Pursuing a Lifelong Dream with a Heart Full of Gratitude

Lisa YoderMy 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.

Lisa Yoder 2To 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!

Lisa Yoder

Posted in Scholarship Winners
18 comments on “Pursuing a Lifelong Dream with a Heart Full of Gratitude
  1. Leon H. says:

    You have an inspiring story, Lisa. I’m glad you received a scholarship from ADSF–you deserve it. Good luck in your studies!

  2. Fannie Miller says:

    Great Story, Lisa. You will make a great nurse. I am so happy that you found the strength to go one more semester and congratulations on making the Dean’s list.

    • Lisa Yoder says:

      Thank you Fannie. I’m sure you’re familiar with the strength nursing school can require so your encouragement means a lot. Congratulations on your up-coming graduation!

  3. Jake Gingerich says:

    That is a very inspirational story,,,many times I wished I had pursued higher education and never did, I do try to help any kid coming from the amish background in any way I can to further their education, I had never really looked into the ADSF, had heard about it but never researched it,, it sounds like a great program and I will definitely be trying to make a difference to the ones that want to further their education,,,I firmly believe that they are some of the most brilliant minds, that were taught from a young age to preserver, I see it everyday by what a lot of them accomplish with just the eighth grade education, it is mind boggling what they would be capable of with continued education. I did pass my GED after having been graduated from eighth grade for ten years and hardly cracked a book, but as it goes for most of us,, I did not have the resources to pursue anything else as I had to spend my time making ends meet instead. having no children of my own it is my goal to help some of the younger ones succeed in ways I only dreamed of..
    Again, keep up the good work and know that you are true inspiration to many of us!

    • Lisa Yoder says:

      Jake your sentiments moved me to tears… you are so right! While I realize higher education may not be for everyone, it is so sad if support and resources are what keeps someone from reaching for their dreams, or worse yet they won’t allow themselves to dream because they see it as impossible. That is the reason this foundation is such a wonderful resource and I hope we are only in the beginning of many great things. Thank you for the encouragement and may you find many Blessings along the roads you travel.

  4. Leroy Miller says:

    Lisa Yoder,

    God bless you for your inspiring and articulate account of overcoming a host of major obstacles. Though accounting is a worthwhile profession,nursing offers opportunities to interact and minister to persons both physically and spiritually.

    I am a Holmes County, OH native of O.O. Amish parentage, grew up in VA and still live here after many years. L.M.

  5. Lisa Yoder says:

    Leroy, Thank you for your kindness and encouragement. Many of those obstacles are exactly what brought me to where I am at today and for that I’m thankful. The nurse-patient interaction is unique and I’m blessed to be in a position to experience it. God bless you.

  6. emmamiller20@gmail.com says:

    Thanks for your inspiring story, Lisa. I’m so pleased to hear the the scholarship gave you renewed faith and courage. If ADSF can help one person achieve what they set out to do, then it has all been worth it. I can tell you from experience that there is nothing quite like the feeling of walking down that aisle on graduation day. That was when I promised to do my best to help others reach that goal so they can feel it too. I wish that for you with all my heart. All the best in the rest of your studies!!

  7. David Miller says:

    Congratulations Lisa! This award could not have been awarde to a more deserving person. Your personal challenges clearly illustrate that perseverance is the difference between failure and not only success,but ultimate success. Well done! I wish you continued success in your future endeavors. Concidentally,in 2008, the implosion of the housing market,and the instabilty of the economy was also the driving force that propelled myself to reexamine my career and my future aspirations. Downsizing, switching career paths,and persuing higher education was the result.at the time it seemed almost mission impossible,but in retrospect it was one of the best decisi odins I have made yet. I truly believe that was Divine interventns speaking to me. The only regretif I may,is not doing this earlier in life. Keep up the great work. tervntn.

  8. Elsie Mast says:

    I loved reading your story, it really is very inspirational. Congratulations on making the Deans list. I wish you continued success in achieving your goals.

  9. Lisa Yoder says:

    Elsie, Thank you so much, and yes making the deans list was a nice plus. I go into each class with very high expectations for myself but I have found that perfection is unattainable for us humans so I give it my best effort and pray that it will see me through. Thank you again!

  10. Lucy Bannister says:

    Lisa, I’m so proud of you! God gave you the courage to embrace a bigger family and community. He knew that we needed you.

  11. Brenda Nixon says:

    So proud of your accomplishments Lisa!

  12. Henry Troyer says:

    I have only now become aware of your story. How inspiring! You have come a long way. Your journey began a little further back (Swartzentruber Amish) than mine (Mainline Amish) which no doubt made it more challenging. It is encouraging to read how your ADSF scholarship empowered you to complete your studies. It inspires me to support that fund when I can.

  13. Joel Bontrager says:

    I am glad I came across your story and this website ! I am in Wisconsin, but would like to volunteer, if possible.
    I have many cousins who have left the Amish, but are all with other conservative groups. I am lucky enough to have graduated with my BS, and currently taking classes for my Masters.

    Knowledge is freedom and security, to other former Amish, please pursue your education ! Take 1 class at a time, it will allow you an insight to other classes, etc. We all need to learn to walk before we can run.

    Keep up the great work

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