by Carly (Rech) Gilmore, Class of 2017
“I am grateful for my time at NNU and for the people who invested in my life,” explained Jenica (Salisbury) Lawrence (’04). “Because of this, I am equipped to invest in the lives of so many other people in our community.”
When alumni are asked about their college experience, most insist the relationships and community were, and continue to be, the most impactful aspect of NNU. Although the relationships NNU fosters for students while they are on campus are invaluable, these also create a foundation on which students can build long after graduation. Three alumni—Alex Hackett (’08), Jenica Lawrence and Oscar Diaz (’15)—demonstrate how the unique community they found at NNU can be shared through professional, civic and spiritual pursuits beyond the campus and their time as students.
“I am equipped to invest in the lives of so many other people in our community.”
From biking across the U.S. to helping establish a non-profit cafe and guesthouse in Peru, from digitizing and restoring movies for Tunnel Post to working on organic farms in California, Alex Hackett has been intentional about taking opportunities to pursue his passions. One of these passions is people.
“I care about people,” remarked Hackett. “That is first and foremost.” This concern for people is apparent in his roles as coordinator of Safe Routes to School (SR2S) for the cities of Nampa and Caldwell, Idaho, and as organizer of the 15th Avenue Community Garden.
As SR2S coordinator, Hackett educates children about healthy and safe transportation, advocates for pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, and works to establish more safe biking and walking routes in the community. “I am way more connected to the needs here—transportation, food, health, affordable housing,” he commented. “These barriers make me think about what can I do with my own program for this community.”
In addition to work with SR2S, Hackett has helped establish and maintain the 15th Avenue Community Garden, which meets needs for the neighborhood and the Salvation Army Community Family Shelter. Besides providing fresh produce for the local community, the garden provides an area for people to gather to enjoy the outdoors while contributing to the fight against local hunger.
Sharing Hackett’s passion for people, Jenica Lawrence has served local needs through her work with Eastern Washington University’s Idaho Child Welfare Research and Training Center based in Coeur d’Alene.
After hosting 30 foster children over six years and adopting two, Lawrence accepted the position as a lead PRIDE (Parents’ Resource for Information Development Education) trainer. Besides training new foster care parents, she advocates for children waiting for an adoptive family as a Resource Peer Mentor (RPM) for the Idaho Wednesday’s Child program.
“I absolutely love that I am still able to be involved in foster care,” Lawrence beamed. “I enjoy the satisfaction of knowing I am changing the lives of children and families in our community. I love hearing from PRIDE participants that the information we’re giving them in class is changing their parenting approaches and healing their families.”
Another way Lawrence impacts the lives of children and their families is through a non-profit organization dubbed Boise’s Got Faith (BGF). In 2015, Lawrence’s daughter, Eloise, was diagnosed with leukemia. During this battle, BGF has supported their family financially and emotionally. Now Lawrence and her husband, Erik (’04), have become a part of the BGF leadership team.
Lawrence commented, “We’re so grateful for the love and support we have received from our Boise’s Got Faith family and are excited to be able to give back to others in our community when they’re facing the life-changing diagnosis of pediatric cancer.”
Much like Lawrence, Oscar Diaz serves the people in his community in many ways—one major avenue being his ministry as the creator and coordinator of The Mill.
With the first gathering in September 2016, The Mill is an event with the mission “to see the Church come together as one body across denominations—through worship in song, prayer and fellowship.” A grievous event in Diaz’s life became the catalyst for creating The Mill. He was significantly impacted by having multiple churches from various denominations comfort and mourn with him and his family after his four-year-old nephew died in a car accident in 2014.
“That experience, seeing the true beauty and the full magnitude of the Church, completely set my heart on fire for the Church to mobilize the truth that Jesus is all we have,” explained Diaz. “The Church is a family, and The Mill’s hope is to remind the local church that their family is much bigger than the local church they attend but includes the congregations across the street and across town. How much more could we do if we came together!”
In addition to organizing The Mill, Diaz serves and ministers to the community in his position as associate pastor of Karcher Church of the Nazarene, Nampa.
Hackett, Lawrence and Diaz are just a sample of the outstanding alumni doing transformative work, serving and building their community through their passions. When asked how others can extend the community they experienced at NNU, Hackett urged, “Be involved. And if something sounds cool, google it, and if it’s not being done, go do it yourself. Even if it’s not what you want it to become at first, it’ll slowly get there.”