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James Alford '19

Education major reflects on own lessons learned

Although James Alford '19 experienced financial instability growing up, he wasn't going to let that stop him from going to college.

"At a young age, I knew how real God was and that he had good plans for me. For so long, it was truly just he and I, so I took care of myself," Alford says. "I wanted to be successful for me, so I did well in school."

Alford applied for scholarships and completed Running Start in high school, giving him a two-year head-start at Whitworth, where he is an elementary education major. Between his major and his job with the YMCA, Alford has spent time with children every day for the past two years.

As Alford speaks into the lives of the children he works with, he has learned to let his Whitworth professors take an interest in his own growth and well-being.

"Though this a good problem to have, I was actually quite overwhelmed by the relational aspects of this education," Alford says. "Coming to Whitworth, I had professors who cared enough about my education to check in regularly. This made me accountable for more than just myself. Letting people help me has been hugely impactful."

One of those important people for Alford is Professor of Education Lisa Laurier. "I can't tell you how many times I've gone into Lisa's office in a panic and she's just welcomed me with a smile," he says. "Words can't describe how phenomenal she is. She's encouraged and provided abundantly for me as a student and an individual."

Alford has learned life lessons not only from his professors, but from the children he educates.

"Children have an incredible potential when it comes to their faith," he says. "I work with kids who regularly challenge the depth of my belief in God. They have such a pure way of seeing the realities of spiritual things. Being able to talk with kids and see their faith is an honor."

Along with taking these models of faith to heart, Alford has had ample opportunity to familiarize himself with patience.

"I've learned that chaos and stress is OK," he says. "Kids are a handful, but they depend on us for love and support. So love the kids. Love them well and take a deep breath."

While the field of education can be demanding, one thing Alford is not stressed about is where his career might take him.

"I trust God knows where I could best be used," he says. "The closer I've drawn to Christ, the less value material things have to me. So wherever God would choose to put me would be an absolute delight."

This year, Alford published a short novel, The Road That Follows, which he considers a reflection of his spiritual growth. As Alford looks to his own road, he finds contentment in being well equipped by his education, his mentors and the strength of his faith.

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