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Kalani Padilla '19

Finding harmony among creative pursuits

Kalani Padilla '19 has always enjoyed making music, reading and writing. Although she started as a music major at Whitworth, she found that she could best express herself in her English classes. Thankfully, the choice to change her major to English didn't mean she had to abandon her passion for music.

"Whereas I thought I was going to be doing music vocationally, I ended up studying English and getting to do campus worship instead," says Padilla, also a film minor.

Padilla is a team leader this year for Hosanna, a campus ministry program on Tuesday nights that creates a space for authentic worship, prayer and interactive reflection. She has attended chapel and Hosanna services since she arrived on campus. "I knew that I wanted to be involved on a team – it just looked like so much fun," she says.

As a team leader, Padilla sees her role as investing in her teammates. "If I'm able to create trust in that small space," she says, "then that will flow outward to the people who come to worship with us."

Her favorite memory from Hosanna this year was when the team invited American Sign Language students to help lead a service. "It was a picture of what it might be like to worship for eternity – a church of all nations and all kinds of people," she says. "It was so wonderful. I'll always remember that."

Padilla is grateful for music professors like Ben Brody, director of campus worship, who continued to encourage her after she changed her major. "The professors are so gracious with me, and they meet me where I'm at," Padilla says. "They continue to see me as a musician and as an artist even though I'm no longer going to be completing a degree in music. That's really valuable to me."

Kalani Padilla playing a acoustic guitar

Padilla often draws on her English background as a worship leader. "The funny thing is that everything I’m doing falls under this English lens," she says. "Even putting together a service for Hosanna sometimes feels like creative writing – thinking about who your audience is, rhetoric, considering what kind of message you are trying to put out, and what messages you are sending without intending to."

Padilla has found that writing allows her to express herself most honestly. She is especially drawn to creative nonfiction. "It’s become my thing," she says. "I like to write about what is happening around me, and the people in these stories are those in my proximity."

She is the assistant editor for the nonfiction section of Rock & Sling, the university’s literary journal of witness. Padilla says this has been a rewarding experience because she has learned more about her own writing style by reading the work of others.

Next year, Padilla will take on an even larger role in campus worship as Whitworth’s graduate assistant ministry intern. "I will be pursuing a master’s in theology at Whitworth, and I will be mentoring and working alongside next year’s campus worship leaders and the musicians," she says. "It’s an immense privilege."

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