Meet Eight Tenacious Graduates Who Turned
Their Trials Into Triumphs to Help & Inspire Others
Ezra Gingerich (CAS ’22)
At 17, Ezra made the difficult decision to leave the only home he had ever known. With only an 8th-grade education and entirely cut off from his Amish family, the odds were stacked against him. But God put people in his life who were determined to see him succeed.
“He surrounded me with people who taught me God’s love, not his wrath,” said Ezra. “I was saved in a Baptist church in the Ozarks in 2015. They welcomed me with open arms and helped me achieve the first step of my educational journey.”
Ezra obtained his high school degree in just two years. Shortly after, he drove across the country from his hometown in Missouri to begin his Bachelor of Arts in Government at Regent. Here he saw God continue to provide for him in professors and friends he would come to know as family.
While Ezra’s college journey was more complicated than most, he says his support system at Regent ultimately made it possible.
“I merely followed what God put on my heart, and He took care of the rest,” said Ezra. “Like Job, I lost everything when I left my family. And like Job, God has provided me with far more than I ever had.”
Julianne Condrey (RSG ’22)
When unexpected illness and financial stress hit her family, Julianne’s plans for college were cut short, and she began working to help keep them afloat. That was the first of many roadblocks on her educational journey. But, she was reminded to put her faith in the Lord, knowing He was walking beside her, even when He felt absent.
“You can let life’s challenges be like a 50 lb. backpack weighing you down and keeping you from moving forward, or you can use it as a step stool to reach higher,” said Julianne.
After many years of helping to run the family business, raising her three sons, and volunteering in the community, Julianne decided to pursue her bachelor’s degree at the age of 45.
She was “building the plane while flying it,” first completing her bachelor’s and now her Master of Arts in Government while working full-time in the political field. She has served as chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears of Virginia since January.
“All my life has been about asking God what’s next for me. I want to be useful and know that I am doing something that matters,” said Julianne. “There’s a lot of divisiveness, and I strive to be a voice of reason and understanding.”
Terrilyn “Terri” Lewis (SOE ’22)
After her nephew became the victim of gun violence at the age of 15, Terri decided that she needed to take action.
“You see gun violence all the time on TV, and you hear it on the news,” said Terri. “But you never think that it will happen to your own family. It changes you.”
Her nephew’s murder motivated her to begin pursuing her doctorate in education. She sees schools as a crucial piece to reforming and uplifting her home community. By working in an administrative position, she wants to spearhead programs in her hometown that will enrich students’ lives and give them hope.
“I want to get back to Norfolk because there’s a great need there,” said Terri. “The children need to know that they have a future.”
Terri faced immense loss once again on her educational journey with her mother’s unexpected passing last December. She credits her mother as her biggest supporter, explaining how she was constantly in prayer over Terri.
“One thing my mother made sure of was that all of her children knew how to pray,” Terri said. “So that’s what I’ve been doing, just totally leaning into the Lord.”
She chose to walk the stage this spring for her educational specialist degree in honor of her mother and will continue to pursue her doctorate in the fall.
“The Lord didn’t promise us that we would have all good days. But He is there with us every step of the way,” said Terri.
Boniface Odong (SOD ’22)
Boniface arrived in New Jersey from Uganda with only $30 in his pocket and a dream to pursue higher education. He had lost his parents and siblings in the turmoil of war in Uganda and had no connections or family in the States. But he stepped out on faith for the Lord’s provision.
“I thank God for when he brought me to America. I thought: ‘I have arrived,’” said Boniface. “Uganda was my Egypt. America is my promised land.”
After two years of earning his master’s degree at another university, Boniface’s visa was nearing its expiration, and he didn’t know where to turn next. As he drove down the highway to say his goodbyes to his community, he felt the Lord calling him to take a different route—a path that would bring him directly to Regent.
He parked at the School of Divinity building and within hours he was accepted into the school and had received a scholarship. Without that financial support, he says his dream would not have been made a reality.
“I am so indebted to Regent University. My story will never be told without giving credit to this institution that has made me who I am today,” said Boniface.
Boniface pledges that one day he will establish a scholarship at Regent in the name of his mother, who encouraged him in his desire to pursue an education before her passing.
Karen Aroche Jimenez (SON ’22)
It was early in Karen’s nursing career when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She saw the halt of life-saving surgeries for her patients and struggled with the knowledge that she could not meet their needs.
“There was a lot of pressure that I placed on myself to stay safe so that I wouldn’t bring any illness to my patients or home to my parents,” said Karen. “Of course, that was very isolating.”
But she found community as she pursued her Master of Nursing degree at Regent, connecting with students who were experiencing the same challenges as her. Regent encouraged her to grow in her faith. She says she came away from each assignment with more knowledge of the Word.
“I consider my faith stronger now than when I entered the program,” Karen said.
Karen credits her Guatemalan and Dominican parents, who immigrated to the United States before she was born, as major influences in her life that helped her overcome the hardships of balancing “pandemic nursing” and her studies.
“They both just wanted the best for me when they came here, and they’ve always taught me that I can do anything as long as I work hard,” said Karen. “They gave me this motivation to keep working harder to help as many people as possible.”
Deyonta Johnson (SBL ’22)
When Deyonta arrived at Regent for his Doctor of Strategic Leadership residency, he thought to himself: “‘What am I doing here? Do I deserve to be here?’” But the genuine support he found from the faculty quickly put aside his doubts and affirmed his calling to serve the troubled youth of his community with his degree.
Deyonta shared, “It was the most caring environment I’ve ever seen in a school setting.”
Deyonta empathizes with many of the teenagers he has encountered in his various roles at the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice over the past seven years. He grew up in a single-parent household in a subsidized housing project plagued with crime and poverty. Without the steadfast support of his mother and grandmother, he knows that he may have ended up walking the same path as the youth that he has supervised.
His now published DSL project, “From Destitute to Debonair: SEMPLE Tips to Redefining Yourself as a Leader,” was envisioned as an interactive book that could give hope to struggling teens, providing them with the tools to be successful.
“I don’t take for granted the opportunities that have been given to me, knowing that coming from this community, I am the exception to the rule,” said Deyonta. “To God be the glory for putting people in my life who believed in me even when I doubted myself.”
Brandon Akers (LAW ’22)
When Brandon began considering law school, he didn’t know what area he should specialize in within the field of law. All he knew was that he wanted to use his degree to help others and serve the Lord.
Brandon’s decision to attend Regent was solidified after talking to the School of Law faculty about his goals and desires for his career. When the faculty asked to pray for him, he said he knew Regent would be the perfect place to pursue his law degree.
“What was very helpful at Regent was that they kept everything in perspective,” said Brandon, adding that there was always an extra 10 minutes before each class devoted to time in the Word. “You’re doing everything for the glory of God, and this is a way that you can serve Him.”
As he went through his courses at Regent, Brandon eventually found what he calls his vocation: estate planning law.
“I thought, this is how I can help families,” said Brandon. “It just seemed like a place with so many simple solutions. If you know what to do, you can help so many people from losing money.”
Brandon is set to join a firm in Illinois focused on estate planning and elder care law. He told Impact that he is excited to help educate clients about the best decisions they can make for their property.
Elizabeth Loewer (SPC ’22)
Elizabeth’s passion for serving the mission community through psychology began from her own experience growing up with missionary parents in Kenya.
She describes herself as a third-culture kid, growing up in a culture different from her parents’ upbringing. When she came to America for college, she found she had a knack for mentoring younger students and helping third-culture kids like herself navigate their identities.
“I knew from older mentors that often you can sort through that identity into your 20s and 30s,” said Elizabeth. “I felt passionate about that and the mentoring ministry.”
After graduating with her undergraduate degree, Elizabeth spent three years in Germany working as a resident assistant in a boarding school for missionary kids, an experience that she said confirmed her calling to support missionary families.
As she pursued her Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology at Regent, she explored her cultural identity and grappled with creating a home for herself in a new city once again. Through it all, she leaned on God’s faithfulness, remaining open to wherever He may call her next.
“I’ve seen Him be faithful every time I’ve started over. I’ve seen how He has provided for me,” said Elizabeth. “I’ve grown in confidence over the years that He is the one leading my future.”