May 5 marks the 90th BJU commencement. As students in the senior class look forward to the highly-anticipated graduation day, many seniors reflect back on the ways they’ve changed throughout their college experience.
For Jordan Walraven, a senior math education major, one of the biggest lessons she learned during her four years at BJU was the importance of finding balance.
During her freshman year, Walraven found herself turning down opportunities to attend Bruins’ games, go downtown or grab a milkshake with a friend.
“I was so consumed with getting good grades that I did not get involved with society sports, making friends or reaching out to others,” Walraven said. “At the end of the year, a mentor of mine encouraged me to find a balance.”
She took her mentor’s advice. Walraven said the difference between freshman and sophomore years was huge.
“I played Cardinal basketball, got involved with the nursing home ministry at my church and continued to be involved in extracurricular activities such as band and Tuba-Euphonium choir while still managing to finish my academic responsibilities.”
Walraven said she will never regret the decision to get involved because she formed precious lifelong friendships through those opportunities.
As a graduating senior, Walraven said 2 Corinthians 12:9 has been a huge encouragement to her throughout her college experience: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
In the fall, Walraven will begin teaching at Calvary Baptist Academy in Midland, Michigan.
For fellow senior Stephanie Perez, a biblical counseling major, one of the biggest lessons she’s learned through college is to trust God.
Perez was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis about a year ago. This disease weakens the immune system, so Perez deals with fatigue, severe respiratory infections and even occasional kidney infections.
When she was diagnosed, Perez said, although she was confused and upset at first, she eventually gave everything—even her health—to God. “I told the Lord, ‘If this takes away my legs, be my legs. If it takes away my arms, be my arms. If it takes away my memory, remind me of Yourself every day,’” she said.
Despite the pain, Perez used her illness to learn more about herself and more about her Creator.
“It wasn’t until I got sick that I realized I wasn’t leaning on Him as much as I should have,” she said. “But I have a lot of peace about this because I know God is going to use this to do something great.”
Perez said she appreciates the many people who have come alongside her to offer their support—whether it means driving Perez to her doctor appointments or bringing her dinner from the dining common when she doesn’t have the strength to walk. “I’ve had so many helpful people who have made it easier for me,” she said. “God’s given me a lot of support.”
Senior testimonies like those of Walraven and Perez are a highlight of BJU’s commencement ceremony.
Dr. Dan Smith, registrar, said the students’ diverse backgrounds and stories allow for a great opportunity to present the Gospel on commencement day.
“I enjoy commencement tremendously because I enjoy hearing the testimonies of the students,” Smith said.
Many family members of graduating students step onto BJU campus for the first time at graduation, so the senior testimonies are a great way to share how God has grown them throughout their college experience.