping others and the intentions of the heart. That is what matters the most. This is a chance to serve others and to touch lives and hearts with the blessings of God. God will rain down an abundance of blessings on cheerful givers.
What is your message to individuals who have donated to SWAU?
I would tell donors that because of people like them I have the chance of accomplishing my goals, starting with coming here. If it weren’t for people like them, I would not be here. I hope they realize just how important they are to my success. I will be forever thankful to them.
Caroline Torres is just one student who has been greatly impacted by the generous donations of SWAU family and friends. If you would like to give a gift that lasts, visit swau.edu/give.