When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in spring 2020, many children and teens were suddenly forced out of the classroom and into remote learning — a very difficult transition for some.
In her hometown of Lodi, California, Biola alumna Liz Stevahn (B.A. ’09) stepped in to serve students in need. In her role as community impact director at One-Eighty — a nonprofit organization that works with local school districts, city partners, small businesses and community organizations — Stevahn helped create sites where students could gather to attend their virtual classes and learn in a community of other students. She also read through the CDC guidelines and created a template advising local churches on how to create a safe place for kids to do their school work during the day.
Now serving in a different role at One-Eighty, as the neighborhood impact director, Stevahn today oversees the nonprofit’s elementary school campus sports programs and neighborhood after-school tutoring programs. She also mentors the Intentional Neighbor team — made up of team members who have intentionally moved into high risk areas in Lodi in order to demonstrate the gospel to their neighbors through their everyday lives.
What about your position with One-Eighty has been the most rewarding during the pandemic?
The most rewarding part of my job during the pandemic was seeing elementary school students who wouldn’t have the support or resources to do their schoolwork at home come to our distance learning centers and not only get the help they needed, but be a part of a community. We had two distance learning center sites, one at a local church and one at the One-Eighty Teen Center, that each housed 20 students everyday. Each site was really its own little family. All the students knew each other and looked out for one another. If one of our students or volunteers was sick, the other students at their site would make cards or drawings for that sick person and their family. It was just really rewarding to see that even through a pandemic, students were coming together to encourage one another, even when circumstances were less than ideal.
How do you hope One-Eighty is going to continue supporting children and families in your community through the programs it offers?
One-Eighty will continue supporting families through the programs we offer — there is literally something for everyone. Our community programs are available to elementary-aged students through high school students. Our Teen Center is available to middle school and high school students every day after school and they have great programming on Friday nights. Our counseling and resources are available to students, families and adults. … All of these programs are offered at minimal to no cost to students and families. It’s our hope at One-Eighty to be a resource for students and families and a light to our city.
How did your program at Biola prepare you for your career?
The Christian education major prepared me in a lot of ways for my current career. It was a good balance of giving me biblical knowledge and teaching me how to work with people from any walk of life. I currently live in a neighborhood that is culturally diverse and English is not the main language that is spoken by most people. Every day I have to get up and think, “How will I display the love of Christ to my neighbors?” I was given practical tools to be flexible in ministry, but firm in my faith. The professors that I had were really encouraging and shared their knowledge of working in ministry.
What did you appreciate most about your time at Biola?
The thing I appreciated most about my time at Biola was hearing different ministry experiences from different professors or guest speakers. From their stories, the knowledge and information that was given to me in class all of a sudden had a context and a purpose.… During the last year, the knowledge I gained at Biola came into play pretty quickly. Knowing how to communicate to students, parents, school professionals, other pastors in town and members of the community was really important. My time speaking in class helped me to remain calm and to communicate more effectively. Knowing how to communicate God’s love to neighbors who were scared and overwhelmed was the most important skill that I learned at Biola.