National Movie Premiere by Nyack Alumnus: Ryan Walters

ryan waltersOn Tuesday, January 13, 2015, Nyack graduate Ryan Walters premieres his short film Going through the Motions which tackles the persistence of lukewarm Christianity.  After months of planning and prayer, the film releases to the public along with kits and materials to help churches and youth groups grapple with the idea that some Christians don’t truly and actively engage with what it means to be a follower of Christ.  Walters stated that he has a “holy discontent for lukewarm Christianity” and even though he hated writing, this passion “made it a favorite hobby.’  The hobby became a driving force in his life as Ryan began to write the script for his film.

So what does it take to write a script to a fantastic film?  And why does Walters say that he refuses to be a cliché?  We asked a few simple questions at the end of the year to help us understand Walters’ process better.

How did the idea for the film arise?

Ryan stated that he wanted to get people together and build passion around following Christ.  So he began with a slogan: “I refuse to be a cliché.”  Starting with youth groups, he had church members say the slogan over and over again.  This began the foundation of the film.

A year ago he wrote a blog post from which the film stemmed.  A deep thinker and blogger, Ryan’s website 98.6 Too Cold discusses the idea that thoughts and actions and faith can be tepid.  He questions how best to make a life as a Christ follower and says that the average human body temperature is actually lukewarm.  He writes that being lukewarm is not what we are meant to be.  “Because we need to set our hearts and lives ON FIRE for God!”

going through the motions

What makes this film experience different?

Walters stated on the film’s website: “At this moment, connections are being made through networking with churches and Christian colleges across the country. We’re praying for these groups to come alongside us and RSVP to be hosts for January 24th (a Saturday) for an hour and a half nationwide one-time event consisting of meet & greet/icebreakers, a six minute-film screening, follow up Q&A and discussion as well as a thirty minute live stream panel discussion on Google hangout.”

Pastors, bible study leaders and community group members are invited to RSVP and receive a package to help facilitate discussion.  The movie is not meant to be passively viewed but instead actively engaged with.  Donations of $95 are appreciated and are tax-deductible.  With an online ticket, participants will then be in contact with Going Through the Motions team in preparation for the night’s event on January 24.  All materials are mailed so please register and find out more details now.  Post-premiere, please call for special arrangements to host discussions around the movie.

CTA button for Blog UGFinal thoughts about his role as a thought leader?

Walters never considered himself a leader or an artist who would stand up and create something that would challenge all Christians to examine their lives.  He said that at Nyack College, he was given the opportunity and encouragement to step out of a passive role.  He was inspired by his teachers in social work and began a path of action.  This created the foundation for his role as a filmmaker.  “By the last week in September 2014, [Walters] began to live, eat and breathe the film.  It took a life of its own.”  Life is busy as he works in Seattle and prepares for the movie premiere with a cross-country team.  But he says “this is the season in my life to do what I am doing” and it has been an amazing journey of walking through production with prayer and creating a script based on action.

Reach out to Ryan via Facebook, Twitter and the official Going Through the Motions website.


Alumni Spotlight: Justin Thornton ’07, Pastoral Ministry

Thornton family nyack alumniA 2007 graduate from Nyack College, Justin Thornton knew that by studying pastoral ministry he wanted to plant churches.  He knew he wanted to be a pastor and he knew that “youth ministry was the first option [he had] to learn how to love people.”

Currently, he resides in Michigan with his wife and family.  There, he is the lead pastor at Jericho Road Church as well as the Church Planting Coach for the Great Lakes District.  Holding two distinct positions may seem like a huge feat but Justin stated that though the time seems split “it all flows together.”

Over the phone, we asked about his life’s work and his past experiences at Nyack College. 

nyack alumni working in ministry

What core program are you working on right now?

The Multiplication Center.

As an option for pastoral ministry students, this church planting program functions as an internship experience where participants can have a chance to lead, preach, train, and teach with peers inside a community.  After the internship’s completion, they are prepared to plant within Michigan or to set out on their own.  As he stated, “the culture of multiplication” is a new concept and almost like an incubator experience.  Outside of an associate’s position at a church or within youth ministry, new college graduates may find their career options limited.  But Justin invites undergrad students into the internship program where they can receive leadership development and expand on their true potential.

In the past he has welcomed Nyack College students to the Multiplication Center and he continues to encourage our community to experience the incubator for themselves.

What Advice would you Give Current Nyack Students?

CTA button for Blog UGDon’t stress the small stuff.  Just enjoy the community.

Justin explained that at Nyack College, he was “surrounded by—for the first time—young men and women who loved Jesus and were relatable.”  He found true brothers in Christ.  They didn’t want the college keg parties or the senseless waste of undergrad time. Instead, he and his friends enjoyed depth of true friendship and observation of God in their lives.  They “kicked it” like any other college kids and had fun but at Nyack there was something more meaningful brewing.  Pointedly, he remarked, “I don’t think I’d get that at many other places.”

He added that students should take advantage of the leadership opportunities on campus.  Good leaders lead from a young age and in college, Justin served as a resident assistant, the captain of the soccer team and as a chaplain.  These experiences honed his leadership potential and paved a path to where he is in life now.  They should also just enjoy.  Enjoy travel, enjoy worship, enjoy life now because everything just speeds up after graduation.  “Let the word of God pour into you everyday.”


youth ministry post nyackMore on his Work at Jericho Road Church

Justin Thornton’s community at Jericho Road Church is all about outreach and radical love.  Their “missional communities” are small groups that build intentional relationships with neighbors and beyond.  Their goal is to become disciples and make disciples.  By studying the bible, laughing, praying and serving together, these groups serve the greater good.

On every twelfth Sunday, church services are observed differently.  Instead of going to church, Justin’s community goes out to “be the church.”  Partnering with a neighborhood, they share meals, construct “garden socks” and pray.  At the core of these church days, they believe that “we don’t have all the answers but we do have love and we do have a Savior.  These are things worth sharing, not just talking about.”

Thank you to Justin for sharing his alumni story with our Nyack College community!




Undergrad Mom Turned Valedictorian and MBA

nyack college graduate

Every valedictorian has a story to tell.  This week our featured alumna is the 2011 valedictorian of the Manhattan campus: Annette Mendoza.  On a cold Friday, we caught up with her for an interview about her life as a Nyack Warrior and as an MBA.

nyack college graduate

Annette fits into the new category of modern-day college student.  A mother of three and full time professional in the banking industry, Annette began her career in 1994 and in 2007 decided to finish her bachelor’s degree in New York City at Nyack College. She began the interview by saying:  “I started as a [bank] teller and worked my way up.”  She wanted to continue her education but life had its demands.  Her career was going well and she had kids in elementary school.  In a one-year span she had doubled her salary and jumped 10 levels at Dime Savings.  She became a trainer and then assistant manager, diving into analytical work.


On returning to school to finish her degree, she said, “Looking back it didn’t seem fast.  But now it just seems amazing.”


Annette’s Job in a Nutshell

“I don’t do the same thing every day,” said Annette about her work at Signature Bank.  Up early to help her kids out the door, she then leaves her home in Queens and arrives at her Manhattan office by 8:30am.  Her day ends at 5pm and in between she works with branch managers as a technical software analyst.  Her responsibilities include working within the mainframe, ensuring accounts are created and maintained properly.  She runs integrity reports to check client data so that nothing has been entered incorrectly.  She helps customers and bank managers on a daily basis and when big projects come up, such system upgrades, Annette reports to the office on the weekend too.  While life may be hectic she laughed, saying, “I really enjoy what I do.”


Her Life as a Nyack Warrior

Annette returned to school to study business administration.  After 15+ years in the workforce and a busy family life, she made the leap and took night classes at Nyack College’s Manhattan campus.  “I had a feeling in my heart that Nyack was the place for me,” she said when we asked her how tough it was as an undergrad mom.  “The professors were very supportive.  Dr. Grant was always available and accommodating especially when I wanted a finance concentration in New York City.  He helped me make it happen so that I could achieve what I needed to.”


Professors in her undergraduate classes helped Annette plan for the future and when she became valedictorian of her graduating class, they encouraged her to continue for a master’s degree in business administration.


Getting her MBA

Annette didn’t think she could continue if she wasn’t “100% full-hearted” about the program.  She was taking time away from her family.  She was sacrificing sleep and free time.  So when she met the director of the graduate program, she knew what she was facing: 16 intense months that was only possible because of her family, friends, and program mentors.  “Dr. Becker was an excellent professor.  I saw his passion and knew that I wasn’t just a number to him.  There was a personal touch and the professors knew who I was and were concerned about me.  It was a blessing.”


How has life changed with an MBA?

Annette replied simply, saying that she can work in a wider array of jobs.  Her workflow is effectively structured according to best practices that she learned at Nyack College.  The master’s degree in business administration helped her create tools to improve her job performance. “I work smarter not harder,” Annette said, adding that she feels better prepared for the unknown and confident that her career in business has a solid foundation.  In the future, she even hopes to teach business and personal finance.


Advice for MBA students?

“Don’t give up!” Annette explained.  So many times she had an urge to stop and call it quits.  But pressing forward and finishing was one of the greatest achievements she’s had.  In a small cohort of eight students, Annette said the camaraderie helped too.  Each class is a step that the entire group experiences together.


‘There’s a lot of changing.”  Annette described the true challenge of the program.  “You are becoming a master in this field.  You are being shaped and molded.  You will cry, laugh, and then you will look back.  There will be a sense of accomplishment.  So just keep moving forward!”


Final Thoughts and Thank you’s

We asked Annette if she wanted us to highlight anything in particular in this article.  She answered, “Yes!  My husband, Carlos.  I couldn’t have done it without him.”  Her many thanks go out to her children: Christopher, Faith, and Jeremiah for their understanding and support.  Finally, she gives her best wishes to the next cohorts in the MBA program at Nyack College.


Note from the Editor:  Alumni Spotlight is a special column dedicated to Nyack Warriors around the world.  Whether on the banks of the Hudson River or in Battery Park, Warriors go far and wide.  Do you know an alumnus with a great story?  Please message us so we can share their story on our blog.

Alumni Spotlight: George Ramos, AGSC Class 2012

At 1pm, George Ramos was leaving family court when we caught up with him for an exclusive alumni interview.  A graduate of Nyack College’s Alliance Graduate School of Counseling, George has spent the past 6 years working for New York City, first as a Child Abuse Investigator and now as a Family Assessment Coordinator.  A part of the Administration for Children Services, the Family Assessment Program (his employer) helps teens and families in crisis.  The agency provides services and social workers to assist families tackling such issues as truancy and drugs.

george r 2

At the very start, George said that he wanted to do this interview in order to expressly highlight his gratitude to the faculty of the Alliance Graduate School of Counseling.


His work with ACS and the Family Assessment Program… in a nutshell

Specifically, George manages intake, meaning when a case comes in, he identifies specialists who can assist the particular issues of the family.  He speaks to teens, sometimes without their parents in order to learn about the underlying issues in their lives.  Before his degree completion with the AGSC, he already had a steady job within the department.


So why pursue a master’s degree in mental health counseling?

George wanted to advance his degree and like many adults he struggled with time commitments.  He’d a family and a full time job.  Adding course work to this plate seemed almost impossible and in fact the faculty and admissions counselors were unsure he’d be able to carry all the responsibilities.


“I remember sitting in the office as my candidacy for admittance was discussed.  They were skeptical of my application but they wanted to give me a chance to discuss my goals for the program.  As we talked, my understanding of the school deepened.  They spoke about empathy and investment in mental health and the Christian church.  They spoke of people doing good not for a job or number but for a greater purpose.”

George R

The full commitment of the classes weighed on George but he endeavored to succeed.  “It’s hard being in a class with students who are smarter or younger than you and quicker to understand things. Dr. Lucas believed in me even when I struggled.  I don’t think you can get that in any other program. This is a community of learners.”


What was a monumental moment for him in the AGSC?

“Too many,” George told me and again began discussing his admittance into the program.  He knew the program was designed to mend broken lives.  “That resonated with me.  And sometimes in class you wonder how you’re going to remember the material and all the techniques.  But eventually you’re with a client or at your internship and you hear Dr. Chin in your head.  He’s telling you about case studies.  Suddenly, I realized that I knew what to do.  I could hear Dr. Robles speaking and I thought –wow!  I can do this!”


What advice does he give to new students?

George said that students should remember that their job is to learn techniques and new information.  Sometimes in the moment, the material can be overwhelming.  But have faith because the greatest strength that the program has lives with the professors who “have knowledge of the discipline and respect to the Bible.  They merge the two together, not letting one outweigh the other.  It’s thoughtful and pointed.”  New students and graduates are in the program for a reason: to help others and the Kingdom.


Was the hard work worth it?

Yes.  George said that with his degree he was able to advance within his department and compete with applicants that have backgrounds in social work.  He feels that while a master’s degree in social work is widely known, his degree in mental health and counseling is clinically pointed and based on best practices.  He had an edge and used it.


In the future, George knows that he can continue within ACS and can eventually clinch a high-powered administrative position within New York City.  But in fact he wants to open a non-profit mental health practice specifically for people of color.  He wants to continue healing and educating in a Christian way. George is currently enrolled in Harvard University’s Extension School studying Management.



Final Thoughts?

Before we ended our conversation, I asked George if he wanted anything in particular printed in the article.  He said simply, “I want this [article] to show how grateful I am to the AGSC and for how vested they were in me.  I’d like to highlight how warm they’ve been to me and continue to be.  It’s a lot like home.”

Note from the Editor:  Alumni Spotlight is a special column dedicated to Nyack Warriors around the world.  Whether on the banks of the Hudson River or in Battery Park, Warriors go far and wide.  Do you know an alumnus with a great story?  Please message us so we can share their story on our blog.

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