“When most of my friends were talking about what party to go to, and where to attend college, my experience was about ‘how do I survive? Where do I get food? Where am I going to sleep,” says Grace Maiden, now a senior at Corban University.
At age 17, Grace found herself homeless for the second time in her life. “I felt like everything had been ripped out of my hands,” she says. College had always been an active dream of hers. She worked and saved throughout her teen years with the hope of one day attending her dream school. Each day, she watched more of her savings slip through her fingers, caught in the wake of pure survival.
“When you don’t have a home, or a roof over your head, or a place to store food or your belongings, you can’t think about the future,” she says. “Every day when you wake up the answer to your situation could be different.”
But Grace’s response to her circumstances was anything but common. Most days, you could find her at the local homeless shelter, not as a resident, but as a volunteer. “I wanted to do something, but I also just wanted to be around people that got it,” she recalls. “There’s a different type of family that comes with the homeless community. We are all going through a lot and can just appreciate each other and not discriminate because we do see each other as humans.”
It was these selfless acts, serving through her own need, that reshaped her future. “God brought people into my life that heard my story and saw my heart,” Grace says. News began to spread of a young girl in crisis who was making the uncommon choice to help those in need, often at her own expense. Eventually, with the encouragement of a few key people in her life, she was chosen from a pool of over 2,000 applicants to receive a Ford Family Scholarship, covering her expenses to the school of her choice. She chose Corban.
While on Corban’s campus, Grace has flourished in an environment designed to meet her needs; physical, emotional, and spiritual. “It’s been such a healthy community where there are so many resources available,” she says. “I always brag about the free counseling options on campus. I’ve utilized that for all of my years here and it’s made an impact in deciding my career path and having healthy spiritual and mental health.”
That career path has begun more quickly than she would’ve even anticipated. Even before arriving on campus, Grace’s own experiences with homelessness were propelling her toward a career in nonprofit ministry. Seeing this desire in Grace, Corban Professor, Dr. Annette Harrison, connected her with local homeless ministry, Grace House.
“I currently work my dream job, and I got into that because of a personal relationship with my professors,” Grace says. “I feel like I’m actually making effective change in the area. I get to talk about the problems concerning homelessness and express and advocate for the needs of a population that doesn’t always have a voice. I get to talk to local church leaders and help them find ways to get involved beyond Sunday mornings. Corban helped me get here.”
While finishing her degree, Grace currently works as Administrator of Strategic Growth for Grace House, helping to expand their reach and serve even more women in homelessness crisis. She’s already putting her degree to good use. “Most of psychology is not dominated by a Christian worldview, but what happens when you can take very healing scripture, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit, and integrate that with very practical and helpful concepts?” she says. “Corban has equipped me both clinically and theologically to be able to step into a space that is either religious or secular and help those that are in crisis.”
The road has not been easy for Grace, but it has taken her from a place of survival, never being able to look more than a day ahead, to serving those in need each day, all while imagining a realistic future where she could run a nonprofit of her own. “I feel blessed by my struggles,” she says. “And Corban has been a blessing for me in this season. God’s been in all of it. Out of every one of my trials has come something good.”