By Cali Carpenter, Class of 2017
Most college seniors are in their early 20s, but Jessica Charles isn’t one to blend into the crowd. She is a senior political science major who is ready to take the world by storm, and did we mention she’s only 19 years old?
Jessica first heard about NNU from her pastors at her home church in Yakima, Washington. They would tell her stories about their NNU experience and share about the loving community that quickly becomes like family. Jessica always knew college was in her plan. While in high school, she came on a campus visit with her youth group, and as soon as she saw NNU for herself, she said it was a done deal.
In high school, Jessica felt herself yearning to be around people who were teaching subjects they loved and were passionate about—which she often struggled to find. This prompted her to apply to a community college during her sophomore year of high school, so she graduated with not only a high school diploma, but also an associate degree from Yakima Community College.
By entering NNU as a junior, Jessica was able to focus strictly on classes for her major—political science. Ever since elementary school, Jessica knew she wanted to be a lawyer.
“I have always had a passion for politics,” she said. “I don’t necessarily want to be part of them, but I want to do everything I can to learn more about them.”
Her experience in NNU’s political science department has been a time of transformation for her; not only is she walking away with newfound knowledge, but she has also learned how to approach people who believe differently than she does.
“We’re all lucky at NNU because we have Christianity to fall back on and that’s what brings us together,” she said. “In a lot of places, people can’t find comradery, but NNU has shown me that it is possible to come from completely different viewpoints and still find common ground at the end of the day.”
She has especially enjoyed her classes with Dr. Steve Shaw, who has challenged her by the way that he draws out students’ divergent ideas.
“He’s inspiring in the way that he brings people together,” Jessica said.
He has taught her how to deal with the hard questions in a way that’s different than other professors—defend your answer logically, not emotionally. Jessica has learned that if you can logically defend yourself and keep emotions out of it, people will be more likely to listen.
“Dr. Shaw wants to help you grow, and he prepares you to handle what the world is going to throw at you,” she said.
This is something Jessica knows she will take with her as she prepares for life after NNU.
After graduation, Jessica is planning to attend Willamette Law School in Salem, Oregon—the law school President Joel Pearsall attended. Knowing this, Jessica made an appointment and visited President Pearsall to talk about his experience. He filled the hour with tips, recommendations and fun memories from that time in his life.
She said she found encouragement from him, hearing that the community at the Salem law school has similarities to the close-knit community of NNU.
NNU has given Jessica a special community and sense of belonging that she hopes to take with her for the rest of her life.
“As I go to law school and enter into the career force, NNU will always be with me, and the connections I have made will help me continue to build on that community,” she said. “I run into alumni all the time, and they are so supportive. I will never forget the relationships I have built at NNU. My professors have helped me figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life and where I am going.”
After graduating, Jessica hopes to become a prosecuting attorney in public interest cases and eventually become a judge. Growing up, she was close with a family from Kenya, and this is when she first became aware that not all people are treated the same. She realized the world is so much bigger than her hometown in Washington and not everything in the world is as nice as it may seem. From then on, she became passionate about anything that jeopardizes human rights and people’s not being treated equally. She is especially passionate about prosecuting sex crimes and human trafficking, so, eventually, she wants to work on enforcing the rule of law internationally.
No matter where her career takes her, Jessica finds comfort in knowing that she will always have a home at NNU. The connections she has formed in this community are and always will be here for good.