Interview by Valerie Malabonga, CDA parent
1. Could you tell us about your time at Coram Deo Academy: In what grade did you start? How long were you there? What year did you graduate?
I started my first year at Coram Deo when I was in 6th grade and was there for six years. I graduated in 2016.
2. Let’s backtrack a bit. I understand you, your sister and one of your two brothers were adopted from a Romanian orphanage as very young children. Could you tell us a bit about that? What was it like to be adopted from that background? Did you have any issues growing up in a Romanian orphanage and did these affect your academic career, including your years at Coram Deo?
My parents adopted my biological sister, a boy (who is not biologically related to us) and I from a Romanian orphanage in 1998. I was two years old then. People who are adopted adapt differently to the new environment they are in. Once adopted, I initially struggled with attachment because I was never held or had an attachment with my birth mother. I also had some cognitive struggles. Many people were worried that I would not make it through elementary, middle school, high school, let alone college. With God’s provision, I managed to make it through all those academic years no matter how tough. In fact, in Fall 2020, I was on the Dean’s List with a 3.75 GPA in the School of Social Work at IUPUI.
3. I understand you graduated by yourself at Coram Deo. Could you tell us about that?
High school was interesting because I gained classmates and had classmates leave all throughout high school. In my junior year, there was one other person and I in the same grade, and sometimes we would have classes with just the two of us and the teacher, so it felt more like a tutoring session. It was very informal. It did help that the whole high school had a lot of classes together. Sometimes the juniors and seniors had combined classes.
For my senior year, I was the only senior. It was a weird transition because of having to be alone, but it helped having most of my classes with the juniors and some with sophomores and freshmen as well. That helped me not feel alone. The juniors really reached out to me and made me feel included. I was the only senior so I gained more leadership skills because I knew I had to be more independent. It was a year of growth for me.
4. Tell us what you are doing now. What is your major? What recent jobs have you had or are you doing?
It is ironic that I would be typing the answers to this interview about my experience at Coram Deo because I am now in my last semester of college. God sure does have a sense of humor and knows his timing well! I am in my senior year at IUPUI with a major in Social Work and a minor in Medical Sociology. It has been such a growing experience. Every day I get more excited being in the field and ready to be a light.
This semester I am doing a practicum (internship) at Aspire Indiana Health that provides primary and behavioral healthcare. I am working with adults that are in recovery from addictions. It has been such an amazing experience as I am getting my feet wet in the field and diving into my major.
5. What was your favorite aspect of Coram Deo?
One of my favorite aspects of Coram Deo was the personal relationships with the teachers and their passion for teaching the students. I loved that they incorporated God in all that they taught no matter what subjects they taught. One of the things that I really appreciated was how comfortable they were with us sharing things with them and their willingness to stop the lesson and sometimes just talk.
6. Did you have any difficulties or struggles while at Coram Deo? Do you mind telling us about these? How were you able to overcome them?
My time at Coram Deo was a growing experience for sure. There were a lot of challenges that I had to overcome. It was academically challenging. I was not the student that made all A’s or had the best grades. I also struggled with test anxiety. My testing fears caused my grades to go down. I was always one of the last people to be done with tests. But my teachers were really supportive and really pushed me. They were very encouraging as well.
The verse that often came to my mind was Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I had to remind myself that no matter the grades and my schooling, that Christ is the one who gives me strength to push through. No matter how I struggled academically there, I tried my best no matter what I got. It also helped that my Coram Deo friends were very supportive of me in my academic struggles.
7. What stands out about the relationships you developed at Coram Deo? Are you still connected with the people you met at Coram Deo? In what ways? How did your relationships make you the person you are today?
A big thing that really stuck out with the relationships I have built was that they have been long lasting. The friends that I made at Coram Deo I still hang out with to this day. My headmaster in high school was a big influence that caused all of us to grow really close. He had all of the high schoolers over for dinner quite a bit when we were in high school and still invites us all at least twice a year now. I still hang out with my high school friends about three times a year.
8. In your experience, what has been the biggest advantage of your educational background at Coram Deo? How did it prepare you for the challenges of college and working life?
In my junior year of high school, I wrote a 20-page thesis and in my senior year a 24-page thesis. At Coram Deo I wrote papers every week, so I was used to it, but with these two papers, it really showed that I was capable of writing as many pages as masters level students. Add to that the fact that I was doing all that in high school! These two papers really strengthened my writing skills and helped me put my ideas together on paper. Coram Deo was a big advocate in teaching how to write successful papers. When I was in 8th and 9th grades, papers were my weakness, and I even had to get outside assistance. But when junior year hit, I gained better writing skills while I was writing my thesis. All these papers really made me do better in my writing when I entered college. In college, I have been writing many papers and completing papers a lot faster than I used to. In my college classes, the students freak out about the papers we have to write, and I am the only one who is laid back about it because I have had so much experience doing it. If I had not gone to Coram Deo, my writing skills would not be as good as they are today.
9. How do you think your classical Christian education at Coram Deo helped prepare you to be successful in your field of Social Work?
At Coram Deo, writing papers was taken seriously. This has really helped in my field of Social Work. I am doing tons of documentation and recording notes at school and for my internship. The documentation is pretty heavy and requires formal grammar and professionalism. I have been able to use the writing skills I learned at Coram Deo.
9. Coram Deo’s current “Portrait of a Graduate” highlights the phrases: Contagious Christian, Lifelong Learner, Creative and Critical Thinker, Compelling Communicator, and Legacy Leader. How did Coram Deo help you become any or all of these? In what ways?
For me, I would say that I am a lifelong learner and legacy leader. I am very passionate about learning. At Coram Deo I always got excited when I would learn something new. In my jobs, I am always ready to learn something new and take on new responsibilities. I want to be the person that does not act like I know everything but wants to keep learning. When people ask me for life advice, I always say “Always be a lifelong learner. There is always room to learn something new no matter how old you are.” During college, I have always been excited with my classes and learning new things. I have also been trying to be a lifelong learner in the career that I am pursuing.
I like the idea of being a Legacy Leader too. As the only senior at Coram Deo, I had the opportunity for leadership that I would not have had otherwise. Many of the younger students looked up to me, and I enjoyed interacting with them. Also, during my senior year of high school, I was able to gain more leadership skills. During that year, high schoolers came up to me and talked about their struggles, and I was able to be there for them. On our high school trip my senior year, I did an impromptu Bible study with a group of high school girls one of the nights and got to pray with them. It was a time for me to let them share and have a safe space to talk about what they would not have felt comfortable to share outside.
I have also been able to apply the leadership skills I learned to my part time job as a server at Sugar Pie. At my work there, people look to me for guidance in how to do things and what tasks need to be done.
The Coram Deo Shout talks about living before the face of God. I want to live before the face of God (Coram Deo) as a college student at IUPUI, at Sugar Pie, in my community and when I graduate, as a social worker living to honor Him.
10. What is next for you or what plans do you have for serving Christ in the world with your gifts?
My plan is to graduate from IUPUI in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. One of my big goals is to get my masters afterwards. If all continues to go well at my practicum, I am hoping to work there full time for a few years. I am also passionate about working with adoptions and would love to serve at an adoption agency and use my own experience as an adoptee and my other strengths. I have always had a passion for helping people especially those that are underprivileged and in poverty. One of the things that I love about Social Work is that I am able to work in many areas and with different populations. I am handing this all to the Lord and seeing where He directs me. I am excited to see how God will use me in this field.
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