It’s All About Connection
This article is taken from the transcripts of an address given by Clarendon and Dokes Scholar Yamilla Mateo ’23 at the President’s Reception in December 2022.
Did you know that over 900,500 teenagers between the ages of 11-15 are in the foster care system? This means that a little over 25% of teenagers in the United States are without homes from their kinship families. I remember being eight years old and begging my mom to adopt and foster kids. I knew so many children did not have a place they could call home.
My name is Yamilla Mateo, and I am honored to be a Clarendon Scholar and a Dokes Ministry Scholar at Gordon College. As a fourth-year student, God’s grace has taught me throughout my life to create safe environments for people to have havens of hope, transformation and comfort. In my encounters, a place they can call home truly matters to me.
I am a first-generation student in the United States. My parents came from the Dominican Republic over 20 years ago. They have been my foundation, creating safe spaces for me to grow stable educationally, mentally and emotionally. Though I came from a warm, big and undeniably supportive background, school wasn’t always easy for me. Still, I knew God would make a way because he never fails.
I remember receiving the phone call with the news: “We want to offer you the Clarendon Scholarship.” My heart was elated; I knew this was where I needed to be. Gordon offers the liberal arts education I knew would serve my future. Gordon is the safe community and home I never knew I needed.
In my second year I served as a resident advisor for Fulton Hall. It was COVID year—one of the most heartbreaking and challenging moments of my life. Relationally, things were no longer the same. The ability to connect was taken away from us. Resident halls were no longer a place of relationships, but instead were a place of individual safety. Human connection and the concept of safety, comfort and home was stolen from us. Though this moment was extremely demanding, I wanted to create safe spaces for everyone on my floor the support the human connection we all crave.
I am a fourth-year, dual-enrolled student pursuing my master’s degree in global leadership with a concentration in biblical counseling and intercultural studies at the Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. I am also finishing my bachelor’s degree here at Gordon, studying Christian ministries with a concentration in pastoral ministries.
The Dokes Ministry Scholars Program, named after Robert and Carol Dokes, “illustrates how rich and multifaceted full-time ministry can be.” It is an accelerated pastoral degree program that allows Gordon students to pursue both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in a community-style cohort. This opportunity has been one of the most transformative moments in my higher education journey.
In my life safe hubs have followed me. If the Lord permits my lifelong dream is to work in the foster care system and be a safe hub for teenagers that have never felt at home in the system. I want to help develop opportunities, regardless of who they are; who their parents are; or their ethnicity, race or economic background. Raising up the next generation is my mission. Duplicating the feel of home nationally is the dream.
Young people deserve a future. Pursuing ministry would not be possible without the education from Gordon College on my side. For that, I am grateful.
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