Alumni Spotlight Archive
Kristin Hernandez’s journey to finding her purpose began at California Baptist University. She believes her time on campus significantly shaped who she has become both professionally and personally.
While living in Simmons Hall her freshman year, a Resident Assistant took the time to invest in Kristin, discipling her and helping her deepen her faith. As a result, she began to read the Bible regularly and surrounded herself with like-minded friends and mentors. They all cared about and supported each other and built a strong community around their shared values and beliefs. Because of the intentional discipleship she received, Kristin took the opportunity to do the same for others by becoming a resident assistant during her junior and senior years. She also traveled to Rwanda and the Middle East through ISP trips, opening her eyes to God’s heart for the nations and cultures beyond her own. Sharing her faith on these trips and discipling as a resident advisor helped her grow more in her compassion for others, leadership skills, and faith.
A 2011 graduate, Kristin was an English major with a journalism minor. She had always loved communications and writing, but her classes allowed her to grow as a writer and communicator that she never expected. As a senior, she presented a capstone project to the entire English department. It was a 50-page paper on the role of imagination in Katherine Patterson’s children’s books Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved. This experience solidified her dream of becoming a published author. Though she never expected God to lead her to write the book, she did.
Today, Kristin has realized her dream of becoming a published author with her book, Sunlight in December: a Mother’s Story of Finding the Goodness of God in the Storm of Grief. The journey to realizing this dream was not an easy one.
Kristin and her husband Chris, ’10 I have a 3-year-old son at home and five babies who are now with Jesus. Their firstborn son, Ethan, died shortly after birth in 2015 due to a rare chromosome disorder called Trisomy 9. It was through Ethan’s life and death and Kristin’s struggle with God, she ultimately found His goodness in the middle of suffering through prayer and reading His Word. This experience led Kristin to launch an online ministry and write her book.
The ministry also called “Sunlight in December,” includes her writings, speaking engagements, discipleship, a podcast called Through the Lens. Though most importantly, it has her walking alongside grieving mothers who have experienced infertility, miscarriage or the loss of an infant.
Kristin has partnered with various organizations and nonprofits. She offers resources to support groups, writes articles for blogs and speaks at retreats and conferences. She also leads support groups and simply offers prayer and a listening ear to those who are grieving.
Kristin hopes that others feel less alone and ultimately find the comfort of Jesus amid their suffering. She feels society often puts pressure on people to grieve quickly. Kristin wants those experiencing loss to know that God weeps with them and gives us space for biblical lament. She hopes to spread the message that our greatest hope is Christ, despite our circumstances.
Kristin hopes to one day write a second book. In the meantime, she is enjoying these God-given opportunities, loving on her family, connecting with friends over coffee, running, riding roller coasters and taking in those sunny days.
In these precarious times, Lucas Wehner, ’11/’12, has been using his leadership skills to make a difference. Since the end of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in 2014, Lucas has been one of the few people who have cared for former Afghan local staff in Germany. The group he works with recently rented three safe houses for the 350-plus former workers and their families and have been helping evacuate those family members left behind in Kabul.
Lucas came to California Baptist University in 2007. He had met Dr. Robert K. Jabs and his wife, Rita, while they were in Germany and was impressed with their conversations. Lucas felt like CBU was a very Christ-centered place and wanted to be a part of it. He majored in business administration and political science. As an international student with a heart for evangelism, he got involved in student leadership as an international student assistant. He kept this role through his senior year. He found so much value in the safe setting CBU provided, where the different chapels, classroom prayer and ability to share God’s love were so inclusive and accessible.
Many people touched Lucas’s path that helped fuel its trajectory to where he is today,
including many CBU community members. Dr. Jabs, Dr. Gayne Anacker, Bryan Davis, Jonathan
Bello and Chris McHornery, to name a few. The Knuppe family holds a special place
in Lucas’s heart as they became his U.S. family and helped to sponsor his studies
at CBU. Additionally, Lucas shared a special bond with Dr. Ellis, president of CBU.
Lucas shared his vision with Dr. Ellis about someday building a place like CBU in
Germany. Dr. Ellis spent significant time with Lucas sharing his journey, and he has
since become a cherished mentor.
Lucas stayed an additional year at CBU, completed his MBA, and worked as a graduate assistant in International Student Services. He returned to Germany in 2012 and began working for a small but growing Christian university, Internationale Hochschule Liebenzell. He has been a manager of the International Office/Library services. His duties include overseeing licensing and research tools, the study abroad program and international student programming.
In 2019, Lucas became a Municipal Administrator of Bad Liebenzell, a community of 3,600 residents in Germany. He serves the citizens of this community by problem-solving and advancing the town’s goals with his council members.
In all of his jobs and commitments, he realizes that it is about serving people by listening to them, comforting them, and having a humble heart and being a shining light of Christ. Lucas believes the answer to changing this world is love and the knowledge that the Kingdom of God has already started in every Christian. The change in the world has already begun within the hearts of those Christians. Lucas works to serve his students and his community by living and leading according to the verse, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
As he works to help in the evacuation process of many Afghan people, Lucas sees firsthand
the lesson that we must take responsibility for others in every generation. In these
history-making moments, we must see the world through His word and make our impact
in the service to others.
To say that teaching during the pandemic has been challenging would be an understatement. Still, Jessie Bekkedahl, ’02/’04, has made the best out of an impossible situation.
Jessie, a Kindergarten teacher for the Riverside Unified School District, has been nominated by fellow alum and friend Melissa Duncan-O’Brien, ’02/’04, as an alumni spotlight. Melissa recognized Jessie for her kind and humble spirit and ingenuity in finding a way to engage her students during remote learning.
During the pandemic, Jessie began making YouTube videos for her students featuring her rescue pup, referred to as Professor Ginger. The interactive videos teach topics ranging from letter sounds and math facts to learning how to properly fit a face mask with Professor Ginger as the star. Jessie’s videos became very popular among her fellow teachers, and her subscriber list grew. Soon local news outlets had picked up the story. Since then, Jessie has been on the TV, the radio and honored by the mayor. Most notably, she was featured in PEOPLE magazine.
Melissa nominated Jessie because she felt Jessie deserved to have her wonderful news shared with all CBU alumni. Melissa states, “this couldn’t have happened to a more gracious human being.”
While at CBU, Jessie was a member of the women’s softball team for three years. She graduated from CBU with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. In 2003, Jessie obtained her teaching credentials from CBU and then in 2004 a Masters of Science in Education, also from CBU. She has been teaching in the Riverside Unified School District for 18 years.
Check out more articles on Jessie’s inspiring work with Professor Ginger:
Jordan Singer, ’15, had been interested in art for years but didn’t have the opportunity to pursue his
passion until he began his journey at CBU. An adventure that led him to be discipled,
to deep friendships, to a career he loves and to the love of his life, Jessicah (Chappell)
Jordan believes God calls us to a vocation. He believes that God strengthened his hands to adorn the message of Christian authors and Pastors. Jordan feels he is but a tool in his Father’s hands, for which he is very thankful to be working as a senior designer at Crossway Publishing in Wheaton, Illinois. He oversees the design aspect of books, including cover designs and material specifications. Jordan was tasked with working on the cover design for the book, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund. He chose an image painted by Thomas Moran as it illustrated the feelings that scripture paints for us. The idea of the black sheep needing to hear the Good News of the Gospel and reassuring works of our Savior. It gave the book a timeless look but was indicative of the outstanding content inside. He used his skills to choose an appropriate typeface to support the illustration’s understated yet strong messaging.
For his work on this project, Jordan was awarded the Top Shelf Book Cover Award in 2020. This award is given annually to celebrate the year’s best book designs in Christian publishing. The covers are judged by some of the country’s top designers. Winners are chosen based on the conceptual thinking involved in the design process, the quality of the execution of the design and the appropriateness for the market.
In his downtime, Jordan has many hobbies, including reading and learning more about church history, drawing, painting, cooking with his wife Jessicah and playing with their daughter Adeline Grace, born in 2018.
Juan Arambul, ’14/’20, began his journey at CBU as a transfer student graduating in 2014 with a degree in communication studies. He then went on to receive a master’s from CBU in leadership and organizational studies in 2020. As a student at CBU, he spent time coaching basketball and track and volunteering at a summer camp as well as working full-time at Sherman Indian High School. These experiences, coupled with his passion for serving others and film production, led him to create and develop leadership initiative activities for a large non-profit based in Los Angeles. He began to serve communities throughout California, bringing a unique and innovative leadership style to youth and professionals alike.
In 2016, Juan decided to leave his full-time job to pursue his purpose by founding a creative agency, ALUMNEW, LLC. This venture eventually led to the development of a youth-oriented organization called ANEW Project. ANEW Project’s mission is to “inspire and empower individuals through innovative team building and leadership initiative activities while cultivating cohesive communities and helping people reach their highest potential.” At ANEW Project, Juan inspires others to look deep within themselves by using team building and leadership exercises to help them identify their passions and purpose in life. ANEW Project partners with schools and brings positive leadership resources to communities. Creating and building ANEW Project has come with many challenges and none more significant than that of the COVID-19 pandemic. Juan was grateful for his background in video production, which helped to navigate the virtual environment required during the past year. He has been able to continue to connect with large audiences and bring innovative experiences to their clients.
Juan hopes to continue to grow ANEW Project. He truly believes God commissioned him to start this ministry. As he stays faithful and dedicated to pursuing his purpose, God will continue to bless him. Serving others and helping to motivate them to be their best selves is a passion that invigorates Juan and continually challenges him to reach for his highest potential. Juan has found great joy through this journey and gives this advice: always seek wise counsel, a clear vision will focus your decisions, and share your gifts and talents with the world!
To learn more about ANEW Project, visit anewproject.org
Colton von Pertz, ’15, is a graduate of the CBU College of Architecture, Visual Arts and Design. He had
a concentration in video and animation and a minor in marketing, which he has turned
into a career in journalism. Colton is the Aerial Photojournalist & Reporter with
Angel City Air and is stationed with KTLA. He reports on live, breaking news like
police pursuits, brush fires, commercial fires, swift water rescues, protests, and
Colton’s journey to finding his purpose started at CBU as a commuter student while
working for Apple. Dirk Dallas, assistant professor of graphic design, challenged
Colton to find new perspectives while telling stories through photography and videography
and using drones to do so. This encouragement, coupled with real-world opportunities
to learn the industry, helped Colton succeed after graduation. First, taking a job
at Amazon doing product photography and now in his current role capturing breaking
news from the clouds. He loves the thrill of never knowing what story he will capture
next. He has found his passion in a field he loves and everyday lives his purpose
communicating truthful and timely news to the communities served by KTLA.
Colton hopes to continue chasing the next story, but also could see himself in a management
role one day. When off the clock, Colton volunteers at his church on the production
team, enjoys playing with his family’s four dogs, boating, traveling the world, and
finding just the right angle to capture the perfect sunset.
To see Colton’s introduction video for KTLA, click here!
Meet Tracy Waters, a 4th-grade teacher at Starlight Elementary in Beaumont, California, and the 2020 Riverside County Office of Education (RCOE) Teacher of the Year. Tracy is a 2012 graduate of the CBU Online and Professional Studies, Master of Science in Educational Leadership program. While at CBU, Tracy credits her professors for guiding and mentoring her in becoming a servant leader and learning how to implement a Biblical worldview into teaching and educational leadership
Growing up on a farm gave her a strong foundation of hard work, responsibility, and perseverance. Lessons she passes on to her students and other teachers she mentors. She was nominated for this award because of her “service above self” perspective. She involves her students in service projects like clothing drives, canned food drives, trash clean up, purchasing supplies for students in Africa, and more! She shows her students how they can make an impact on their community and the world. “She sees the possibility and the potential in every single student,” said Todd Oldenburg, parent of a student.
Tracy feels that public education is a sort of mission field in itself and the Lord has placed her in her role as an educator to be able to bring Jesus to those that need Him. She is living her purpose by encouraging, loving, inspiring, and teaching each child that crosses her path and helping them find and share their gifts—their purpose—with the world. Tracy says, “It is both a joy and an honor that He has chosen me to serve Him in this way.”
This past year, like many teachers, Tracy has had to look to technology more than ever before to navigate teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has tried to build relationships and engagement with her students and their families through phone calls, snail mail surprises, home visits to drop off and pick up materials, and making sure to have fun while online with dance parties and games. She has taken on the task to virtually build upon her teaching philosophy that through creativity, variety, and choice students are able to find their true potential and that every student plays a unique part in the orchestra of the learning experience.
Tracy and her husband Pat have two children. Owen is 13 and an eighth-grader and Jenna, 19, is a Liberal Studies major at CBU. They are heavily involved in their church, leading Home Fellowship for the past 15 years. They also enjoy camping, the beach, and any excuse to hang out with family and friends.
Learn more about Tracy and her award in this video from RCOE.
Micah Emerine, ’18, and his wife Rebecca Emerine, ’18, own a wedding videography business. Micah and Rebecca credit their time at CBU and in the College of Architecture, Visual Arts and Design for not only building their academic and spiritual foundation but giving them both hands-on experience. As student-workers and studying in Los Angeles in their final semester, they learned many of the skills they use today in their business.
Micah and Rebecca actually began their business when they were students at CBU, which allowed them to start building their portfolio very early on. They have filmed over 80 weddings, many of which are CBU students and alumni! Micah has worked with many different businesses, local musicians, and the Riverside International Film Festival in his freelance endeavors, using his skills in videography, aerial cinematography, editing, and design. He is also very dedicated to his work in the drone industry. He has been finessing his aerial coverage and piloting skills. But for Rebecca and Micah, their main focus and passion are weddings.
Currently, Micah works for the Inland Vineyard Church in Corona as the Media Coordinator. He handles everything from graphic design and animation to website design, photography, and videography. Rebecca works full-time for California Baptist University as an Admissions Communication Specialist.
Micah and Rebecca believe they live their purpose by using creativity to be a light in the world and further the Kingdom of God through their work. They hope to continue to grow their business to a point where they can both be full-time and eventually travel the world, capturing the beauty God has created.
Michelle Moore, ’14/’16, is in her first year working at Harvest Christian School as a physical education teacher and the athletic director. She attended CBU’s online and professional studies program later in life as a non-traditional student and is the first in her family to receive a college degree.
Michelle’s path to CBU started with a 100lb weight loss; she felt that if she could make choices that helped her reach her fitness and health goals, Michelle knew she could help motivate others to do the same. She chose to major in kinesiology and physical education. During her time in the program, her passion grew. She decided to continue her studies in the graduate program at CBU, eventually earning her M.S. in kinesiology with an emphasis in exercise science and cardiac rehab. She then went on to earn another Master of Education degree and her single-subject teaching credential from Alliant International University.
Michelle credits CBU professor Monica O’Rourke for guiding her with faith and expertise to help fuel her already passionate love of physical education. Because of this support, Michelle was able to participate in conferences and share her testimony and journey to a healthier life. She was also able to co-teach several physical education clinics. She credits CBU with being able to help her integrate a biblical foundation into her educational endeavors, helping her experience become more of a personal journey.
Michelle feels that God has led her to serve by finding her purpose in educating youth on the importance of physical activity and how it leads to a healthier lifestyle. She can combine her passion for fitness with her love of the Lord, all while making it fun!
Michelle feels blessed to be a physical education educator and an Athletic Director. These roles are not only her dream jobs, but they put her in a position to help her students find their purpose just as she has been able to find hers.
Michelle is a mother of five, Andrew (30), Kaylee (26), Faith (20), Blake (15), and Austin (9). Though attending school was a challenge, she had the encouragement of her husband, Jerald, and the rest of the family. She has set an example for her children, of which she is proud. First, the example of it never being too late to take an educational journey and then the joy in living your purpose every day.
Methode Maniraguha, ’13 is the founder and CEO of Current Renewable Engineering, Inc. (CRE), a company he started in 2018. CRE provides engineering services for the solar industry. Their expertise is in the engineering of solar PV systems, battery storage systems, and electric vehicles charging infrastructure. The team at CRE includes senior licensed professional engineers and project engineers, enabling them to offer solar industry-leading turnaround times and reliable engineering services nationally. Currently, they are licensed in over 30 states with the possibility of expanding their reach even further. They are working to continue creating tools, products, and services that will help achieve a sustainable energy future.
Methode came to CBU in 2009 under the Government of Rwanda and the CBU Presidential Scholarship program. He entered the engineering program studying electrical and computer engineering. CBU not only provided Methode with the foundation for his engineering education but was also a place where he learned the U.S. culture, made lifelong friendships, and grew in his faith as a follower of Jesus Christ. Methode states, “I am grateful for the government of Rwanda, CBU and their partners and donors that created an opportunity for a kid from Rwanda to get an education in the United States.”
Methode was recently awarded the 2020 Emerging Entrepreneur Award from the Greater Riverside Chamber of Commerce for his work with CRE. Methode believes his purpose is to create, launch, and successfully build stable, sustainable, and customer-centric businesses that address real-life problems and empower people through employment. He and his wife also have hopes of utilizing their resources to support the education of disadvantaged girls through Christian missions or however God leads them.
To read more about Methode, visit this article recently published by pv magazine: From Rwanda to Riverside.
Sarah Beene, ’15, Zachary Norton, ’16, and Kaytlyn (Contreras) Blank, ’17, all met while graduate students in the Athletic Training program at CBU. For Zach and Sarah, the long hours spent doing their clinical rotation led to a quick friendship that evolved into a relationship, and they are now engaged to be married in 2021. Kaytlyn met Zach while they were both in the program at CBU.
Kaytlyn then ended up doing her clinical rotation with Sarah, who was working full-time as a certified athletic trainer for the University of Redlands. They worked together for the 2016-17 basketball season and formed a close friendship.
During the summer of 2016, while attending a conference, Sarah and Zach met other CBU Athletic Training program alumni. They realized how many alumni there were and that they had no idea who they were. They had all attended the same program at the same school and hadn’t crossed paths until now. It was then that the idea for the Lance and Shield Association (LSA) formed. They took their idea to Kaytlyn, and with the help of Chase Paulson, ’11, developed the model of the association that is still used today. Zach, Kaytlyn, and Sarah then incorporated the Lance and Shield Association (LSA) as a non-profit organization.
The goal of LSA is to bring alumni of the CBU Athletic Training program together and give back to the alumni and current students. LSA provides an annual professional grant to alumni for continuing education, which is required of all certified athletic trainers. The grant intends to help offset registration costs, travel, or any other expenses that accompany these conferences. The LSA also offers two scholarships a year to current students of the program in hopes of fostering involvement in the profession and promoting networking. They also provide different programming to help develop skills students are learning in class and clinic. These skills may be tangible, hands-on skills such as injury evaluation or emergency response, or soft skills, like advocating for themselves, that will help them professionally. In addition, they host study sessions every spring for students preparing for their Board of Certification exam. The session focuses on critical thinking and gaining confidence in their knowledge.
But it’s not all work; every year, the LSA tries to plan at least one social event at the annual conference. This event encourages networking, mentorship, and information sharing between alumni, students, and friends of the program. Last year, during the second annual LSA Social, over 50 CBU alumni and current students from classes 2009-2020 attended.
In addition to working with the CBU Alumni & Parent Relations office as an affinity group, countless individuals have reached out to find ways to give back and get involved. The LSA credits this community with its success as an organization. Alumni who have helped the LSA with the study sessions, social media, and the annual social include Todd Conger, ’11, Ashley Musick, ’12, Megan Williams, ’15, Lauren Hoyt, ’16, Tyler Hoyt, ’16, Cami McCallum, ’17, and Becca Brown, ’20.
The LSA hopes to continue inspiring others to get involved and to begin more significant fundraising efforts. They aim to eventually be able to provide more continuous, long-term financial support to alumni and current students. The LSA is thankful for the support they have received. Those who have chosen to give back to the association each year are the inspiration to continue its growth and progress.
To find out more about the Lance and Shield Association, visit lanceandshield.org.
Dakota McMahand, ’15, established Budding Artists, an arts education nonprofit, with her friend, Sarah Tanberg in 2018. Dakota is a higher education professional, classical pianist, and first-generation college graduate. Dakota graduated from CBU with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Public Administration. She then went on to earn a Master of Arts in Education Administration from the University of South Dakota.
Budding Artists provides free process-based art experiences to preschool-aged children who live in underserved communities within Los Angeles county. The organization helps prepare children for participation in STEAM disciplines, by focusing on arts education to peak children’s interest in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Through the various program offered by Budding Artists, children learn how to think critically and problem-solve while using creativity—making them lifelong learners and engineers of creativity. Several programs support their mission, including the Exploration Program. The Exploration Program is a tuition-free, one-hour visual arts workshop that is held once a week for eight weeks during the summer. The program helps children make art to express and create meaning of their thoughts and ideas, which in turn helps them gain an understanding of a variety of subjects. Budding Artists also offers an Adult Process-Based Art Workshop, Adopt-a-Book Literacy Program, and the Gift of Play Project.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Budding Artists pivoted their work to “bring creativity home” with the launch of process-based art kits for families with young children as art not only supports the development of necessary STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills, it also brings healing during uncertain times. They have given away over 100 free art kits in the South East Los Angeles area. Funding from The Pollination Project, The Awesome Foundation, and Assemblymember Anthony Rendon (AD-63) have supported the project.
When Dakota is not volunteering her time with Budding Artists, you can find her working full-time in the Office of Academic Affairs at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, supporting the next generation of physicians.
To learn more about Budding Artists and how Dakota is not only living her purpose but is living for others, visit https://www.budding-artists.org