Jessica Dirkse, Homecoming queen
Known as “JD” and “Mamma J” to many, Jessica Dirkse is a Math Education major from Downers Grove, Illinois. Jessica quickly named her two years as a freshman RA in Parrott Hall as one of the biggest highlights of the past four years. Building relationships is a clear passion for her; and she sees it as the motive behind her love for teaching.
As a lover of many sports, Jessica is an unstoppable force on the field. Her long list of intramural experiences over the years encompasses almost every activity offered. A loyal Packers fan, she put flag football near the top of her intramural favorites. In light of the fact that her team is currently undefeated, this should not be surprising. However, the top spot goes to badminton. “I got to be teammates with my sister Sarah,” she said. “We lost every game, but it was a blast.”
Jessica hopes to begin her work with middle school students – she said she wants to walk with kids during the “awkward years.” With an endorsement in physical education, she pictures herself coaching basketball or “anything really.” The question of where is still up in the air, but for now Jessica is content loving the people of Olivet.
The ladies of the court
Hailing from the small town of Sugar Grove, Illinois, Joelle Mannion is quick to laugh when people don’t know where the home of the famous “Sugar Grove Corn Boil” might be on a map.
While Joelle might be a small town girl in her roots, she dreams of working overseas. After a missions trip to Thailand, she found herself loving the culture and her passion to serve others strengthened. Majoring in Christian Education and Intercultural Studies, Joelle feels particularly called towards the issue of human trafficking and rehabilitation of its victims.
Joelle’s love for helping others shows through her role as a resident assistant (RA) for Grand apartments and current service in Stratford. She put time with her residents at the top of her favorite Olivet experiences. “Everyone has such an amazing story, and it’s beautiful to be in a place where people know they can turn to you if they need help,” she said. “It’s a big task to be representing Christ to others.”
Joelle puts intentionality into her care for others, through ministry work and everyday activities such as intramural sports. Her past work includes Urban Children’s Ministry and Save our Streets, along with a prayer group.
Joelle is currently planning for graduate school, where she hopes to gain more training for her work with human trafficking issues. Her desire is to stay local for a while before venturing out into the world, but she would love to end up working in Thailand, India or a number of European countries.
As a girl, Laura Graven didn’t see a to stay in her hometown of Bourbonnais. Nonetheless, after a good dose of Wacky Games her freshman year, Laura found a new appreciation for Olivet. “I love that people take so much pride in their time here,” she explained.
Laura’s Olivet pride earned her a job as an Admissions Office Ambassador, a role that brings her true joy. “Homecoming is one of my favorite times of the year,” she said. “It’s so beautiful because it’s the Olivet family all coming together again.”
It’s this love for people that inspired her choice of major, Social Work. She chose this career as a way to walk through the everyday journeys of life right next to those who need help. Laura named “people” as her biggest passion, and spending time with others was high on her list of favorite things.
Yet another way Laura’s heart for serving others has manifested itself is through her time at Olivet – Gospel Choir, Mission Impossible, and Sister 2 Sister were some of her favorite extracurricular activities. She also dabbled in informal sports, and ended up becoming a champion intramural badminton player. She ran the Chicago Marathon for Team World Vision her junior year, calling it her favorite day she has ever lived. “It was such a cool parallel to our lives as Christians,” she said. “There are mountaintops and valleys, but in the end none of it matters because we have Jesus.”
After an MIA trip to Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis, Laura felt a strong calling to the community. However, Laura’s future remains mysterious to her. No matter what happens, she is excited about the prospect of letting God open doors when the time comes.
Many students will remember Katie Reed thanks to her bold words on the Gospel, presented in a September chapel service. With a beaming smile and bright positivity, Katie currently serves as Olivet’s Vice President for Spiritual Life. Her major is in Social Work with a minor in Not-for-Profit Business.
A huge influence on Katie’s life was her family’s move to Nairobi, Kenya when she was six years old. Her parents broke the news to Katie and her sisters Becca and Hannah over dinner at McDonald’s because, “They thought a Happy Meal would make it all better.” While young Katie was devastated at first, she now describes the move as the best thing that has ever happened to her. Katie soon discovered a passion for ministering to diverse cultures.
For three years Katie acted as a co-leader for Compassionate Ministry. She has been an active voice for the Student Philanthropy Council, Preaching Ambassadors and a traveling theater ministry called Modern Day Prophets. She has also served as an RA in the UP apartments and professes a deep love for the family dynamic this experience brings.
“I’m not a big fan of life plans,” Katie said with a laugh. “I just want to be a servant when I grow up.” She does have the goal of finishing up her social work studies in graduate school before ultimately returning to Africa. Wherever she lands, it’s her dream to serve with a Not-for-Profit business aimed at aiding marginalized communities. “My goal through all of this is not to make my name known, but His name known,” she said.
Megan McKinley came from a small town to Olivet to study Christian Education and Intercultural Studies. She has a very unique passion for Latin American cultures, which is why she added on a minor in Spanish.
The direction of Megan’s studies was largely shaped by her high school youth group, with whom she took her very first mission trip in 2009. Their work in Nicaragua forever changed Megan and she began to feel a call to serve the people of Nicaragua for the rest of her life. “I fell in love with the people there,” Megan said. “After that first trip, I knew that I had left my heart there.”
Since Megan’s first trip, she has returned to Nicaragua many times. Her trip in the summer of 2014 sparked an idea; Megan began visiting groups of women with the intention to pamper them, followed by a presentation on inner beauty and the Gospel message. “We really just want to give these women a place where they can feel free to laugh again,” she said. “Beauty really can be a universal struggle.”
Megan has been an example to many women on Olivet’s campus through her time as an RA. After spending two years with freshman in Parrott, she is currently serving the women of Stratford. One of the other roles was her job as a Student Ambassador. Both these jobs agree with Megan’s love for people and her love of encouragement.
In the near future, Megan hopes to bring to life an idea for a not-for-profit ministry of her own design. The plan took shape from a class project for one of Professor Teresa Garner’s youth ministry courses. What Megan hopes to achieve through this is a long-term ministry opportunity to the women of Nicaragua, the country that stole her heart.