Alyse Ritchie ('12) | Youth & Family Ministry
Junior from Belton, Texas
Alyse Ritchie's time at ACU can be summarized with one word: teamwork.
Ever since she walked onto the 2010 Lone Star Conference champion women's soccer team as a freshman, she has been enmeshed in a community - of athletes, of women, of Christians.
"It's become a family to me," the junior youth and family ministry major - and midfielder - from Belton says. "That's become my group of friends and my support group. Our relationships have grown, new teammates have come in, and those relationships have grown.
"They encourage me to be my best. It's not just for myself. I play for the team."
But teamwork isn't something she's learned only on the field of competition; she's learned it in the field of ministry, too, as she prepares to mentor middle- and high-school-age girls.
Through the classes, friends and experiences she's had at ACU, Alyse has discovered the joy of being part of the body of Christ - in whatever role she's called to play.
"Initially, I heard [ACU's motto] 'Change the World,' and I thought it meant to go out and do something great, like go to Thailand or start TOMS Shoes," she said. "While ACU has offered the means to go do that, you can also do it in the neighborhood. You can be what one of my professors called the 'missionary around the corner.' "
Alyse is evidence that ACU's commitment to Christian education remains as strong as ever - and that its students rely more than ever on the generosity of ACU's friends and alumni.
"The education and experiences I've been able to have at ACU have been better than I would have gotten anywhere else," she said. "I believe that what I have been taught here has changed my life."
A long legacy
Ritchie is not the first member of her family on track to obtain a degree in the biblical studies field - far from it.
In 1931, Mary Tackett graduated from Abilene Christian College with a bachelor's degree in biblical text, just the second woman in the young institution's history to graduate with a Bible degree.
She met her husband, Eris Alton Ritchie, at ACC. Their son and his son both met their wives on campus. Now Alyse, a fourth-generation ACU student, also plans to marry someone she met through ACU, once she graduates in December 2011.
Her father, like his grandmother 50 years before, was a biblical text major; he now serves as a minister at Lake Jackson Church of Christ. Her grandfather, Dr. Joe T. Ritchie, served 19 years on the ACU Board of Trustees.
"I've known about ACU all my life," she said.
Still, she said, she looked to see if she could receive better youth ministry training elsewhere. She couldn't.
"Those schools didn't have the program or the atmosphere ACU did," she said. "ACU had the best environment for my major, for my passion - especially for women."
But college education isn't cheap, and the ministry doesn't pay lucrative salaries.
"I for sure needed scholarships," Alyse said. "It's been what's kept me here, for sure."
Alyse cobbled together five scholarships, neither of them particularly large, but together they pay for more than half her tuition.
As a result, Alyse has the freedom to grow as a student and soccer player - and as a team member in the kingdom of God. She has completed two internships, including one at a Rhode Island Church of Christ in which she functioned essentially as the youth minister for a summer.
"It's been a growing process through my experiences and through my classes," she said. "You can come in with an idea, but God's shaped it.
"I knew I wanted to be a youth minister, but God has given me that longing to shepherd adolescent girls so they can grow in confidence as God's creation - not to let the world define them, but to let God define them."
Alyse sees a common thread through her time at ACU: Little things can make a difference.
Individual teammates work together to win a championship. Small gifts together can create a scholarship, and several smaller scholarships can fund an education.
And one education can affect many more lives.
"Everything that has happened here is because of the money I received to come here," she said. "Thank you for what you give - even if it's just a little bit. Little gifts here and there can change a life."