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Marni Nazareno '21, M.A. '23

Ministry intern serves as faith guide for students of color

Marni Nazareno '21, M.A. '23 knows what it's like to wrestle with questions about faith. In high school, she stepped away from the faith she had been raised in when those questions became too painful. It wasn't until she came to Whitworth and met strong Christians who encouraged her that she developed a personal relationship with God.

Now, as campus ministry's graduate assistant ministry intern for diversity, equity & inclusion, Nazareno is helping to guide Whitworth students in their faith formation.

"For students who may be in a rocky time in their faith or have big questions like I did, I hope I can share my story and have conversations together that might lead to answers," she says. "I want to be a resource and support system, especially for students of color."

With an undergraduate degree in community health, Nazareno is one of three students in Whitworth's Graduate Assistant Ministry Intern (GAMI) Program, which provides the opportunity to engage in full-time campus ministry while pursuing a master of arts in theology.

As the GAMI for DEI, Nazareno serves as a teaching assistant and discussion group leader in ministry-related undergraduate courses, leads a Life Group, and helps run Brown Girl Magic, a mentoring program for women of color. She is halfway through her two-year position.

"I am super thankful for the many opportunities I have to really make an impact in someone's life, and I also pride myself on being a woman of color in leadership." she says. "I have loved having so much time with students, mentoring them and just walking alongside them as they learn and grow as adults during their college career."

Nazareno partly focuses her mentoring on students in the Wai'anae-to-Whitworth program, a scholarship program for students from Hawaii's Wai'anae Coast. Last summer, she traveled to Wai'anae to help lead a weeklong orientation for scholarship recipients. She is grateful she could start building relationships with the students early on and learn about Hawaiian culture and history.

"I am so proud of these scholars and the hard work they've put into everything they do," she says. "It is not easy to attend a university so far from home with a drastically different culture, but they have poured into their classes, fellow cohorts and the Whitworth community."

Nazareno would still like to pursue a career related to community health in the future. Although she wasn't sure at first how serving as a GAMI would align with her goals, she now "absolutely" sees why God called her to this opportunity. 

"Studying theology and being in a community that is deeply Christ-centered has allowed me to care for my spiritual well-being as well as learn to care for others well," she says. "Although I may not pursue a conventional ministry role after this, I do see how God's ministry lies everywhere and within everyone. No matter what I do, I can do my best to glorify God in that for the sake of others."

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