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Miller named Boys Basketball head coach

Former Boys Basketball player and assistant coach Ryan J. Miller ‘99 has been named head of the Boys Basketball program with Lance Stemler as associate head coach. Coach Miller also played collegiately at Eastern Kentucky University. He was assistant coach here, as was Coach Stemler, under former coach Lou Lefevre. 

During Miller’s five years as assistant coach at Providence, the boys’ program experienced levels of unprecedented success, with a No. 1 state ranking, three sectional titles, and two semi-state appearances. The program also led the state in lowest defensive points-per-game allowed in Class 2A.

Coach Miller also was assistant coach at Floyd Central High School for five seasons. During that time, the Highlander program was consistently ranked in the top 10 in Class 4A. Coach Miller said he is grateful for the mentoring he received from both head coaches.

Coach Miller and his wife, Danielle (Himmelhaver) Miller ’99, and their three children are members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, where their children also attend school.

Coach Stemler played basketball at Gibault Catholic High school in Waterloo, Ill., and collegiately at Indiana University, where he was the team captain on a Top 10 nationally ranked team, and was recently inducted into the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame. He is married to Amanda (Loi) Stemler ‘05, and they have two sons. The family also are members of OLPH, and the boys attend OLPH School.

Coach Miller said he is excited to return to his alma mater as head coach, noting that his extended family — from his parents to their siblings and his own siblings – all are Providence graduates.

“Providence is our community,” Coach Miller said. “I’m just glad to be back here. I have a great deal of pride for the entire New Albany Deanery and Providence.”

Coach Miller and Coach Stemler are looking forward to coaching together again and leading the boys’ basketball program.

“We look forward to bringing a great sense of pride for our players and the community and how we play and represent the program,” Coach Miller said.

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’61 grad prizes Honor Flight experience

When Bob Petraits ’61 applied to take part in an Honor Flight, which provides veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War with a free one-day trip to Washington, D.C., to tour the city’s war memorials and nearby Arlington National Cemetery, he never thought he would be selected. Most of the recipients of the trip are World War II or Korean War veterans, so he mostly forgot about it.

In March, he was thrilled to receive word he was selected to be a participant in May on Honor Flight 30 out of Indianapolis. Petraits had been to D.C. with his wife, Gayle, a few years ago, but that trip could barely compare to the Honor Flight he just took.

Petraits said he did indeed feel honored at every step of the trip. The day started with breakfast in a high school gym accompanied by his oldest daughter, Amy, as his guardian. (The program requires a veteran to have a younger family member or friend to accompany them on the trip and assist them as needed.) The 85 veterans and their guardians took a bus to the airport, where they sailed past security and immediately boarded their flight.

“What was so neat was we didn’t have to wait on any lines,” he said. “We just walked right through and got to our plane.”

The group arrived in D.C. at 8 a.m. and were immediately welcomed as heroes.

“When we got off the plane and got into the concourse there, there were people lined up on both sides cheering us,” Petraits said. “That was kind of awesome because if you ever talk to any Vietnam veterans when they came back to the States, it was the exact opposite. … So having people on both sides, you walk down the middle of them, and they would cheer us, they wanted to shake our hands. I thought, ‘Wow, this is cool.’”

The participants then boarded charter buses with a police escort that got them through any congested traffic and to their stops on time. The veterans visited the World War II Memorial, and many of them, including Petraits, had their photo taken next to the Indiana pillar. Eleven other Honor Flights from other states also were there that day, and those members took photos at the pillar representing their state, Petraits said.

Next, they visited the U.S. Air Force Memorial and saw the garden dedicated to those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon – two places Petraits had not seen on his prior visit. Then they toured the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, featuring the flag raising at Iwo Jima. Petraits was a Marine, doing one 13-month tour in Vietnam and being honorably discharged as a sergeant in 1967. They also visited the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam War Memorial.

Petraits said he was glad he had more time on his first visit to the Vietnam Wall to locate the names of friends killed in action in the war. The second trip was still meaningful, especially since the majority of the veterans on this Honor Flight were fellow Vietnam veterans. The most touching experience was their visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery.

A primary reason veterans are accompanied by a younger relative and not their spouse is so their guardian can push the veteran’s wheelchair should he or she get tired and need a break from walking during the whirlwind tour, Petraits said. He wondered how many veterans would need to have wheelchairs in Arlington due to the distance of the tomb from the parking lot. Much to his surprise, however, the group was delivered by their charter bus right to the steps at the foot of the memorial.

Even though it was his second trip to the tomb and witnessing the changing of the guard, he said he was still struck by the solemnity of the occasion.

“It brings tears to your eyes,” Petraits said.

By the end of the day, the group was exhausted, and about half of the veterans had resorted to wheelchairs, he said. But the honors weren’t over. As the group got ready to board the plane, each veteran was handed a large manila envelope stuffed with letters written by family as well as strangers. Petraits said he spent most of the return flight looking through the letters and several more hours the next morning.

The biggest surprise came at the school where they had met earlier that day. When they drove up, two fire trucks with ladders extended held a huge American flag. Then, when they entered the school gym, he was overwhelmed by the families, friends, and strangers welcoming the group back to Indianapolis. His daughter carried an oversized cutout of him in his Marine uniform as he entered the gym with his name announced over the loudspeaker.

“I almost broke down crying because it’s so overwhelming,” he said.

Petraits said he is very grateful to the Honor Flight program and the chance to visit D.C. with his daughter on her first trip to the nation’s capital. He has two other children, a son and a daughter, and five grandchildren plus his wife’s five grandchildren. So getting to spend time with her alone was special.

“It was good education for her plus we got to spend some quality time together,” he said. “It was just good for both of us to be together, and she could enjoy it just as much as I did.”

Petraits spent most of his life in the Indianapolis area. He grew up in Speedway, a suburb on the west side of the city, until his father was transferred to New Albany, bringing him to Providence as a sophomore. His family moved back to Indianapolis while he was still trying to make his way through the University of Cincinnati. He left college after his sophomore year and within six months received a letter he should report for his physical for the draft. A friend convinced him to visit the Marines recruiting office, and although his friend wasn’t accepted and was later drafted into the U.S. Army, Petraits did enlist and was later stationed in Vietnam.

After returning to Indianapolis, he eventually settled into a career driving 18 wheelers over the road and locally while also operating a Christmas tree farm in Pittsboro with his first wife, who passed away just prior to his retirement in 2000. He said going through her death was difficult on him and his children, who were then in their 20s, but they were able to work through it. He met his current wife while he lived in Florida, where he moved after selling his interest in the tree farm. She convinced him to move back to Indianapolis several years ago, and they stay busy visiting their children and grandchildren.

As for the Honor Flight, it’s an experience he will long treasure.

“It was just a memory I’m going to have the rest of my life,” Petraits said. “I feel lucky I was able to get to go.”

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Class of 1969 hits $50K milestone

The Class of 1969 set new heights for class endowment fundraising efforts in honor of its 50th reunion. It is the first class to raise $50,000 for its class endowment fund. The goal was to accomplish that by May 22, the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Providence graduation, and the class met its goal.

Tom Raidy ’69, Jerry Wayne ’69, and Dottie (Galligan) Zipp ’69 were instrumental in leading the charge to meet the $50,000 goal. They are pleased that their classmates rose to the challenge and believe it is a testament to the cohesiveness and specialness of their class.

“I feel very happy and proud to be a member of the Class of 1969,” Raidy said. “It is full of great people and we had an amazing class president and lifelong friend to all of us, (the late) Mike Naville (’69). We have had great turnouts to the reunions over the years, and the classmates seem to have remained good friends regardless of time and or distance.”

Naville continued to lead the class long after graduation, and his classmates followed his example of his support for Providence. And they continue to do so after his passing.

“Mike was a kind and generous man, and I think it spread throughout the class, so, I’m not surprised we made the goal,” Raidy said. “I believe Mike is looking down with a huge smile. Reaching the $50,000 goal and being the top donating class during our 50th anniversary year shows the rest of our fellow alumni what we already knew – the Class of ‘69 is a great class made up of very good and very generous people.”

The class has several other leaders as well. Raidy credits Diane Lander-Simon ’69 with sparking the initial class endowment fundraising efforts at the class’s 40th reunion. Lander-Simon told her classmates that their endowment was below $5,000 and encouraged them to donate. They responded, and within a decade, donated more than $40,000 to reach the milestone amount today.

Wayne agrees with Raidy that their classmates’ generosity is a testament to the special quality of the class.

“The class of 1969 was always special,” Wayne said. “We heard it from teachers long after we graduated. Being the first class to hit $50,000 is another example of the uniqueness of this remarkable group of fine individuals. Mike Naville … led by example, and a lot of us give him credit for holding us together, and he would be so proud of this benchmark we’ve achieved.”

Zipp said she is pleased to see her classmates continue to support the school she loves so dearly. Her love for Catholic education began with her parents, who valued it highly, sent her and her siblings to the old St. Augustine School in Jeffersonville and to Providence. She would have attended Bellarmine except it didn’t offer her major, physical education and health. So she attended the University of Louisville and was hired to teach P.E. after earning her degree. Her goal was to “build sports programs for girls from scratch” to give them more opportunities than what she had, “to be a cheerleader or a tennis player,” she said. 

“I worked to get basketball, volleyball, and softball teams started,” she said. “Fast forward to now, and I want anyone who wants to attend Providence to be able to. My parents worked hard and sacrificed to put six kids through Catholic school, and I hope everyone in the Class of 1969 appreciates the sacrifices their parents made for them and will contribute.

“I am so happy our class has met its goal because as a teacher at Providence, I personally taught many children of my classmates and I got to see the success of future leaders of our community. We need to keep Providence thriving in our community.”

Twenty percent of the Class of 1969 made contributions to help the class get to $50,000, and Wayne, Raidy, and Zipp want that number to grow to 50 percent participation in honor of their 50th reunion – and to meet their next goal.

“Now that we’ve hit $50,000, I say let’s get to $69,000, and let’s do it quickly,” Wayne said.

While Providence has made great strides in building the school’s overall endowment fund, it stands below the objective of reaching $3 million set forth in the Endowing the Future campaign. Endowment funds are still invested for growth in the short term, but in the long term, the plan is to use them to address the ever-present need for financial assistance and fortification of teacher salaries. If your class is not “on the board” in class endowment efforts, it not too late to get started. You can benefit from a challenge gift that will match the first $500 raised and also contribute an additional $500 if the total has reached $4,500.


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Medical mission trips a driving force for ’07 grad

Elizabeth Ansert ’07, in the middle/back row, has taken two medical mission trips as a podiatric medicine student and is planning two more.

Elizabeth Ansert ’07 is in her last semester at the Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine in Miami Shores, Fla., but she already has experience providing medical care to those who need it most. She has participated in two medical mission trips to the Dominican Republic, and she is planning two upcoming trips, one to Guyana in South America and one to Uganda in Africa. To help others experience serving the most needy on medical mission trips, she was co-founder of an annual fundraiser that offers scholarships to college students wanting to go. Her efforts earned her the Student Medical Missionary of the Year award from Jose’s Hands, a nonprofit organization that introduces first-year medical school students to medical mission trips. 

Ansert went on her first medical mission trip as a med school freshman. Her mother, a nurse, had always talked about going on one but had never gone herself. So when Ansert got an email promoting an upcoming trip, she knew she had to go. She joined five of her classmates and helped provide general medical care to those in need in the Dominican Republic and found inspiration to return again, the second time as a team leader.

“It was interesting seeing the way people were living and the way they were so grateful for just basic medical care,” she said. “It was such a spiritual and emotional experience for me that I found this passion for, so it’s something I try to do once a year, and I also want other people to experience it.”

During her sophomore year at Barry, she and two classmates founded Party for a Cause, which raises money to cover some of the expenses for students’ medical mission trips. The first year, the event raised about $1,500. Last year, the event raised $5,000 and helped 13 students. This year, the event raised more than $6,000 and should help nearly 20 students.

Initially, the money received helped Barry students with medical mission trip expenses, but Ansert has been helping develop the Podiatry Medical Missions Association to promote the scholarship to podiatric medical students around the country.

For her upcoming medical mission trips, Ansert wanted to be part of a podiatric care team. So she found a way to help plan them by serving as an executive board member of the nonprofit organization Podiatry Overseas. She is helping to organize trips to Guyana and Uganda. Planning such trips includes overcoming several challenges, including gaining permission from the destination country and the U.S. government, obtaining travel visas, and getting the necessary medical supplies and equipment to the site. If the trip to Guyana is approved, the medical mission team primarily will provide podiatric surgery during its late April trip. For the trip to Uganda in June, Ansert will lead the medical mission’s podiatry clinic for one of the two weeks.

She also will help prepare those going on their first medical mission trip to help them understand the dual aspects of serving others in need and providing medical care. Training others is just as rewarding as participating in the trip itself, Ansert said. She discovered her love of teaching while serving as a teaching assistant as she pursued her master’s degree at IU. At Barry, she is a teaching assistant once again and said she likes to “see people learn the skills sets they need,” especially those preparing for medical mission trips.

Ansert said she is looking forward to the podiatry-focused trips and anticipates the group will provide treatment for everything from congenital deformities to deformities caused by past trauma. 

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “This is going to be the first time that there is a specific podiatric clinic, and a specific place for podiatry, so the one with surgery is even more exciting because we’re getting to make these huge, life-changing impacts on these patients that typically their country may or might not have the services or podiatry in that country, or there might not be the equipment or the funding to get the services they need.”

This final semester certainly is a busy one for Ansert, as she completes her schooling, plans two medical mission trips, and awaits the results of her residency match in mid-March. She has applied in various states, including Colorado, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Massachusetts. She will complete three years of residency followed by a one- or two-year fellowship.

Ansert said it’s part of her personality to stay busy.

“I’m naturally a passionate person, so when I find something I like, I run with it,” she said “It’s something my parents instilled in me. They always emphasized working hard and doing something that you love. Between that and having a type A personality, if it’s something I like, I just go for it.”

That approach to life is how Ansert came to study podiatry. She started out as a biology major with a minor in chemistry at Indiana University Bloomington. In 2010, she entered the police academy and joined the IU Police Department, which prompted her to add the majors psychology and criminal justice. After earning her bachelor’s degree in three majors in 2012, she earned her master’s in forensic psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.

In 2014, she returned to New Albany but found few positions available in forensic psychology. She spent a year and a half as a psychological therapist but found it unrewarding. Ansert began to consider medical school and shadowed physicians in different specialties, including a distant relative who is a local podiatrist. When she saw his work, she was immediately intrigued.

“You’re getting to work with your hands, you’re getting to bounce around and do different things, so I thought this is what I might want to do,” she said.

She particularly liked podiatric medicine’s versatility. Unlike most medical specialties, podiatric medicine is not focused on a specific system of the body. It offers a range of care from cardiovascular and neurological to dermatologic and muscular care within the lower extremities of the body. The field also has its own specialties, and Ansert said she is most interested in wound care and forensic podiatry, a subspecialty she discovered her sophomore year. She became so fascinated with it that she started a forensic podiatry club.

Her interest in forensic podiatry no doubt springs from her former interest in police work, and ties all of her college degrees together. With several years of training still ahead, Ansert is leaving her options open. But whatever focus she ultimately chooses, she will continue to help others, whether it’s providing podiatric care in a U.S. medical practice or overseas on a medical mission trip.

“I got that from my family,” she said. “They taught me if you can help somebody, you should do it. My grandparents, parents, they taught me that you always help people whenever you can.”

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Mr. Mathews teaches more than language skills

Mr. Alan Mathews ’88 is one of six finalists for the 2019 St. Mother Theodora Excellence in Education Award from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. In his 14th year as Spanish teacher at Providence, he also is the World Languages Department chairperson and the sponsor of the Spanish Club. Mr. Mathews said he is honored to receive the nomination and become a finalist, and he sees the award as validation that his job is a ministry.

“I’m trying to give back,” he said. “It’s good to have someone recognize that we see our job as a vocation.”

Dr. Mindy (Lankert) Ernstberger ’74 said she is grateful for the many ways Mr. Mathews has shared his gifts and talents with Providence, in the classroom and with his many other contributions at school and in the community.

“He is a gifted teacher, one who is known for high academic standards and achievement as well as positive student relationships,” Dr. Ernstberger said. “He is truly dedicated to Catholic education, and we are so fortunate to have Alan working on behalf of Catholic education in the Archdiocese.”

Mr. Mathews said that looking back upon his work history, he can see that he has always been teaching in some capacity although he’s only worked as a teacher the last 13 1/2 years. During his 12 years in the restaurant business, for example, he spent a portion of that time as a manager and trained much of the dining room staff, teaching them how to provide good service and deal with customers.

But he’s also been a lifelong learner, which is how he ended up going from various jobs in sales to become a high school Spanish teacher. His first college degree was a bachelor’s in psychology with a minor in Spanish from Indiana University Southeast. Working in restaurants where a number of the employees were Hispanic gave him a further chance to practice speaking Spanish. He improved his language skills even more while working in Florida as an insurance salesman and meeting with customers, many of whom were Hispanic, in their homes.

In the early 2000s, he was back in Southern Indiana working as a car salesman and because of his fluency in Spanish was often asked to interpret interactions with Hispanic customers with limited or no English-speaking skills. One day a co-worker suggested he become a Spanish teacher because he was so skilled at speaking the language. That suggestion took root, and Mr. Mathews returned to college, this time to the University of Louisville, to earn his bachelor’s degree in Spanish and master of arts in teaching.

He was still working on his master’s when a position for a Spanish teacher here opened, something he sees as “divine intervention,” he said.

“What are the chances a position opened the year I was eligible,” Mr. Mathews said, adding that he completed that master’s degree in December 2006, a few months after he started teaching here.

Mr. Mathews is working on his second master’s degree, this one in Spanish, to maintain his eligibility to teach ACP Spanish. His coursework has greatly expanded his Spanish-speaking skills even more and given him more ideas for his classroom. It also will give him a chance to fulfill his dream of traveling to Spain thanks to a study abroad in Madrid this summer.

Going to Madrid will help him learn even more about Hispanic culture, something he always tries to work into his lesson plans. For example, he helps his students celebrate traditional Hispanic holidays, including Día de Muertos, a Spanish holiday centered around All Saints Day. Being able to incorporate different elements of cultural experiences, from holidays to clothing and rituals, feeds his interest in trivia and history – and keeps teaching Spanish interesting.

“It’s not just nouns and verbs,” he said. “You can talk about geography one day, and music and arts and crafts another day. It’s a whole world of culture.”

Mr. Mathews brings the opportunity to experience Hispanic culture outside the classroom. He is the faculty sponsor of the Spanish Club, one of the largest and most active extra-curricular organizations on campus. Over the years the Spanish Club has held various fundraisers – from bake sales to a 5K run – to raise money to donate to the Hispanic Connection of Southern Indiana, a non-profit organization specializing in family-based immigration with programs in family literacy and preventive health.

The club also focuses on recycling services on campus. Under Mr. Mathews direction, the club worked to bring a permanent recycling dumpster to campus to collect recycled materials and to install recycling canisters in the cafeteria. Initially, recycling services had been a duty of the Recycling Club, initially sponsored by former Spanish teacher Ms. Emily Brown. When she left Providence, Mr. Mathews incorporated recycling into the Spanish Club’s duties because it teaches students to be “responsible stewards of our natural resources,” he said, especially since “so many parts of Latin America are in constant threat of abuse of their natural resources.”

In his free time, Mr. Mathews enjoys outdoor sports, including running. He is training for his fourth Kentucky Derby Festival minimarathon, which he will run this spring. He also is an amateur woodworker and has made two crosses of slate that hang at school, including one in his classroom and a larger one in the Robinson Auditorium lobby. He also has donated several crosses and wooden benches as prizes for the silent auction at the annual PHS Gala. He has shared his interest in woodworking with his students by encouraging the Spanish Club to make and sell ornaments at Christmas as a fundraiser for the Hispanic Connection.

Mr. Mathews and his wife, Jennifer, were married last summer and live in New Albany.

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Peace Corps offers ’15 grad chance to serve, grow

Robbie Gaines ’15 earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Bellarmine University in just three years and was on track to begin the doctoral physical therapy program there. As much as he loved the physical therapy program, he felt a call to enter the Peace Corps, a longtime interest of his. He applied, was accepted, and in July began his 15-month assignment in Botswana, Africa, working in health clinics throughout the country to educate and treat AIDS/HIV patients, primarily with children.

Here is a Q&A about his experiences:

Question: Why did you choose to enter the Peace Corps?
A: I joined the Peace Corps to learn about the world, to learn about myself, and to grow each day with the people around me through the challenges and success of day-to-day life.

Q: What do you enjoy about your work?
A: I thoroughly enjoy working to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana and working with my clinic staff because we are able to truly see how we can have an enormous impact on the lives of everyone in the village. With the HIV/AIDS epidemic, roughly one in four people are HIV positive, which in turn, means that everyone in the village is impacted either directly or indirectly. Because of this, my co-workers, counterparts, and I get to address health issues in a broader, holistic approach to address all the challenges of HIV. These challenges include the stigma of HIV and HIV testing, the ability to discuss health challenges among peers, as well as prevention and maintaining adherence to ARVs (the combination of medication used to lower the viral load of HIV patients).

Q: What do you find challenging? Rewarding?
A: One particularly challenging aspect of my service as a clinic-health specialist in a rural village in Botswana is that every project, or every event, has to include and be approved by most all community leaders, which means that no event or project can be created in an instant. It takes time and takes countless meetings with my counterparts and me to enact a certain change. However, it is exactly this [process] that I am eternally grateful for because it reminds me to slow down and remember the infinite importance of human connection and relationships. In Botswana culture, business as well as life, is much more relaxed and is focused more on human relationships rather than utilizing every second in the day to be efficient in paperwork and other duties.

Q: Your degree was in exercise science, and your work in Botswana is in health and clinics. Are you considering work in the medical field?
A: I am in fact considering work in the medical field. I really enjoy learning more and more about public health and how to ensure that all populations are adequately and lovingly cared for and have the same opportunity to succeed in life. Health is, quite obviously, closely linked with human behaviors, and I would like to see myself continuing to learn about how I can implement culturally appropriate health and youth development programs that give all people the opportunity to realize their potential despite obstacles they face that are out of their control.

Q: How did your schooling prepare you for this work?
A: My previous education at both Providence and Bellarmine University have undoubtedly helped shaped me into the person I am today. Both Providence and Bellarmine taught me that not all education exists in the classroom. The opportunity to partake in community service has helped me understand that in order to understand ourselves as students, we must first begin with what it means to be human — humans with inquisitive minds who are open to change and [with] warm hearts that are ready to guide us to our next adventure. I believe Providence and Bellarmine, through the constant help and guidance of teachers and staff, have fostered a nurturing environment that helps me to seek the next opportunity to grow and learn what it means to me to be human in my own life.

Q: Are you able to travel in your free time?
A: I am able to travel in my free time and weekends, and with this, I am so happy to be in the beautiful country of Botswana. The population of Botswana is around 2 million people, which seems like a decent amount. However, no matter where I travel, I always find someone who knows my name and knows people who talk about me from my own village. I am honestly not sure which I love more – the land and wildlife of the country or the neverending hospitality of the Batswana (the people of Botswana) across the country!

Q: What do you most enjoy about the area?
My village is located in the Central District of Botswana, which is fairly flat and dry. However, every day, I go on a run through my village just before sunset. And each day I have countless children from the village join me and run with me. Seeing the smiles on their faces as we run together every day while enjoying a uniquely beautiful sunset is something that warms my heart each and every day.

There is nothing more satisfying in this world than feeling as if you are right where you are supposed to be in the world. For me, I feel this way when learning about the world from the world itself. Being a Peace Corps volunteer is a challenge that fulfills me, pushes me, and most importantly, assists me in my journey to become the best version of myself. If anyone has ever been interested in joining the Peace Corps, I would say to follow that desire and discover the beautiful places it will take you.

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’91 grad to teach at international Jazzercise event

Stacie (Fleshman) Barnes ’91 fell in love with Jazzercise the first time she tried it more than 20 years ago, and now she is celebrating her 20th anniversary as a certified instructor along with the 50th anniversary of the dance-based fitness company. Barnes also is a Jazzercise franchise owner and will be part of the company’s international celebration in June as an instructor for its East vs. West program.

Barnes will be one of many presenters at the company’s 50 Years Strong Celebration in San Diego, Calif., which will include two full days of exercise classes for Jazzercise instructors and the public. She was selected after submitting a video of her instruction technique and is honored and thrilled to be a part of the event, she said.

“I’m just really excited,” she said. “Being up in front of thousands of people will be a way different experience than being in front of a class of 40 or 45 people.”

Barnes is confident she will be well prepared for the large class because Jazzercise will provide her with the music and choreography, just as the company does for all the routines taught at its 8,200 franchises worldwide. She also will receive free exercise wear and likely a pair of athletic shoes. She has attended several events for Jazzercise instructors over the years, but this is her first time to lead a class.

Barnes attended her first Jazzercise class in 1998 in New Albany at the invitation of her friend and classmate Tricia (Stiller) Kirchgessner ’91. Immediately, Barnes loved the dance-based fitness program. Within a year, she went through the training process and auditioned to become an instructor at the owner level because she saw the advantage of owning her own franchise.

After teaching in downtown New Albany for a while, she opened the first Jazzercise franchise in Corydon at the historic Leora Brown School. She taught classes three days a week as the site’s only instructor. After 18 months, though, she decided she wanted to return to college. Having previously received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Indiana University Southeast in 1995, she enrolled in the University of Louisville to study speech and language pathology.

While she was taking college classes, Barnes continued to teach Jazzercise as a substitute instructor. Then came an opportunity to become an instructor at a Jazzercise franchise in Prospect, Ky. She had moved to Louisville by that time, so she took on that role. When the owner wanted to sell the franchise, she realized she missed owning her own business and took advantage of the opportunity in June 2008.

In late 2011, she purchased a second franchise with the intention of merging the two locations. Operating two locations meant she had to hold classes on separate nights so that she could be at each location, even with other instructors to help teach. Merging, however, allowed her to increase the number of instructors and the number of classes offered. Additionally, the Prospect location was in a church basement, and signage ordinances prevented her from posting a sign on the exterior or in front of the building, so growth there was limited to word of mouth.

“It just made better business sense,” Barnes said.

With that purchase, she decided to lease space in the Holiday Manor shopping center on Brownsboro Road in Louisville. Signing a lease was a big step up from renting a room in a church basement and a bit intimidating, Barnes said. The lease was for five years and a commitment to build her business to make the monthly payment.

“I had to take a leap of faith, and I had to say, ‘I want this,’” she said.

Her Jazzercise Louisville East Premier Fitness Center has been a success from the beginning. It’s location in a highly visible and high traffic strip mall attracts plenty of new customers, she said

“That’s been a key component to our success,” Barnes said.

Three years ago, she bought the Jazzercise Jeffersonville Fitness Center, located on 10th Street next to Maxwell’s House of Music. She owned both locations for a little over a year until her husband lost his job and she needed to take on a second job to help out. She sold the Jeffersonville location but continues to operate the Louisville East location.

Barnes said she loves being a part of the Jazzercise company and being an instructor. The company provides marketing materials and administrative support as well as choreographed lessons and music. Each class is tailored to target various muscles and provide aerobic exercise in a fun atmosphere while offering low to high impact options as well as strength training. Thirty new choreographed lessons arrive every six weeks, which keeps the routines and music fresh for students and instructors.

During her two decades as a certified instructor, Barnes met and married her husband, Chad, and had a daughter who is now 11. For a time, her husband, who is a ballroom dance instructor, also was a certified Jazzercise instructor at her fitness center. She hopes someday her daughter will join her as an instructor and maybe even take over the business.

Barnes also is an assessment coordinator for the Jazzercise Training & Development Department. She views submitted videos of instructors around the world and offers coaching to help them improve their technique. Being able to talk with instructors from other countries, people she never would have met otherwise, is just one of the many things she loves about her business.

As for the 50 Years Strong Celebration in June, Barnes and her family are looking forward to making it a vacation. And she is looking forward to teaching in front of her peers. It’s the culmination of all her efforts over the years, doing a job that doesn’t feel like work.

“I absolutely love Jazzercise,” Barnes said. “I don’t know what I would do without it. It’s been with me 20 years. I found what I love.”

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Ivy League grad schools feel like home for 2 alumni

Most of our alumni earn a bachelor’s degree within a few years of their Providence graduation, and many of them continue on to graduate school to pursue professional careers, from medicine to law. These alumni are just as discerning about which is the right school for their desired program as their parents were about choosing Providence. Two recent alumni have chosen Ivy League schools to complete their schooling, in part because of the community atmosphere that is similar to what they experienced as Pioneers. Corby Burger ’12 is pursuing a juris doctorate degree at Cornell Law School at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and Derek Wenning ’14 is pursuing a doctorate in economics at Princeton University in New Jersey.

Question: How did your major evolve from pre-med at DePauw to law school?

Corby Burger: When I first got to DePauw, I planned on majoring in biochemistry. I wanted to go to medical school after graduation or maybe get into the research side of things. I enjoyed my pre-med courses and got pretty good grades. Things changed when I took a comparative politics course during the second semester of my freshman year. The course boiled down to a single question: “What is a State, and what purpose does it serve?” I loved the challenge of answering such a vast, all-encompassing question; a question with no “right” answer. In the hard sciences, you try to answer questions about how the world works. In the social sciences, you’re not only asking how the world works, but you’re often trying to decide how the world should work. What is fair? What is just? Who should make these decisions in our society? I was hooked on the ambiguity inherent to these normative questions, and eventually I changed my major to political science.

To me, political science is the ultimate liberal arts major. It required me to synthesize history, psychology, philosophy, economics, statistics, and a host of other fields in order to formulate and defend my arguments. I entertained notions of going to grad school for political science, but I didn’t want to stay in academia. I wanted to be closer to the action, I wanted to see the results of my work in the real world, I wanted to work on behalf of others, and I needed a career that would allow me to help support my family.

Law school was the obvious choice. 

Question: How did you choose your undergrad and grad school major?

Derek Wenning: I enrolled at IU-Bloomington as a physics major, which I quickly found out was the wrong decision. I had always loved math, so I switched my major to mathematics in my second semester with the intention of becoming an actuary. This route forced me to take an introductory microeconomics course. After doing very well in the course, I decided to challenge myself and enrolled in the honors intermediate microeconomics course the following fall semester. It was this class, taught by Dr. James Walker, my eventual thesis advisor and good friend, that really opened my eyes to what economics was and how it could be used to understand the institutions around us and rationalize the human behavior that these institutions incentivized. Dr. Walker, as well as a handful of other phenomenal professors, inspired me to work my way towards enrolling in an economics Ph.D.

Q: Describe the process of choosing your graduate school.

CB: After I graduated from DePauw, I worked as a legal intern in the Office of the Prosecutor for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. I helped put together a case against former Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladić for genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of the laws of war. I had a fantastic experience at the ICTY and was fortunate enough to befriend people from all around the world. I loved being a part of the prosecutorial team, and I left The Hague confident in my decision to pursue a career in the law. Now the hard part was trying to get accepted into a top-tier program.

I applied to a number of different law schools, but with only three weeks left before the beginning of the 2017 semester, I was still on the admissions waitlist at all my top schools: Cornell, Columbia, NYU, and Georgetown. I had offers from Vanderbilt, George Washington, UCLA, and a few others, but I knew I had to do something to get a spot at one of my top choices. Be it right or wrong, where you go to law school matters. Your choice of law school greatly affects the range of opportunities you’ll have when you graduate. I knew I wanted to work in New York when I graduated from law school, so I needed a law school that would allow me to break into the NYC legal market.

At the time, I was living with my parents in New Albany. I was working in quality control at Globe (a New Albany business with strong ties to Providence). I was thankful to have a job and for the opportunity to spend more time with my parents, but now that I was back in Southern Indiana, my goal of attending a top-tier law school seemed incredibly far away. I was tired of sitting around, twiddling my thumbs, waiting to hear back from these schools. I felt I needed to make my own luck, so I decided to visit each of my top-choice schools and see if I could somehow get myself off the waitlist. It took me two planes and two buses to get to Ithaca, N.Y., but when I finally arrived, I had the pleasure of meeting with the director of admissions. We talked about why I wanted to come to Cornell and the reasons why Cornell stands apart from other elite law schools. Cornell Law only has around 600 J.D. students, which is small when compared to a place like NYU, which has something like double the number of J.D. students. I wanted a place that would feel like home, in the same way that DePauw and Providence felt like home – a tightknit, collaborative community where I could forge friendships with my classmates and build relationships with my professors.

Fortunately, I received a call from the Cornell Law dean of students just three days before orientation began. She let me know that I’d been admitted off the waitlist. I packed my bags and made the move to Ithaca. I think I can safely say that, even before I knew where I had been admitted, Cornell Law was my first-choice school. But in all honesty, my final decision on where to attend law school was relatively straightforward: Cornell was the “best” law school that I got into. Cornell took a chance on me, and ever since then I’ve been determined not to waste this opportunity.

DW: I applied to a total of 11 schools: NYU, MIT, Northwestern, Princeton, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UCLA, Caltech, Brown, Cornell, and Stanford. I was accepted at Princeton, San Diego, Caltech, Brown, and Cornell, and waitlisted at NYU and UCLA (I removed myself from these after committing to Princeton).

In the spring, Princeton flew me out to visit along with the other accepted graduate students, and I got to meet several professors and current graduate students, as well as sit in on courses and seminars and tour the campus. I made my decision to commit before I even left to come back home, and for a couple reasons.

First, both professors and students had such a friendly and relaxed demeanor. From what I understand, this isn’t always common in top Ph.D. programs, as professors are heavily focused on their research and other graduate students are trying to outperform their peers to get the most attention from busy professors. This was not the case here. On the contrary, professors at Princeton are always happy to speak with you when you need them. The interactions between the students are less competitive than other schools and instead prefer to collaborate with each other. These are the kind of peers that are desirable both in research and in life.

Second, Princeton’s faculty encompass a very wide range of topics, and virtually anything one might want to study or research can be accomplished here. This was especially attractive to me, since my research experience was limited, and I knew my own future research agenda was likely subject to change (and, as it turned out, it has).

Q: How do you like the school? What is it like attending an Ivy League school?

CB: I have had a fantastic experience at Cornell Law thus far. I’m endlessly impressed with the quality of education I’m receiving. It’s been a privilege to learn from professors who are leading experts in their respective fields. More than a few times I’ve taken courses with professors who have actually written the textbook we use in class.

My fellow students are smart, ambitious, and passionate about what they do. I’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime, and I’ve built relationships that are sure to be invaluable as I move forward in my career.

In winter, Ithaca, is cold. Really cold. But the harshness of the upstate winter is made bearable by the beauty of Cornell’s campus. A series of plunging gorges divide the campus, with waterfalls that stair-step down to Cayuga Lake. The campus is dotted with imposing siltstone buildings, with more than a few boasting rising bell towers. Ornate libraries provide some relief from the elements and make the long days and nights spent studying a little more tolerable. The law school itself is gilded with history and prestige, but it gives off an aura of openness and amiability.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to find success in my studies. I’ve been on the Dean’s List a couple of times, and I’m an associate on the Cornell Law Review. The Law Review is Cornell’s flagship legal journal, and it’s read by practitioners and academics around the world. I help to edit, refine, and source-check the articles published in the journal.

The real highlight of time at Cornell has been competing in moot court competitions. Moot court is a tournament-style competition centered around appellate-level oral advocacy. Basically, you get up in front of a panel of judges and present your argument as to why the law should be a certain way. During your presentation, the judges ask questions and pose hypotheticals that challenge your position.

During my first year, I was fortunate enough to win the 2018 Langfan First-Year Moot Court Competition. A majority of the first-year class competes in this tournament, and it was my first opportunity to put the skills I had developed in the classroom to use on a real legal problem. Winning Langfan meant so much to my family and me, as it reaffirmed my belief that I could find success in pursuing a career in the law.

This past semester, as a second-year law student, my partner and I won the 2018 Cuccia Family Moot Court Competition. Both second- and third-year Cornell Law students compete in the Cuccia tournament, and we faced some really outstanding competition from our classmates. During the final round of the tournament, my partner and I had the extraordinary honor of arguing before U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. I argued for 15 minutes before a panel of five federal judges, led by Justice Sotomayor, who peppered me with questions during the course of my presentation. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime moment. I’m happy to say that my partner and I prevailed in the final round and won the Cuccia Cup.

DW: I love it. My expectations that formed following my initial visit have certainly been met and continue to be surpassed daily. The campus, which was founded in 1746, is full of life and stories, which I am fortunate enough to hear about (and see!) frequently. This adds a lot of value to living here. There are also many opportunities to enjoy the arts other than the gothic architecture, such as jazz recitals and theatrical performances.

The academics are the perfect level of challenging; not unbearable, but certainly a full-time job. Seminars, in which professors and researchers are flown in to give presentations on their frontier research, are especially useful and are perhaps my favorite part of the academic lifestyle. They have exposed me to new ways of thinking and state of the art research I may not have discovered otherwise.

Surprisingly, (attending an Ivy League school) is pretty similar to my experience at IU (minus roughly 30,000 students). There is the familiar bustling of life that IU had, with a fraction of the student body involved in sports, a portion involved in the community, and then the happy-go-lucky few that are just here for school and parties. Of course, I don’t notice this as much as I did when I was at IU since undergraduate life and graduate life don’t intertwine very often, but overall, it feels like a fairly normal place.

Q: What are some of the highlights of your education journey? Was there a teacher at PHS who helped you see that you could accomplish your goals?

CB: I wouldn’t be where I am today were it not for my family. My parents – John and Sherrie Burger – worked tirelessly so that I could attend Providence. I’m a first-generation college student, and my parents were convinced that a quality education was my ticket to a better future. If you asked my mom and dad today, they’d tell you that their investment in my Catholic education was worth every penny. I wholeheartedly agree, because I know that I’m where I am today because of the lessons I learned – inside and outside the classroom – at Providence High School.

I had an incredible roster of teachers and coaches during my time at Providence. I could go on and on about almost each and every one of them. I have to credit Ms. Judith Manning with helping me become the person I am today. When I first met Ms. Manning, I was a restless, over-talkative, somewhat mischievous sophomore. I enjoyed school, but I didn’t give my classes the full attention they deserved.

Ms. Manning instilled in me a sense of agency, and she taught me to carry myself with pride in everything I do. She helped me to understand that anything done half-heartedly is only half-done. She taught me how to find joy in learning something new. She instilled in me a love for history and politics, and this ultimately blossomed into my interest in the law.

Most importantly, she taught me to dream big and she taught me to have faith. She helped me to see obstacles not as intimidating or limiting, but as challenges to be overcome. It sounds cheesy, but I actually remember a moment, one day after class, when Ms. Manning told me that I could do anything I wanted to in life. I laughed and jokingly rolled my eyes. She looked at me, not a shred of doubt in her eyes, and she said, “No, I’m telling you, you can be anything you want to be.” I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but something changed in that moment, and it still motivates me to this day. Why not dream big?

I’m proud to attend an Ivy League institution, and I’m proud of the work that I put in to get here. But with that said, attending Cornell is just another step in the process. I’ve got a lot of work to do if I want to realize my full potential as an attorney, and, more importantly, even more work to do in trying to be the best person I can be.

I’m thankful to have an opportunity to share my story. I would love to see more PHS kids go to Ivy League schools in the coming years. I don’t think Providence students shouldn’t see the Ivies as out of their reach. The students at these types of “elite” institutions are smart, they’re hard-working, and they’re ambitious; but I knew plenty of kids at Providence with these same characteristics.

DW: I certainly have many highlights along my path. At Providence, I can name a few, namely (a) having the second highest score amongst all seniors in the district on the Math Team, and (b) being awarded the Sister Joseph-Louise Mathematics Award my senior year.

At IU, my proudest moments came my junior year after I had done an independent study on auction theory, which culminated in a paper comparing the efficiency criterion of two auction designs as they related to spectrum licenses. I presented this paper at two conferences. For the first, held at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), I was awarded second place presentation, and for the second, the Jordan River Conference at IU, I was awarded best undergraduate paper. Presenting my work in front of a room of other economists really solidified my desire to do research.

Two PHS teachers in particular stand out to me. The first was Stephanie Mauk, who taught calculus at the time. Senior year was around the time I became seriously interested in academic work, and she pushed me that year to my full potential. The second was Scott Hutchins, from whom I took AP chemistry. While I didn’t go down the chemistry route, Mr. Hutchins was an excellent teacher and would always talk to me about interesting applications of the material we learned after class. He was a large influence on my interest in research.

Q: What is your expected graduation date and your career goals?

CB: I’m a second-year law student at Cornell. I’ve got three more semesters to go before I graduate in May 2020. I’ve decided to pursue a career in litigation. This summer, I’ll be working for a well-regarded law firm in New York City as a summer associate. Hopefully, if I can prove my worth as an associate, I’ll be asked to return to the firm for a full-time position after I graduate.

DW: The norm for economics Ph.D. candidates is slowly transitioning to graduating after six years – two years of course work, and four years of research. This puts my expected graduation date at May 2024. My hope upon completion of my degree is to work in academia, specifically as a professor, so that I can pursue a career in research. Of course, the academic job market is viciously competitive, so backup plans include working for the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, or Federal Reserve.

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Alumnus starts think tank to help chaplains

As a freshman at Indiana University, Michael Skaggs ’05, Ph.D., could not have envisioned himself in the career he is in now. His goal then was to have a successful business career. He soon switched from business to history, earning his bachelor’s degree with a focus on Modern Europe. He followed that with a master’s in history (Modern Britain) from the University of Louisville and a second master’s in 20th-Century U.S. History from the University of Notre Dame, followed by his doctorate in history focusing on 20th-Century American religion, also from Notre Dame.

As he pursued his doctorate and in the year following his graduation in 2017, he took on various research projects, which led him to study chaplains working in various U.S. seaports. He soon realized that chaplains were in many more unexpected areas rathen than traditional locations like hospitals, the armed forces, and universities. They were working in airports, casinos, race tracks, and “anywhere where people are, where they might find themselves in need,” he said.

During his research, he also realized there was a need to bring chaplains, educators, and researchers together to focus on topics to elevate the profession. In early October, he launched the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, of which he serves as executive director. The lab, essentially a think tank, is under the auspices of Brandeis University of Boston, with Skaggs working out of his South Bend home.

Skaggs focuses on public relations, grant writing, and fundraising as he works to spread the word about the lab around the country. The lab’s purpose is to bring researchers, chaplains, and educators at seminaries and divinity schools together “for common conversations” about training, education, and other topics. The lab has already hosted a webinar led by an airport chaplain and has another this week with chaplains from a prison and from a psychiatric center.

During his various research projects, Skaggs became interested in the falling numbers of people who affiliated with formal religion and the growing number of those who claimed to have no faith. At the same time, people continue to grapple with “the big questions in life,” some from the perspective of faith or religion while many did not have that support system, he said. He found that chaplains are tending to fill that void where pastors once served.

In airports, chaplains may help passengers in distress over flight delays or cancellations as they try to make the funeral of a family member – or they may welcome the remains of a service member killed in action. At racetracks, they may work with stable staff members, leading religious services or simply being a listening ear. The same goes for chaplains in seaports, who welcome people of all faiths, including many non-Christians, after being isolated for months at sea.

“Anywhere where people are, where they might find themselves in need, a chaplain could be there,” he said.

As chaplains are working in more and more nontraditional locations, the need to train them for this versatile type of work is growing. At the same time, seminaries and divinity schools are realizing they can fill their declining enrollments by providing more chaplaincy education programs. The Chaplaincy Innovation Lab can help all of them – including those who may be wondering if chaplaincy is the right career for them.

The lab also is working to help improve the perception of chaplains as professionals. In the past, the perception was that those “who couldn’t cut it … in congregation work were dumped” into chaplaincy programs, Skaggs said. But the reality is far from that past scenario. And his lab is working with chaplains and educators to portray chaplaincy as a profession filled with caring people skilled at helping those of any or no faith in a variety of crises.

“We would like to see it recognized as the significant profession that it is,” Skaggs said. “Chaplains, even if they’re not doing really flashy grand work like trying to end racism or religious violence, their work is important.”

Michael Skaggs ’05 lives in South Bend, Ind., with his wife, Caroline (Wadsworth) Skaggs ’05, and their two sons, ages 3 and 4. They are expecting their third child in December.

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Schmidts spend fall break on medical mission trip

Helping others is just part of who Dr. Toni (Sartini) Schmidt ’78 is. Whether she is working with a patient in her Palmyra dental practice or in the Dominican Republic on a medical mission trip, she simply wants the person to feel better. She has been working with patients in her office for nearly 30 years, and earlier this month shared her dental expertise on her fourth mission trip.

Schmidt started going on the trips when her oldest daughter, Peyton ’14, was a sophomore as a way to help her experience serving others in need in other countries. She later took her daughter Maria ’16, and her husband, Mike ’78, took their son, Manny ’18, a few years later. Schmidt also has gone on a medical mission trip on her own, and this was her first with her husband. They accompanied a group from Northside Christian Church in New Albany, which partnered with Casa por Christo, a group that built a home during the trip.

Mike, who helped in her dental practice in its early years, called on those dental skills once again and served as her dental assistant. Toni Schmidt was only able to perform tooth extractions, so she focused on dental hygiene education for most of the patients. The pair worked well together, even in the primitive conditions, with Mike having to kneel on the floor because the dental chair was so low to the ground.

Schmidt said despite the poverty of the area and the stark conditions, the pair felt richly blessed by the people they served. They prayed with every patient following their treatment, and were also blessed by that experience. In one instance, the medical team and some patients were in a circle praying when a young teenage boy asked to lead the prayer. When she asked for the translation, she learned that he had prayed for her, her helper, and their family at home.

“It just touched us so deeply,” she said.

Schmidt also was touched by the similarities that she shared with many of the mothers with whom she worked. She realized that many of the people often wait until they are in pain before seeking dental care. So she focused on education to encourage them to care for their teeth to prevent the need for pulling them. When she talked to the children and teenagers through a translator, she heard the same thing from their mothers that she does in Indiana – that they just won’t brush their teeth.

“We’re all the same,” Schmidt said.

Helping other organizations
Providing dental care in the Dominican Republic wasn’t the only service to others Schmidt provided recently. In September, she raised $15,000 in donations for Hosparus at its annual Dancing with the Stars fundraiser, a competition she almost had to cancel thanks to having broken her foot in May. After seven weeks using a scooter, she was healed in just enough time to begin dancing practice.

Schmidt said she was glad for the opportunity to help such an organization – and for an excuse to get back in shape after not being able to walk. Now she is back to running but regrets she will likely never run a marathon again since her foot can’t take the stress. An avid runner for years, she has run in the Kentucky Derby Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., in her brother Gino Sartini ‘82’s name. Instead, she’ll focus on shorter races.

And now that she’s home again, she’ll focus on her family and her patients. She enjoys dentistry as much she has always since 1986, when she earned her dental degree while serving in the U.S. Army Reserves. Her first few years as a dentist were in active duty at Ft. Knox, but she has led her own private practice since 1989.

“I love it,” she said of being a dentist. “I like the artistic part of it. I like that I can make someone feel more confident and have compassion not to hurt them. Then they become a patient who likes going to the dentist.”

As for future medical mission trips, Schmidt said she likely will go but doesn’t know when – until she feels God calling her to it. She has taken a trip about every two years with a team from Northside and Casa por Christo. She likes being part of that group because the mission is well organized, and she has always felt safe no matter in which country they serve. And she is happy for the chance to share the Gospel along with dental care education.

“Everyone has something (medical expertise) they can bring,” she said. “For me, it wasn’t about how many teeth I pulled; it was about serving and educating. I wanted to let them know we all serve the same God.”

Serving God is the main impetus for each of her trips.

“I feel like I’m being obedient to God’s word when he says to go out and spread the Gospel to the nations,” she said. “If I can be a part of that, that’s what I want to be.”

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