Interview by Valerie Malabonga, CDA mom
We caught up with Coram Deo Academy alumna Joanna Finley to find out what she’s doing now and hear her reflections on her Coram Deo experience.
1. Where did you go to college and what are you doing now?
I received my Bachelor’s degree in Speech Language and Hearing Sciences from Purdue University. I started looking into the field based on a recommendation from Mrs. Davies who was teaching me Calculus at the time. Before that point I didn’t know much about speech pathology and I hadn’t had much exposure to the field. The more I learned about it the more I came to appreciate the field and the potential impact in can have on people’s lives. It’s been several years now and I am still pursuing it as a career. I currently work as a Speech Therapist in a school in West Virginia as I pursue my graduate degree online.
2. When did you join Coram Deo and when did you graduate? Can you tell us about your Senior Thesis?
I started attending Coram Deo in 6th grade at the founding of the school. I got to witness all the challenges and subsequent growth the school faced until I graduated in 2013. Looking back my senior thesis is still the hardest paper that I have ever written. I chose to write about the healthcare system and why having the government heavily involved in it causes unnecessary inefficiencies. Thinking about it now, I’m not really sure why I chose that topic. Regardless of my topic choice it was a valuable experience and I am glad that I got to defend a thesis in high school.
3. What’s unique about the culture of Coram Deo Academy?
The culture of the school was something that I took for granted at the time, having worked at a public school I understand how rare the kind of school culture at Coram was. There was a genuine pursuit of education where education was not just about knowledge but also about character growth.
4. How did your education at Coram Deo help prepare you for life?
There are several ways that CDA helped prepare me for college and any other future endeavors. I think one of the most valuable was the ability to dissect the information that I got from other sources and form my own opinions. All information is colored by the biases of the people presenting it. Especially in this day and age you need to be able to see how cultural elements have influenced what is presented as fact and how a biblical perspective changes how that information is perceived.
5. What defines the CDA experience for you?
I think that the people at CDA define the CDA experience. I was surrounded by so many great people while I was at CDA, both the teachers and the other students. I had so many good conversations with my peers that went beyond surface level conversations. Having people to have those kinds of conversations with was something I didn’t value enough at the time. I think one of the more unique relationships that I was able to make resulted from the amount of interaction there was between grades. I had a lot of respect for my upperclassmen and it motivated me to look after the younger students in a similar way. I wish I had done a better job of maintaining those relationships after graduation. In a lot of ways those relationships have defined what I value in a relationship to this day.
6. CDA’s current “Portrait of a Graduate” highlights the phrases: Contagious Christian, Lifelong Learner, Creative and Critical Thinker, Compelling Communicator, and Legacy Leader. How did CDA help you become any or all of these? In what ways?
I could talk about all of the characteristics in the “Portrait of a Graduate” but I’ll pick one. Coram helped me understand my faith and Christianity. I loved my theology class and all of the discussions and debates we would have over various theological issues. Ultimately, however, being “contagious” is about reaching people and showing the love of Christ and not just knowing all the facts. Beyond the intellectual knowledge, Christianity was modeled for us in our teachers and the love and care they had for us. Those models were just as valuable as any knowledge they imparted.
7. What’s next for you? How are you planning to serve Christ with your work and life?
After I get my graduate degree I would like to work in hospitals with stroke patients. I haven’t made many plans beyond that. I look forward to seeing where the Lord takes me.
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