Class of 2017 Mortarboards

We asked 2017 graduates from the Rockland and New York City Campus about why they decorated their mortarboard. Here is what they said.

Caitlyn Thomas – Business 

“I think I am quite ready for another adventure.”

And for me, I’m all about having adventure in my life. College was definitely one. It was a scary, messy, amazing adventure and I just feel that I’m ready to move to the next one now that I’m graduating.


Rachel Parker – Youth and Family Studies

“In waves of change we find our way.”

So first of all, I love the beach/ocean so I wanted my cap to be something along those lines if possible. When I found this idea I loved it! You can ask anyone who knows me and knows that this cap idea is very much me. But I also picked it because no matter what we go through in life, we find our way. You can take that in a Christian way… no matter what Jesus is our way, or you can take that in [the] sense [that] a lot happens in college but in the end we go in the direction that we wanted to from the start. It can be looked at in many ways! But I love it because it reminds me of things I love and what I love to do.

Yahveh N. Calderón – Pastoral Ministry

“Para Ti…” which translated means “For you…”

On the cap, I have images of family and friends who have greatly impacted my life, but sadly [I] was not able to fit everyone. My island of Puerto Rico is also on there to symbolize that I also did it for them!  It means that I did not just do this for myself, but for all of those who have invested in my life in big and small ways. This was for them.


Momoko Black – Interdisciplinary studies in Business and Intercultural Studies       &   Lillie Sakura Van Houten – B.S/M.S childhood special education

Momoko: The image on the cap represents 2 things for me. 1) my love for Dr. Seuss (as I quoted him from “oh the places you’ll go” [during] my senior year in high school and so I found it fitting to do another my last year of college. 2) I had the privilege of graduating alongside my sister who happens to love Dr. Seuss and quoted him also her senior year of high school. So we knew we had to do it again.  We came up with the idea to use Thing 1 & 2 to represent all the things we love about each other and Dr. Seuss.

Lillie: [I’m] graduating with my younger sister and we wanted to do a theme. Dr. Seuss is … our favorite author and we frequently use and live by quotes from his stories.


Conor Halcott –  History

I picked Adventure Time for my cap.

The reason I picked it was because I watched it during stressful points in college and it feels like I’m now going on my own adventure. Plus my amazing girlfriend painted it for me.


Carly Heinbaugh – Interdisciplinary Studies: Bible and ICS

“Great is his faithfulness”

My time at Nyack required the faithfulness of God and it stretched my own. I formed a few incredible friendships, learned from the wisest and experienced a lot of devastation at the same time. In a lot of ways my faith was destroyed and built up, destroyed and built up again. If it weren’t for God’s faithfulness in various ways, I wouldn’t have finished college both encouraged and ready to work. Through best friends and a couple outstanding professors, God exhibited his faithfulness and I’m grateful for it.

Daniel Kiernan (DK) –  Youth and Family Studies

“Loud Mouths” “Dk-47” “Mom & Dad” “Jer 31:3-4” “Ps 138:8”

The first two quotes refer to a huge portion of my friend group, the Loud Mouth Gang, who I get to create alongside under the artist name Dk-47. I love them. The next is just a shout-out to my parents because they’ve always held it down for me throughout my college experience. The verses are two passages that have helped remind my heart of who God is to me and what He’s up to in my life.


Clarissa Orozco – Social Work

“Grace carried me here and by grace I will go”

The moment I stepped out of high school I thought I had it all figured out, until a year into college when I saw my life in shambles. I found Nyack and I knew that was God’s grace upon my life. I didn’t have it all together.  I wasn’t the best student but my heart desired something better. The last 4 years have been filled with endless grace and every time I felt I was undeserving of it it wrapped itself even more. Grace broke the barriers and the fears in my life. It unveiled my worth, who I am and who I belong to. I’m not just another graduate in the world. I’m a graduate with style and grace.


Sara Donado – Music–Instrumental Performance

Sarah Donado (Left) & Clarissa Orozoco (Right)

“The Lord holds my future”

The message on my cap is what I believe defines my life at the moment. I don’t know exactly what my future will look like but I have entrusted it to the Lord and I believe he will lead me always.


Deanna Lindsay – Interdisciplinary Studies: Early Childhood Education & Music

Hi! I’m Deanna Lindsay, I recently graduated with a BS in Interdisciplinary Studies: Early Childhood Education and Music. This leads to the image on my cap! I wanted something that incorporated my passions. I love teaching I have been providing child care for different families since I was 12. Music has also been a part for my life for as long as I can remember. I joined my church’s children’s choir when I was 5! The scripture on the chalkboard on my cap is Isaiah 42 and the beginning of this chapter talks about how God is pleased with (me) his servant. It encourages me not to lose heart or crush the weak ones around me.  It also confirms that I am called to other nations and people groups. It states that distant lands will await my instruction. It goes on to talk about how worthy of praise and worship God is!

This is my life scripture! I also have a tattoo to represent how important it means to me my tattoo also reminds me of my calling.

Daniel Rivera is also an alumni of Nyack College ’16! He is an amazing artist and brought my vision to life!


Sarah Scheidt –  Social work &  Dailyn Davila – English

Sarah Scheidt (Left) and Dailyn Davila (Right)

Sarah: “Thanks mom and dad.” 

I actually wanted to make my cap funny, and planned to write “oh Scheidt, I graduated.” But then, last minute, I started to get really sentimental and grateful. I wouldn’t have been able to get my degree without my parents and their financial support and love.  So I wanted to thank them. The symbol is a Celtic symbol for eternal love. That’s special to me because I’m Irish and even though my parents got divorced when I was young, they both love me in their own special way a lot, and I think that’s special. It took both of their love and strengths to help make this degree happen … and I’m really grateful for all I’ve learned and all I can become in this world because of this degree.

Dailyn: I chose 1 Peter 1:6 because I wanted scripture that portrayed the JOY AND HAPPINESS that will come out of this transitional season. Although graduating is a SUPER SCARY concept to me, I believe that with God there IS WONDERFUL JOY AHEAD!!! I also threw some flowers on it because WHO DOESNT LIKE FLOWERSSSSS?! I wanted to be the real life Snapchat filter.


Isha Fuentes – Music In Worship

I wanted to incorporate my major onto my cap being that music and worship  is also a huge part of my life. It was a very challenging major but the reward was worth it. I used one of the songs from my jury that I performed and also incorporated it onto my cap. [That way] when I look at it, I’ll always remember my hard work and dedication …  Lastly, it was always my father’s dream to see me graduate from college. He passed away a few weeks after my high school graduation. I used the color red on my cap because it was his favorite color and I wanted to have a part of his memory on my cap.



 Rifka Simmons –  Psychology

“Just Keep Swimmin”

It symbolizes persistence to me and it’s a pun from the movie Finding Dory. I thought it was pretty clever and it’ll serve as a reminder for me when I think of my college experience.



Coffee Shop Creates a Global Community on Campus Part 2

Student-run coffee shop on campus, Cultivate Coffee, bridges the gap between cultures by purchasing fair and direct trade coffee and teas and being missions-driven.

Cultivate Coffee purchases their coffee from Coffee Labs Roasters, a roasting company in Tarrytown. The family-based company sources their coffee from fair and direct trade, which means it buys directly from the growers and seeks equity in international trade.

Co-founder, business major Benjamin Tse says that purchasing fair and direct trade coffee not only benefits the student body but creates a global impact for farmers.

Tse says: “It’s a sustainable business and missions. We want to provide quality coffee to the student body and at the same time engage in a market where the farmers will benefit.”

While Cultivate Coffee is based in New York and not directly involved with the international farmers, it impacts the farmers’ lives by supporting a transparent market.

“By buying fair trade, we are improving lives from West Africa and South Africa,” says co-founder, business major Wiktor Lasota.

The money Cultivate Coffee earns buys coffee and teas and equipment, and whenever there is a surplus, it is donated to missions.

Co-founder, intercultural studies major Peter Nehlsen says that studying other religions has helped him understand the diverse cultures and backgrounds of people groups, and it has inspired him to create a missions-driven coffee shop.

Nehlsen says: “Having the chance to grow up in Africa, I know there are families at the poverty line and those just above. There is a difference between a few dollars. We knew it was okay to sacrifice a few dollars for profit to help out the farmers.”

Though the owners do not earn money for themselves, their reward is serving the campus community, international farmers and mission organizations.

“It’s a cool way to bless someone,” says co-founder, intercultural studies major Joseph Girard.

Lasota says that their mission fulfills their ultimate goal to develop a community on campus.

Lasota says: “[We want to] create a place where people can share their testimonies and even for international students to share where they’re from. It’s all about growing the community and seeing each other grow.”

In valuing missions and supporting fair and direct trade, Cultivate Coffee creates a community beyond the college campus. The coffee shop connects the small campus community to a larger, global community.

“[By] building a community, serving people, we discover the meaning of serving,” says Lasota.

6 Steps for Admittance into the School of Education

Whether you’re a senior or an incoming freshman, planning for and navigating through deadlines and prerequisites can seem daunting. I would know, because that’s how I felt going into my freshman year. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t still seem that way at times. With that in mind, I spoke to a few Nyack veterans regarding admittance to Nyack’s School of Education (SoE) in an attempt to make the process a little more clear for those of you wanting to join the SoE community. Here is a basic guideline of what you will need to do for admittance:

1. Declare Your Major
Your first step in becoming a teacher is deciding who and what you wish to teach. Everyone seems to think I’m crazy, but my favorite group to teach is middle schoolers, so I chose Adolescence Education. I commend those of you who have the patience and energy to teach the wee little ones. You are a special breed.
In case you aren’t sure of the degree breakdown, here it is:
Early Childhood Education: birth-grade 2
Childhood Education: grades 1-6
Early Childhood/Childhood: birth- grade 6
Adolescence Education: grades 7-12

2. Help Out
Every teacher candidate is required to complete 30 hours of community service to students in their certification age group. The community service is going to look differently for everyone depending on the specific major, and I will have a few ideas for you in a future post. For instance, I will be coaching and teaching at church camps this summer, but the possibilities are endless.

3. Get Good Grades
In order to be a part of the SoE at Nyack, you need to have an overall cumulative GPA of at least 3.0, a cumulative 3.0 GPA in your concentration, and a cumulative education GPA of 3.0, earning a C or better in any education course taken. If you earn less than a C in any given education course, you will need to retake the course.

4. Pass the School of Education Admissions Test (SEAT)
Students used to be required by NYS to take the ALST, but things have since changed. Nyack has now created their own exam, the SEAT. Talk to your advisor and sign up to the exam.

5. Be A Decent Human Being
You must pass a faculty review of dispositions, passing being 80% and higher.

6.Apply to the School of Education
This application also includes an essay. Don’t freak out about it. Completing the coursework and exams were the hard part, and they prepared you well.

Any forms you need can be found on Nyack’s School of Education’s website.

If you have any questions regarding admission to the School of Education, feel free to contact Nyack Admissions

Nyack Unfiltered: Joel Pompa

Nyack College has a plethora of personalities. Nyackers come from all different backgrounds and bring their stories with them. Each one has a passion, a gift, and a desire to see God’s plan for their life be fulfilled. Nyack Unfiltered is a series of interviews I am conducting featuring students on the Manhattan campus who not only I, but others, believe will do (and currently are doing) great things for God.

The last interview in the series is with Joel Pompa. He is an impeccably-dressed Senior who loves writing and teaching. We met in the Writing Center my first semester at Nyack and we’ve been friends ever since. His presence at Nyack will be missed, but he will definitely go on to do amazing things!

So, you’re an English major. How’d you get into that?

Joel: Since I was a kid I knew I loved writing. So naturally, I just knew I had to go into something with writing. It started off with a dream of being a children’s book author/novelist, as a kid, because I loved reading novels and whatnot. Then I started growing a passion for teaching. One reason why I didn’t end up going into Education instead is because I wanted to maximize my opportunities in the fields that I want to work in. I’m thinking about broadcasting as well and maybe law. So I know that one of my passions right now, and what I’ve been doing for the last 6 years with kids is teaching – specifically teaching English.

When you’re an English teacher, are you going to be a grammar nazi of a teacher, or be all about literature, or what? What’s going to be your niche?

Joel: Well, a thing that has always resonated with me is a quote that says: every good writer is a good reader. So I feel that it is important to expose children to literature at a young age. [But] you have to do those little technical things to make sure that students are at the level of writing they should be at. But I think by middle school and high school, that’s already something that you’ve cultivated and worked on. Then, in class, you can work on literature, you can work on plays, you can work on different kinds of poetry. And what I love about writing is that I feel everyone is a writer. If you have a voice, you can write. Writing is just written expression, and what you pull out of yourself is what brings a message to people when you write. If you write a beautifully-worded sentence, [or] a grammatically-perfect, artistic essay, but it has no message, then it’s not worth it. So my hope in teaching English would be to inspire students to know that voice, to see the voices in the readings that they have. If I assign a reading, I like them to feel that world that the writer puts them in. So the idea is more of how they can become writers, how they can fall in love with literature, and not just a thing you have to do for high school. [It would be] more of an open discussion type of class.

Do you like creative writing?

Joel: I wouldn’t necessarily focus on that because I think the whole writing process in itself is creative, you know what I mean? When you go into understanding creative writing, it’s more about having open eyes to the world, looking around, and seeing those little details you never see. Noticing the little specks on the wall. Noticing the voices, the dialogue you hear on the train. You create these characters. Every writer does that. They listen and they create these characters through real people. So I guess, yes, I would like for the kids to be engaged in creative writing, but as a whole. Not just as a genre or as a subject, but that the whole class itself is [creative writing] – with literature as a helping tool.
If you could minor in anything what would it be?

Joel: I’d probably minor in Communications just because I like that field, and I’d probably say History. I’m a historian. As an English major you kind of learn that history’s important.

Why do you want to be a broadcaster?

Joel: Broadcasting stems from my self-confidence. I’ve always been very okay with public speaking. So me being able to engage an audience – I’ve always been comfortable with it. But my grandmother – so, I was born here, but I have a Cuban and Dominican heritage. My father’s Cuban and my mother’s Dominican – my grandmother from the Cuban side, in Cuba she wanted to be a broadcaster. She wanted to be a reporter, but there were a lot of restrictions 1. in her family and 2. politically, in the government. They didn’t allow her to continue with that dream. As I started growing older in high school, she kept bringing it up like, “Oh, you know, my life’s dream would be if you were to live my life’s dream out.” She kept saying it and perpetuating it, but I never really said like, “Ok, I’m going to do this for you.” I was just like, “Ok, ok.” But as time went on I was like, “Wow.” All of these attributes that I feel I have really align with the idea of broadcasting. You know, the idea that you want to impact other’s lives and influence them positively, and I just thought [that] one major way to do that was to broadcast myself.

Do you want to be in the public school system when you teach?

Joel: Of course. That’s where I was brought up, and I feel that there is a need for compassionate teachers in our system. I know my calling is to teach, so I want to go into the school system first as a paraprofessional which is, in a sense, almost like a preliminary teacher. It’s not so much a substitute teacher, but it’s on that level. It’s like being in a classroom, seeing what your class is like, and seeing what a teacher does.

So what has been your favorite part about Nyack? Not necessarily academically.

Joel: I would say that Nyack gives you the opportunity to be free. You don’t have to be considered a number. I think that’s one thing that’s different when I was in the CUNY system. There’s not just so many other students, but there’s this kind of distant interaction between the student body and the school. You’re not a student of the body, you’re an attendant of the school. [Nyack’s] very welcoming. You can live out your faith shamelessly.

When you graduate, do you have an idea of your trajectory?

Joel: Yes. Graduate, and my first goal is to come back to my old school as a para[professional], and then maybe as a teacher once I’m ready. The idea of giving back to my community in that way is big. I have kids that used to be in my program that see me every now and then, and all these parents loved when I was having my program there. Just the impact would be great for me because I’m doing something I love, something I have a passion for. It’s not easy because sometimes kids can be crazy – sometimes parents can be crazy. But what you get out of it is more. I feel that it is important to give more than what you expect to receive, but through [doing] that, you get more.

So when you’re 41, where do you see yourself?

Joel: Well, hopefully I see myself doing what God has called me to do. If that evolves into anything else, then amen. But I know right now it’s my passion for teaching and impacting others through the form of teaching. 20 years from now? Maybe I’ll be a dad, hopefully. I have the ideals of family. Maybe I’ll have my own school if I stay in the DOE [Department of Education] – be a principal or something. Maybe I’ll have written a few books by then. Maybe have my own channel. But those goals – I will just take them as they come. Just keep putting the work in, hustle a bit more, and then we’ll see from there.
Thank you so much for letting me interview you, Joel!

Why I Chose Teaching as a Profession

People have been asking me what I want to do with my life since I came out of the womb, and even more frequently since I graduated high school. I’m sure that you know how that goes.

I knew what I wanted to do, at least in part, since I was a small child, and that passion hasn’t changed. I have always wanted to become a teacher, and I cannot imagine doing anything else, nor do I think that anything else would bring me as much joy as the classroom does.

Even though I knew teaching to be my calling, I had tried to convince myself otherwise, convince myself to pursue another career path, but it was to no avail. When I was in elementary school, I tried to convince myself that I wanted to be a chef. I would get to be around food all day, and that seemed amazing! I even went to a cooking school that summer. (I now make an amazing cavatelli and Bolognese from scratch, in case you were wondering.) I learned from an amazing woman, and I will never forget her. The reason I will never forget her is for her teaching, for her passion and ability to teach that to others. My desire to become a teacher was reaffirmed with her.

Years passed before I had truly given extensive thought to my career path again. Sitting in Mrs. Durieux’s 9th grade English class, I was assigned to choose the top three careers that I would be interested in pursuing. Naturally, my first choice was teaching. Second was Cytotechnology, something in the medical field to appease my mother. The third was pediatrics, which I didn’t even remember I chose until I looked up the paper right now. (Are you amazed that I can still find the file? Because I certainly am.)

I chose the other two careers to appease others and their hopes for me, not because they were things I truly wanted. Sure, I love the science that was required for the other careers, but that love in no way compares to my love of the classroom and students.

I’m not going into education to make the kind of money a doctor does. (But if anyone knows how to make that kind of salary happen, feel free to contact me.) I’m going into education for my future students, to shape and guide them the way my teachers have shaped and guided me. I can say without a doubt that I would not be the woman I am today without my educators, those who taught me not only about their subject matter, but about life and what it means to be a decent human being.

I chose teaching primarily because I believe it to be the calling that God has placed on my life, but also because of how highly I esteem it. Furthermore, few things bring me more joy than watching the light go on in a student’s head when they finally grasp a concept- not even my first cup of coffee in the morning. Although perhaps an even better feeling would be when a student doesn’t look at your classroom like it’s a prison, but like it’s a home. And that is my main aim as a future educator.

Coffee Shop Creates a Global Community on Campus

This past school year, four Nyack College roommates opened a coffee shop on campus. Cultivate Coffee founders Wiktor Lasota and Benjamin Tse, business majors, and Peter Nehlsen and Joseph Girard, intercultural studies majors, have created a global community and personal experience for students.

Following Nyack College’s mission as an intentionally diverse school with global perspectives, Cultivate Coffee is a people and culture focused coffee shop. Students try free and direct trade coffees and teas from various countries, form friendships with students from different cultures, and connect with their own culture.

When choosing a name for their coffee shop, Tse says, “We were conscious about the word cultivate. It’s like cultivating a plan, relationships, and as a community – growing and nurturing it.”

Cultivate Coffee has hosted Global Grounds, sponsored by the International Student Union, with nights of free coffee, snacks, and board games. In a comfortable atmosphere, students engage in fellowship, developing and deepening their friendships.

Girard says: “We want to cultivate an apparent community… There is an ‘l’, ‘i’, ‘v’, ‘e’ all in Cultivate, and we just want to live our lives to the fullest and to encourage others.”

As a Christ-centered business, Cultivate Coffee is a place on campus where students grow in their personal and spiritual journeys.

“…coffee shops are a good place to grow. Jesus did life with his disciples and just talked and listened to people,” says Nehlsen.

Nehlsen’s future plans are to become a missionary and open his own coffee shop.

Nehlsen says: “It gives me a small idea of what my passion is. … What’s the point of being a missionary if I can’t do it at my own home? It’s been really cool to see the impact and the fruit.”

Cultivate Coffee hopes to make an impact in students’ lives, and before work each day, the team prays for God to work through them.

Girard says: “Because of the love God has put inside me, I can wake up early and go with those guys and put the work in. … I’ve already seen it help develop a community at Nyack.”

Lasota hopes that the longer the coffee shop operates and serves the campus as a business from students to students, it will become the campus’ new hang out location.

“Coffee is like a conversation – you go and get coffee,” says Lasota.

From first crafting a plan to finally seeing their vision become a reality, the team at Cultivate Coffee has developed an apparent community on campus, as well as become a tool for personal transformation.

New Education Blogger Debut

Welcome! I’m so glad you’ve joined me.

My name is Alexis, and I am the new blogger for the School of Education here at the Rockland Campus.

My birth certificate says Alexis Mazey, but you probably know me as Rex, as I am affectionately called that by friends. And no, it is not because I have short arms.

I grew up in a small town in Northeast Ohio. Now when I say small, I mean a two-stoplight town, a my-backyard-is-a-cornfield town.  (I’m not kidding. My sister once invited her friends over to watch Children of the Corn and then got some other friends to jump out of our cornfield and scare people. Even my dad was in on the prank. Honestly hysterical.)

Growing up in such a rural town has given me a deep appreciation for nature. My family and I used to hike at a local park when I was younger, and hiking is still one of my favorite things to do. I find running on a treadmill to be an impossibly boring form of exercise, but kudos to those of you who can last for more than five minutes without your lungs wanting to explode. I cannot. Better than me having to run, I could hike for ages and not grow weary of it. Well, at least not mentally. I have yet to reach John Muir’s stamina.

Anyway, moving on.

Besides hiking or simply being outside, my passions include reading, drinking coffee, and eating. My favorite combination of these passions was backpacking through part of the Appalachian Trail last May. The trip was impossibly arduous and taxing, and it made me realize that I need to work-out more (confession: I need to start doing the working out thing), but the overall experience was amazing, despite my pained knees and tired feet. There is something magnificently beautiful and rewarding about hiking to the top of a mountain and seeing God’s creation in bloom. If you ever need to be reminded about how truly amazing our God is, just look around you.

In fact, I would recommend that you look around you right now for that reminder. I went to a STEMM high school, so I am constantly reminded by science how God created such complexities and intricate organisms simply by speaking. I am also a musician and marvel about how He created sounds such that certain waves go together to create such beautiful harmonies.

Those are just some creations that make me reflect and stand in awe of our Creator. What about yours?

Nyack Unfiltered: Melanie Cho

Nyack College has a plethora of personalities. Nyackers come from all different backgrounds and bring their stories with them. Each one has a passion, a gift, and a desire to see God’s plan for their life be fulfilled. Nyack Unfiltered is a series of interviews I am conducting featuring students on the Manhattan campus who not only I, but others, believe will do (and currently are doing) great things for God.

The next interview in the series is Melanie Cho. Melanie, known affectionately as Mel, is ready to walk down the aisle in a few weeks and never look back. She has a clear goal in mind and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I’m sure she will accomplish everything she has set out to do.

You’re a Communications major! Why?

Mel: When I started at Nyack I wanted to be a Communications major, but they didn’t have that degree here so I had to switch to Education. But then they finally got it, so I [switched]. My mom does television and radio, so I’ve just seen it a lot in my house, and I guess it inspired me. I really like the whole creative side of Communications.

Ah, I remember that my first year at Nyack was the first year they had Communications on this campus. [Melanie: Yep! That’s right.] Thank God you caught up [with your credits].

Mel: Yeah! I was able to CLEP a Spanish course.

If you weren’t a Communications major what would you be?

Mel: Well, I would probably still be with Education. It’s one of the major things I’ve been working on anyway. I tutor a lot of kids. I like kids, and I like teaching, but going for that Education degree I was just like, “No.” [Laughs]

So, your mom does television, but so do you! Tell me about your television show.

Mel: It’s with my little sister. It’s called Hit and Video. We talk about music – the five hits of the week, [and] we have music videos. Then at the end of every show, we give a message on a Christian topic. Sometimes we talk about letting God guide you, giving your problems to God, salvation, stuff like that.

How’d that start?

Mel: We are a part of a Communication ministry called Alerta Communications, and the head pastor, the founder of the ministry, asked me if me and my sister wanted to do it. The show had already been produced by two other pastors like 20 years ago, but of course [now] they are grown, so he wanted it to be renewed, refreshed, have new faces – so he asked me and my sister. At first I kind of resisted because I thought, ‘I have school, I have work, I have all this stuff,’ but I ended up just taking it, and I like it.

How long have you been doing it?

Mel: It’s going to be a year because we’re in April now.

Congratulations! Your anniversary!

Mel: Thank you!

Do you feel like your Communications degree has helped you with that (the television show) at all? Or do you see them as two separate things?

Mel: I guess both. I feel like the degree gives me a backup – like I have education [regarding] it, and I’m not just doing it. But I also feel like I gained a lot of experience just by doing the show. So I guess it balances out.

How did you pick Nyack?

Mel: [Laughs] I never wanted to come to Nyack. When I was in high school I went to Evangel Christian School and I went to a Christian middle school, so I was just tired of Christian schools. So I applied everywhere but Nyack, but my mom was like, “You should apply to Nyack just in case.” So I applied, and when I was deciding what school I wanted to go to I wanted Hofstra University because they were giving me a scholarship. So I went for the interview and when I got out I was like, “Mom, I don’t know what happened, but I started talking about God and I don’t know if they’re going to accept me!” But they did accept me, but then my dad updated my FAFSA, and they were like since your dad makes too much money, we had to remove the scholarship. So I was like, “Ok fine.” Then I went to Hofstra’s open house trying to feel the atmosphere, see if I really liked it, and I thought, “Ehh, ok.” Then I came to the open house at Nyack College and I just felt like this was where I was supposed to be. I felt really peaceful and after that everything just fell into place.

What is your ultimate goal for yourself? After you graduate what do you want to be doing?

Mel: I want to be… working in the field I studied! More specifically, film production, video editing, [and] I guess I can include in front camera action because I’m already doing that. Just doing hands-on work. I definitely want to be focused on what I came here to do. Right now I’m a tutor and I love that job and I love the kids, but I don’t want to get too comfortable in that job and not focus on what I actually came to study.

Do you have a favorite moment at Nyack?

Mel: …I don’t know! I haven’t thought back that far. It feels like I came here just yesterday and a lot has changed – people coming in and out and different experiences. But I cherish the moments that I was able to meet specific people, meet specific friends, and build friendships.
I wish you all the best in your future, Mel! You’re going to be great!

You Are Not Your Major


I’ve been writing blogs about being an Education Major, what that means, ways to thrive and survive as this strange species who are filled with heart and hardcore motivation.

I’ve been writing blog after blog on this topic, which makes sense. It’s a college blog, right?



I need to share something with you. I can’t write all those blogs about succeeding in your major without mentioning this, and in fact this is something more important than all those blogs. It’s something that shakes my focus back to its rightful place on those days, those days when ambition and goals just don’t suffice, those days when dreams may or may not be there, the days when the learning curve makes you feel like you’re accomplishing nothing.


What I have to tell you I do not whisper. What I have to tell you I scream. You are not your major. Let me repeat that…whether you are a Nursing, Business, Pastoral Ministry, Education, or Basket Weaving Major, you are not your major. It does not define you. You do not, you cannot wrap up your identity in what your college major is.

Let me explain why you cannot do this.

Your identity needs to be in something unmoved, something stable,– something fixed. One semester you might be a Business Major wandering through Accounting 101 , but the next semester what if God calls you to study English? You cannot place your identity in something that can change.

You also might struggle through that major, even if it’s where God has called you. Your studies can be difficult, and the learning curve is real. There might be semesters when you aren’t the perfect Education Major (or fill-in-the-blank major). You cannot tangle up your identity in how well you are performing in your major. This doesn’t mean you don’t give 100%, doesn’t mean you don’t try, but it means you give yourself room to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow, but you cannot place your identity in something that can change.


The only place you can place your identity, the only place you can anchor yourself, is in Christ, finally, truly in Christ. If you try to find your identity in what you are doing you will constantly be struggling with who you are, especially through college when majors, relationships, jobs, and everything else can change between the semester and the summer.

Do not define yourself by how well you are doing in life.

One semester you might be running, edging forward, winning, and then the next semester you may find yourself struggling. Define yourself by the constancy of the Living Word who is the same Yesterday, Today, and Forever even through our twenty-somethings. 

God’s Always Got Your Back

As I write this, I stand on the Downtown 4 train headed to Union Square. I just remembered that I have a Discussion post for one of my classes due at 11:59 tonight. It’s a 2 part post and I already did part 1, so I’m not blaming this on procrastination (even though that is exactly what this is). I’m going to say that I simply forgot about it (because I did). I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t she just keep working after she wrote part 1 of the post and continue to write part 2 as well? That very good observation is beside the point, and if I take the time to really consider why I didn’t do that then I just might get off this train before my stop and scream my head off. So to avoid my having a public meltdown, we’re just not going to think about it. We are going to close our eyes and thank the Holy Spirit for reminding me of my homework in the first place. (I’m going to be real, y’all. I would not have made it this far in my academic career if it was not for God).

(9 hours later)

As I write this second paragraph, I am back on the train heading home after work and breathing a sigh of relief because I turned my Discussion post in at 11:57pm tonight when it was due, as you remember, at 11:59pm. I’m not saying that you should procrastinate majorly and turn all your homework and projects in at the last minute because that is irresponsible and not recommended. However, I am saying that God had my back tonight and I would just like to shout Him out for that. In fact, I would like to shout out the countless times He has had my back. Every time I slipped, tripped, and straight up fell on my face, He was there watching my back and catching me before I hit the pavement. The days that I let fly by without praying a word to Him or even cracking my Bible, He never left my side. He is always ready to listen to me even when I don’t take the time to listen to Him. I don’t deserve Him, and yet, He is still around. He says He is always going to be around and I believe Him because He has yet to fail me (and never will). I hope you take great comfort in the fact that no matter how bad you mess up, you will never be alone, my friend. When your earthly friends abandon you, He won’t. When you royally screw up and just want to curl up in a corner and cry, He uncurls you and sends His Holy Spirit to help you work out the problem. I could honestly go on about how much He does for us on a daily basis that we are not even aware of, but just know that He loves you. He loves you, He loves you, He loves you! And He’s always got your back.

Nyack Unfiltered: Noël Simoné Wippler

Nyack College has a plethora of personalities. Nyackers come from all different backgrounds and bring their stories with them. Each one has a passion, a gift, and a desire to see God’s plan for their life be fulfilled. Nyack Unfiltered is a series of interviews I am conducting featuring students on the Manhattan campus who not only I, but others, believe will do (and currently are doing) great things for God.

The next interview in the series is Noël Simoné Wippler. Noël is a musician who loves using her gift of music to bring the utmost glory to God. It was a pleasure interviewing her.

What’s your major?

Noël: My major is vocal performance.

What do you specialize in?

Noël: Jazz, R&B, Funk, Classical…

How did you hear about Nyack’s School of Music?

Noël: I heard about Nyack on Facebook, actually. A friend of mine shared a Facebook post from who I now know as Professor Damien Sneed who asked if anyone was interested in getting their degree in Music – and scholarships were available. So I responded and Damien Sneed told me to come to Nyack that day and bring sheet music if I had any. So I had my interview and an audition and they told me I got a full scholarship. I was like, “Wow, I can’t believe…” [But] it was a Christian college so I was thinking to myself, ‘What is going to happen. My lifestyle right now is not Christian at all.’ [It’s] so funny how God just straight up blessed me abundantly and let me know that this is the next step. So I just took it, and I’m here today.

When was that?

Noël: That was 2013 Fall. And school had already started actually! It’s funny because at that same time I did an audition for a theater company in Florida, and they told me no so I was a little sad. So when I heard about this school I was like yeah okay, I’m gonna do it. And when I told the school yes, I literally got a phone call 10 minutes later from the stage director in Florida. He said, “Hey, we can’t get over your voice. We kept hearing you singing this part. We think you’d be great for this role. Would you be interested?” I was like, “Yeah, when is it?” He was like, “We’ll fly you down tomorrow. You have free housing and food.” And I was like, “I literally just signed my application to go to school to get my degree in 4 years. Literally like 10 minutes ago.” He was like, “Ah man! Only if I had called you 10 minutes earlier!” I was like, “Yeah [Laughs]! I would’ve been down there!” But [even after that] I still felt like [Nyack] was it.

So you had peace about it?

Noël: Yeah, I do have peace about it. I was able to meet so many beautiful people. My life has completely changed, and I have a fullness in my life because of Christ.

Who were you before Nyack and has it changed you at all?

Noël: Yes… I wouldn’t say that I’m better or worse, but I would say that I’m more aware now. Aware of God, aware of my blessings, aware of time, aware of my actions. Before, when I started the school, I was drinking a lot. I wanted to be this superstar. I was thinking of different ways to get there, like shortcuts. I just knew when the school came about that it was to be fortifying for my soul. I knew it. I said, “This is a present [that] God has given me to strengthen my relationship [with Him]. My friend Curtis, Curtis Crum the 3rd, passed away a month and a day to this day. Curtis and so many other people at Nyack gave me salt. They gave me a passion to observe God more. Before, I was so rebellious. I didn’t want to be a Christian. I didn’t want to be in a Christian environment at all. I was like it’s fake, the people are hypocritical, they talk about you – which they do [Me: Yep, they do!] [But] I’m here, and I’m realizing that it’s not just a Christian environment. Being a part of this environment has made me realize how we should cherish each other. Even in Chorale when we’re singing the worship music, it’s just [a really loving environment.]

So, it’s affected your music?

Noël: Yes, my music has changed because I put Jesus in the front now. And I noticed how many people gravitate towards me because I did that. It was really surprising to me [because] when you make that decision in a secret place other people can sense it even if they’re not Christian.

You’re supposed to graduate in May. What do you want to do after?

Noël: Full-time musician. Be a professional, be a businesswoman. [I also want to] really push my music out and record.

Do you have any favorite memories at Nyack?

Noël: Yes, being in West Side Story, I was Anita. It was with Curtis. He played Bernardo. It was so great because it really challenged us. We thought, ‘How are we going to get into these characters?’ I’m really proud to have shared that experience with him and with everyone in the cast. PJ, Amanda, Bri, Betsaida, Amos… so many more people… Dana Talley and Dr. Turk… and my father did the artwork. He painted the whole set. Our orchestra, Prof. Margrit, Dr. Sue Talley, Darryl Jordan… also the kids that were in the show. It was just really great. Another moment was performing at Lincoln Center. That was really great because it has always been a dream of mine – just always seeing it growing up. I sang [there] with Chorale and did a solo.

Do you have a favorite class?

Noël: I have Acting for Musical Stage, that’s a favorite class. Then there’s Opera Theatre… Chorale… Jazz… I like all of my Ear Training… all of my Theory classes… all of my classes… they all challenge me to be better.

What’s one thing that you have learned from either a professor, a class, or a fellow student that you think helped you?

Noël: Well, for one thing I’m always late. I learned that in Chorale. It was always 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes [after class]. It would never be there when class started. Even if it was 2 minutes. Why am I always late? That challenged me. Time management. We have dominion over time. We shouldn’t let time run over us. And also, just being able to share moments with people, and just feeling rubbed spiritually. Sometimes it’s like, ‘Ew what’s that feeling, but it’s actually God just using other people to shape you. It’s actually better to feel like that than to feel alone. I’d rather be put into a position and feel like, ‘Ah, I’m being pushed. I’m being shaped into something’ than to feel like, ‘What am I doing with my life?’ And I feel like so many people at Nyack have really lifted me up to be the person I am today. It’s because of their kindness, and a lot of people pray for you. I’ve never been in an environment where so many people pray for you.

They just pray in general. Walking down the halls there are just groups of people praying.

Noël: Yeah! And praising. Like on the Music floor people are just singing or pulling out a guitar or stomping on the floor making mad noise. But yeah. Everything I’m learning right now, through my teachers and through my classmates, besides learning about timeliness and learning about how to love one another, I learned that I must love others – relentlessly, even if I don’t want to. And because of that I learned how to be patient with others.
Noël’s final message rings true for me, considering that I am currently on a journey learning how to actively love others and myself. So thank you Noël for that, and hopefully it rang true with someone else, too. Also, thank you Noël for letting me interview you!

Everybody Gets a Grace Period

This semester, a few of my professors gave the class a grace period. In the first week they gave us homework that could be done without the textbook, or they gave us an extra week to complete and turn in the work just in case some students didn’t yet have their books. I, personally, have never had a grace period for any class I have ever taken, so I was a little taken back (and oh so relieved because I had not ordered any of my books until the day AFTER classes had started – because I forgot).

I promise I won’t go on and on about the wonders of Nyack professors and how they’re better than other professors because they give us grace periods, pray before class, and have occasional in-class potlucks. I’m just saying that grace periods are always welcome in my book, both in class and in life. Whether we mess up, screw up, act up, or choke up, grace covers it all. Grace can either be defined as “courteous goodwill” or “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings” – according to Google Definitions.

Sometimes folks just need a break, and I’m proud to say that I serve a God who is not only the King of kings, but the King of Grace. The unmerited favor He gives out is unending and ever-flowing. However, there is a catch. The catch is…. You don’t even have to ask for it. It’s free Grace that He gives to us because He loves us, not because we begged for it or even deserve it, but because He is that good. Another absolutely amazing thing about God’s Grace periods is that it’s not a period. It doesn’t have a start and end date. As previously said, it is unending and ever-flowing.

I’ve come to realize that not everyone is as well-off as they say they are. People are constantly hurting and tired, and would perk right up at the mere insinuation of a chunk of Grace falling into their lap. Well good news, everyone! This Grace period is upon you! *Oprah voice* You get Grace and you get Grace and you get Grace! Everybody gets Graaaaace! And if you feel like you can’t see the grace manifesting in your life, hold on and reread the definition of grace because you might not know what it is. Grace is God’s constant love, His constant care, His constant ability to protect you. It’s everywhere and it’s all the time, and trust me, it’s manifesting.

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