My name is Lisa Yoder and I’m married with three children. I was the recipient of a scholarship from the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund in 2013. I’m currently in my junior year of college, working on my Bachelors of Science degree in Registered Nursing. I grew up in an ultra-conservative Swartzentruber Amish church in central Ohio. I came from a large family and growing up we were poor but generally speaking we had what we needed at the time, and what we didn’t have we didn’t miss. My family was very close and I never thought I would leave the Amish, but time has a way of changing and re-shaping the way we view things. Sometimes circumstances in our lives shift and clarify our view and our destiny and sometimes those circumstances serve to change our views and we, in turn set out on a path to discover who we are and what our purpose is. In looking back, I have gone from one end of that road to the other as I continue to search for my own purpose.
My husband and I met when we were young. There had been some issues within the church early on and as a result we had left the Amish before we got married. Eventually we returned, rejoined the church, and got married. We had three children within six years. For a couple of difficult and indecisive years, we tried to live within the parameters set by the church and had the constant struggle of coming too close to the “fence of the ordnung” which always resulted in some form of disciplinary action as determined by the church. Because there were no Biblical reasons for the “ordnung” issues we eventually made the difficult decision to leave the Amish church so we could raise our children based on Biblical principles rather than the ordnung of the church. Our youngest was six month old when we left again — this time for good. This was a very difficult decision but looking back I don’t regret making it when we did. Two of my brothers had left previously and since then two more brothers and one of my sisters have left as well.
My educational pursuits began in 2008 when with only my eighth grade education from twenty some years prior, I took classes at the local community college and earned my GED. At that time my husband and I owned our own construction business and I thought I would go into accounting to expand my knowledge and improve my ability to do our own books with the hope of expanding the business. Then the housing market took a nosedive, our business struggled and after two years of losses we closed the business and my husband took a payroll job and is now a supervisor for another construction company. It was at the beginning of this down turn that I made the decision to go into nursing; accounting had made sense before but now I decided to choose something that I was passionate about but had never thought of as a real possibility.
I have met many challenges and difficulties along the way and have had to overcome more of my own fears than I ever realized I had. When I started out, I qualified for financial aid and scholarships as business owners and due to the income bracket we were under at the time, we had few difficulties paying for tuition. That changed when my husband became employed. We faced financial difficulties unlike anything we had faced before and I began to fill out applications for grants and scholarships and the ADSFund was one application that I came across. I mailed it in, all the while thinking there are others who are deserving of the help and quite possibly need it more than I do. In the meantime, I received my account statement from the university and due to my husband’s change in employment status, there was a sizable deficit as I no longer qualified for the financial aid we had counted on. I thought I was done and this was the wall that would stop my pursuit of higher education. I had also been struggling with the time college required and having less and less time with the family. I had to quit my part time cleaning job, which strained our finances further, and I began to seriously question how the cost of continuing could possibly be worth it. I had become more discouraged than ever and was almost looking for reasons to quit school.
After much prayer and discussion we decided to try for one semester because at the end of that semester I would have the qualifications to work as an STNA (state tested nurses’ aid) and see if perhaps I would receive any amount from the scholarship applications I had submitted. Thankfully I received a generous scholarship from the ADSFund, which renewed my faith that I am on the right path. I went forward with confidence and by the end of the semester qualified for the deans list.
To anyone reading this and contemplating higher education, my advice is ask questions, lots of them. And if it sounds like something you would like to do; go for it! You will never know unless you try. If you need help, there is help available. Allow yourself to dream, then don’t let fear of the unknown stand between you and your dreams.
I thank all who contribute to this fund and all who invest their time and efforts to make it happen: Emma U. Miller, Saloma Furlong, Naomi Kramer and everyone behind the scenes, thank you so much. To the sponsors who donate to make the fund possible — thank you! Please know I’m blessed every day by your generosity. I have another year before I graduate and additional tuition expenses in the meantime, but I cannot wait to help others on their journey to realizing their dreams. God Bless you all!