Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Serving Like Jesus

Thank you to Alyson Piatt, Academic Advisor, for writing today's blog.

Several Saturdays each semester I have the privilege of traveling with a small group of Shepherds College students to Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois.  Here students serve in the Special Friends’ Respite Care program.  Parents of children with disabilities have the opportunity to attend support groups, while their children are supervised by volunteers.

            Mark 10: 45 tells us, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Each visit, I am blessed as I watch students discover new ways to serve like Jesus.  

            Serving requires us to get out of our comfort zones.  Jesus, though fully God, left Heaven to become the form of a man and serve us.  During each visit to Willow Creek, our students also must get out of their comfort zones.  Serving means hour long car rides just to reach the church and giving up other fun weekend activities.  It involves leading loud, silly songs with exaggerated motions!!  Before each session, the students giggle as I teach the new song for the day.  They are often hesitant at first to follow suit.  It is a joy to see each of them eventually stand in front of the group and lead the song for the children at the Respite with enthusiasm.  Serving like Jesus calls us out of our comfort zone!

            Serving calls us to put others interests’ before our own.  Jesus humbled himself to die for our sins, putting our interests before his own.  Serving at Willow Creek may mean playing the same game over and over again!  It could mean running around with a child from one activity to the next.  It might involve learning to communicate through motions with children who can’t speak.  Serving is being willing to pick up the toys that were thrown all over the floor.  Serving means helping others complete the crafts rather than doing them ourselves.  Serving like Jesus puts others first!

                I’m so thankful for these Shepherds College Student Servants.  We can all learn a lot from them as we serve like Jesus! 

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at www.shepherdscollege.edu.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The 2015 Alumni Weekend Event

Thank you to Angela Houk and Brian Canright for writing today's blog.

What an exciting weekend to have alumni from the classes of 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 on campus!  The weekend started off on Friday with an alumni welcome and weekend overview.  Students and alumni ate pizza, connected with old friends, and made new friends. 

Next, staff, alumni, and alumni parents enjoyed time to chat and laugh at Comedy Sportz.  

Saturday began with brunch prepared and served by the culinary arts students and enjoyed by alumni, students, and staff.  Several alumni parents and students participated in a time of video Q&A sharing about challenges and successes.  The afternoon was filled with games, snacks, and some R&R to watch a movie.  Dinner was enjoyed by alumni, staff, and alumni parents at Country Rose.  The staff at Country Rose did a fabulous job preparing and serving the food.  It was a great time watching the alumni and parents reconnecting, visiting, and sharing memories. 

Saturday evening was filled with excitement and fun as alumni parents gathered at the Racine home of Guy and Faythe Ladd, parents of Christian Ladd, a 2014 graduate.  Meanwhile the alumni played games and participated in a solving a campus mystery.  The campus nurse went missing and students traveled throughout the campus searching for clues only to find out the nurse had taken a vacation.  The evening ended with the return of the nurse to campus from her vacation – the mystery of the missing nurse was solved.  

One highlight from the alumni weekend was celebrating the accomplishments of Brett Fisher who received the distinguished alumni award.  Brett graduated in 2012 with a certificate of completion in Culinary Arts.  Brett has demonstrated the philosophy of Appropriate Independence™ as he lives independently and works in the deli at Walmart in Grand Rapids, MN.  His wages are higher than some of his peers without intellectual disabilities because he completed the culinary arts vocational training program.  Brett works around 32 hours a week and earns vacation time.  He uses public transit and has a network of family and friends to meet his transportation needs.  Brett serves his neighbors by preparing food and snacks once a week and helps his aging grandparents with chores such as shoveling snow.  He faithfully attends and volunteers in his church and financially supports missions and causes close to his heart.  We are proud of Brett and his accomplishments!  Congratulations for being the 2015 Distinguished Alumni! 

Thank you parents for entrusting your students to us and for being part of the exciting journey of Appropriate Independence™ that is unique to each student.  We are truly thankful for the opportunity to be a part of each student’s journey! 

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at www.shepherdscollege.edu.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Faith & Flexibility

Thank you to Laura Pollard, Elyse Cyr & Lori Konopasek, missions team leaders, for writing today's blog.

You may have heard the chants in the hallway:  “SB MIE 2015!  SB MIE 2015!”

This Spring Break, eight students and four staff will be embarking on the first ever Shepherds College Spring Break Mission Immersion Experience – specifically christened SB MIE 2015! 

At the crack of dawn on March 31st, eight brave students and their fully caffeinated instructors will leave from O’Hare Airport and travel to St. Mary’s, Jamaica for an eight day missions experience.  We will be partnering with Kenneth and Eileen Terroade of Uphill Ministries and experiencing life on the mission field in another country.  Students will be leading Vacation Bible School, participating in service projects, and sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  

As students and staff prepare for this trip, two words continually come up in our meetings and conversations:  faith and flexibility!  Faith has been woven into this trip from the beginning.   During the genesis of this trip,  Elyse, Lori and I continually looked at one another and exclaimed, “Are we really doing this?!  Are we crazy?! Is God going to provide?!?!”  The answers to all of these questions we tossed around were a big “YES”!!!!  Yes, we feel that God has given us a burden and a desire to expose our students to mission experiences, yes, God has proven over and over again that HE is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides, and yes we probably are crazy, but as we’ve said from the beginning,  “Go big or go home!”  
When we asked what these two words mean to our students, these were our students’ responses: 

Crystal Nystrand said: “Flexibility means to go with the flow and do whatever needs to be done.  Faith is to believe that God will provide and let Him take over you.”

Olya Porth said: “To me, faith means that I have to trust in God in everything I am doing to get ready to go to Jamaica.  Flexibility is to do something that you don’t want to do, but you do it anyway.”

Willetta McVicker described faith and flexibility as:  “Faith means to trust and believe without seeing and to know that God will make a way in His will.  Flexibility means to do or go where you are told without arguing and to get out of your comfort zone.” 

When asked about faith and flexibility, Wade Phillips said, “Faith means to have a relationship with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  Flexibility means to go with the flow to wherever the journey to Jamaica takes us!”

Micah Muma defined faith and flexibility as:  “Faith means that I don’t need to worry- I just need to have faith that God has it all under control.  Flexibility means that I just need to go with the flow with changes or anything on a trip or in life.” 

Jonathan Ingram said: “Having faith is trusting God that He will provide for you.  When you realize that you can’t do anything on your own.  Flexibility means to go with the flow- you may be set on something to happen, but then God throws you somewhere else.”

Andrew Gummow said that “Faith is believing in God and flexibility means to do whatever is asked with joy!”

Nikki Monroe described faith and flexibility as: “Faith means how much you believe in God.  Flexibility means being able to switch gears quickly without getting mad or anxious.”

We could not be more grateful for this opportunity that God has provided and this team that He put together!

Hmmm…Faith and flexibility may not only apply to a Spring Break missions trip to Jamaica…

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at www.shepherdscollege.edu.

Monday, March 9, 2015


Thank you to Sarah Kolkman, Instructor, for writing today's blog.

Hebrews 10:24 – “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” NIV

The FISH! Philosophy is inspired by a group of fishmongers from Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market.  Pikes Place is known for its fun style of business.  They toss fish around as if they were footballs!  Throwing fish is obviously hard work, but despite the cold and harsh conditions, Pikes Place has found a way to harness a positive attitude and have fun at work.  This team is a great example of how you can create a positive atmosphere and workplace that encourages people to do their best and work well as a team. 

FISH! has four unique and applicable principles:

1.      Be There
2.      Make Their Day
3.      Play
4.      Choose Your Attitude

At Shepherds College we put the FISH! principles into action!  As part of our Winter Student Retreat, students experienced FISH! in a very REAL and engaging way.  Through acting activities, teambuilding games, and even some tasty treats, Shepherds College had a fun, “fishy” retreat.
Be There:  Students learned to focus, listen and even empathize with others, such as not texting and talking at the same time.  When you are talking to someone, they need all of you. Setting aside distractions to be fully present is a sign of respect. It improves communication and strengthens relationships.
A local acting company, First Stage, visited Shepherds College and led several activates that helped illustrate “Be There” to students.  Working in groups, students described personal positive traits, focused on positive memories, and sculpted scenarios which demonstrated “I am” statements.
Make Their Day:  Students learned to keep it simple. It can start with smiling at someone you don’t know very well. Turn an everyday encounter into a pleasant experience for someone. Kindness, patience and thoughtfulness will be returned.   Simple gestures of thoughtfulness, thanks and recognition make people feel appreciated and valued. When you make someone else feel good, you feel good too.
First Stage also led exercises on trust, teamwork, and communication.  Students worked together to complete various tasks using their teamwork and communication skills.  They also learned that making someone's day is in the little things we can do every day!

Play: Work made fun gets things done!  Play is not about games or toys; it is about your state of mind. Be creative in your problem solving. Encourage people to think outside the box. How can everyday tasks be made fun and challenging? Play energizes you and the people around you.
Ms. Eakley and Mrs. Anderson led activates that involved a lot of fun and a lot of play.  Students were able to demonstrate creative problem solving in a farm challenge, energize those around them in a game of balloon volleyball, and create their own personal fish tank to take home with them as a reminder to enjoy the day and to simply play!
Choose Your Attitude: If you look for negativity you will be sure to find it.  Students learned to empower themselves to respond to challenges and problems in a constructive and positive way. When you get dressed every morning, ‘put on’ your attitude.  When you get up, decide who you want to "be" today. Ask yourself throughout the day, "What is my attitude right now? Is it helping or hurting the people around me? " Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching? 
Mrs. Cyr and Mrs. Kolkman led students in the Choose Your Attitude session.  Students experienced different situations where they needed to turn a negative attitude into a positive attitude in order to complete different tasks.  Students competed in a marshmallow chopstick race and acted out different attitude emotions (both positive and negative).
When asked what they learned throughout the teaching sessions, students provided very insightful and positive responses:
First year Samantha: “I learned that you can choose to have a good day or a bad day”
First year Mykal:  “Choose your attitude, make a choice. Do the right thing.  Be on time.  Be there.”
First year Jonathan: “I learned about myself and about my attitude and how you can choose to do right or wrong”
First year Amy:  “Be positive and brighten someone’s day”
Second year Joey: “You can make someone’s day by helping them”
Second year Willetta: “I learned how to grow in a community with others and have fun at the same time”
Third year Kati: I enjoyed the different activities. My favorite activity was the mirror which taught us to be there for people. The other activity I enjoyed was the trust game where one person was peanut butter and the other was jelly. One person had their eyes closed and the other person guided them across the gym.  This taught us to trust one another so we could get the job done and it taught a us how to be nice to one another. “

After all the fun and games of our teaching sessions, students continued the fun with a collaborative banquet dinner with Shepherds Ministries, served by our very own Culinary Arts students and decorated by our very own Horticulture students.  Students ate and mingled and continued learning about the FISH! theme by competing in different games such as “Fish in the Movies” and “Beach Volleyball.” 

Dean of Education, Angela Houk, commented on the service roles our students provided for the banquet dinner: I enjoyed seeing how the students put into practice the third principle of Appropriate Independence - empowered to serve. The students served Catalyst clients as they prepared food, served the meal, and cleaned up from the dinner.  It was a great time of both being part of a community and fun. It's great to see students having fun while serving others.”

On Friday, students got a real treat.  We spent the entire day at Shedd Aquarium!  The highlights of the visit were a 4D movie and an Aquatic show. 

 To top it all off, Giordonas Pizza was our dinner destination.  It was a delectable, deep-dish treat for our staff and students who were able to attend!

First year NeeDow:  “Shedd aquarium was great because I got to see different kinds of fish. I learned a lot about what kinds of fish we have in this world. “
Second year Olya: “What I enjoyed the most about the retreat was getting to know the first years a little bit more”
Second year Abby: “I liked the different themes because they apply to our everyday life”

Throughout the retreat students put the four FISH! principles (Be There, Make Their Day, Play, and Choose Your Attitude) into action in order to build stronger relationships with their peers and their community.  Just like the fishmongers from Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market, students and staff enjoyed turning hard work into a fun and positive experience!
FISH! Resource

First Stage Acting Group


Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at www.shepherdscollege.edu.