By Jim Nieman
Two staff members of Dallas Christian College embarked on a 2,511-mile road trip in July to connect with as many current and future students as possible.
“We were all in quarantine,” said director of student services Karla Kuhl, “and I was seeing stories of [public school] teachers who were going out and seeing their students. And I thought, Well, I have students. I could do that.”
Because Dallas Christian College had switched to an online-only format in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, there hadn’t been many “connections” between students and staff for several months . . . other than the “virtual” kind. So Kuhl set out to change that . . . while also building excitement for the return of students to campus later this month.
Kuhl partnered with her friend Breanda Williams, director of student financial services, and set out on the one-week trip all across Texas and into Oklahoma that included visits with 54 students—about one-quarter of the student body. Kuhl and Williams even delivered some Crusader swag to students, including recent high school graduates who were still on the fence about whether to attend DCC.
The idea was to establish connections with new students and to support DCC’s connections with current ones. Kuhl says the Dallas Christian College community considers itself a family, so this road trip to visit “family members” just made sense. Kuhl’s daughter, Kate Donathan, a 2017 DCC alumna, took time off work to accompany the ladies and to take photos.
The ladies plotted a course and started driving. Williams worked the phone, texting students to tell them they were approaching their town and to ask whether they could stop by. Most encounters took place on the front lawn of the student’s house, but Kuhl and Williams also connected with students at their places of business—including a Dick’s Sporting Goods and a Chick-fil-A . . . and even next to a bowling alley. Social distancing was maintained at all times. Parents typically would also come out of the house. (Many of the moms and dads were working from home, after all.)
More than anything, Kuhl and Williams tried to offer encouragement to students and their families. To that end, students were presented with a “Make It Happen” T-shirt.
Kuhl told students, “Our chapel theme this year is ‘Make It Happen,’ which is important for you as a student because whether or not there is a pandemic in our world, God’s plan for your life doesn’t change. He is working hard to make sure your future is bright and ready for ministry. You can still make your education ‘happen’ . . . you can still make new friendships ‘happen.’ Nothing changes for you, because God is in control. You’re not alone.”
Their visits were well-received. Several parents prayed for the ladies and asked, “Where are you headed next?”
Kuhl said conditions likely made this the only year this type of road trip will happen.
“It was just a perfect time,” she said. “People were home because of the virus. No one was on vacation.”
Fall classes are set to begin at Dallas Christian College next week.
Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard.