Lydia discovered Corban University all on her own. Her parents had both gone to a Christian college in Florida, and up until January of Lydia’s senior year, they had thought she would do the same. Her mother had stopped setting aside all of her college mail—the postcards, pamphlets, and brochures now went straight into the trash.

“It was so strange,” Lydia says, “I was cleaning up my room and I found something in the garbage from Corban.” It was just a 3×5 postcard, but two words caught Lydia’s eye: “Free Application.” Not many schools had offered a free application, and she decided to check it out. As it turned out, Corban had a relatively new political science program, and Lydia hadn’t seen many Christian schools offering that, either—including the school she’d been planning to attend in Florida.

Lydia’s dream of studying political science had begun in a roundabout way when she started her own business at 13. Her father ran a booth at the local farmer’s market in Pocatello, Idaho, and Lydia decided to open up her own booth next to him. She called her business “The Little Baker,” and every Saturday she sold homemade cakes, candy, and baked goods. Her specialties were cinnamon rolls and biscotti. “I think the most we sold was 80 cinnamon rolls in one Saturday,” she says. And she did all the work herself—the first of many challenges she would undertake on her own.

After three years of baking nearly 100 cinnamon rolls and dozens of other treats each week, Lydia decided she loved many aspects of business—the economics that drive it, the communication that oils it, and the transactions that take place in order to satisfy customers’ needs and bring the business success. But she no longer wanted to own a business herself. “At that point, I realized that politics was really important to economics,” Lydia says. She observed that the kinds of transactions that happen in politics are a lot like those that happen in business—transactions of policy, rather than money or goods.

So when Lydia realized she could study political science at Corban, she applied. She knew her parents weren’t in a position to help her with tuition or student loans, so she could only attend Corban if she earned the McLaran Scholarship, reserved for outstanding political science majors. Even then, she’d have to work hard to afford living expenses. Once again, Lydia felt like she was tackling something all on her own.

Even though she’d applied late in the season, Lydia received word that she’d been accepted to Corban—and that she’d received the McLaran Scholarship.

She quickly fell in love with Corban in general and the political science program in particular. “We get a lot of really great adjuncts in the political science department,” she says, describing their expertise and experience. One professor is a former judge, she explains, while another is not only an ordained minister but also served as an Intelligence Officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

She also loved the way Corban encouraged her to keep her faith at the center of her politics. Although it’s not easy to be a Christian in today’s politics, Lydia is grateful for the way faith has shaped her thinking—particularly her principles and ethics. “I’m always questioning myself,” she says. “It’s tiring to question your motives and analyze why you do things. But it’s definitely enriching, and I think it’s something more politicians should practice.” It’s easy to get swept up by the allure of money and power, Lydia reflects, but her true motive should always be helping people. “I don’t want it to become all about money and power and climbing to the top.”

One of Lydia’s most enriching experiences was studying across the country in Washington, D.C., through Corban’s American Studies program. “It was amazing. It was definitely what I needed half way through as a sophomore—it kept me motivated and gave me a goal to drive myself toward.”

While in D.C., Lydia not only got to soak up D.C. culture and learn how the federal political system worked, but she also got to intern with a non-governmental organization called the National Conference of State Legislatures. Her role was to help conduct research on immigration policies in several different states. She even got to hear testimonies from local sheriffs on the U.S.-Mexican border, and learned that each state deals with its own struggles and experiences—stories that don’t always get told on a national scale. “As a result, I’ve gotten this new passion for working with immigrants and working internationally,” Lydia says. She dreams of going into international law or possibly even working with the State Department, responsible for international relations.

But the semester after her time in D.C., Lydia hit a roadblock. She’d officially moved to Salem from Pocatello earlier that summer, and finances were tight as she struggled to find roommates and a job. For a season, she worried that she’d have to pay for her apartment all on her own. “It was a lot of stress, and it all happened in August. I knew I probably shouldn’t do another semester without having a stable job.” So she decided to take a semester off, find work, and start classes again the following January.

If Lydia were any other student, she might never have actually made it back to school. But Lydia had a level of grit and determination that not all students have. She had also given herself some external motivation. “I’d left Idaho and moved here, and I lived right down the road from Corban. All my friends were here, and I was seeing them all the time. I didn’t want to steer from the goal of graduating, so I made sure I was staying involved.”

True to her word, Lydia came back the following January, and over the next three semesters, she took on extra credits so she could still graduate on time.

Looking back over her education at Corban, Lydia reflects, “It was definitely more challenging than I ever thought it was going to be.” She’d expected to be challenged academically, but she hadn’t expected to be challenged financially, emotionally, and spiritually. “But it turns out, the challenges ended up being the things that really helped me mature.” When money was tight—to the point of putting her education on hold for a semester—when roommates left unexpectedly or jobs didn’t turn out the way she had hoped, Lydia had to trust God. “Even if it felt like people were leaving me, I knew He wasn’t going to. Even when money got really tight, I knew it was going to work out, because God put me here.”

Since finding the 3×5 card from Corban in the garbage four years ago, Lydia has grown in courage and maturity. She’s realized that even when it felt like she was doing everything on her own—from baking 100 cinnamon rolls a week to finding a college to affording her apartment—she was never truly alone. God had brought her to Corban, he’d sustained her through financial difficulty, and he’d continue to sustain her, no matter what challenges or opportunities lay ahead.

Lydia graduates in May 2019 with a degree in Political Science.