Alumni Spotlight: Becky Miles
Becky Miles is a Williams alumna (’03) who is doing some inspiring work as a teacher in inner city Kansas City, Kan. We recently had the chance to ask her some questions about her time at Williams and the work that she is doing now. What we found was someone who has a passion for serving others.
How did you end up at WBC?
Through a series of strange, yet God-led events! I started my freshman year at a different college, and ended up having to transfer for the remainder of my collegiate years. I wasn't sure where I was going, and my parents happened to drive on Hwy. 67, saw the WBC sign, and pulled in for a look around. They ended up calling me and telling me about the school. I applied, and was transferred - all in a matter of a few weeks!
Can you point to a defining moment that helped chart the course of your life?
It was my freshman year of college, on a mission trip to Corpus Christi, Tex. It was my first mission trip, and we spent the week hanging out with little kids from the neighborhood we were in, doing VBS and sports day camps. At the end of the week, I knew that my world had been turned upside down - I knew I wanted to give my life to give hope to kids just like these - kids who know nothing outside of the violence and crime they experienced on a daily basis. Seeing their eyes light up by teaching them soccer skills or watching them listen intently about a God who loves them changed my life. I knew that THIS was what I was called to do.
Is there a particular person who had an impact on your life at Williams?
Several, actually. Chris Perry (adjunct Christian Ministries professor) had a huge impact on my life at WBC. Not only did he teach in the classroom, he taught me outside of it, as well. He believed in me when there were moments I didn't believe in myself. He trusted me to lead small groups of middle and high school girls at his church - showing me that I had the ability to lead, to show others Christ in me - and to hopefully lead them to explore a deeper relationship with Christ.
The others were Spencer & Nicole Teal. The Teals started out as great friends, and moved into staff positions at WBC. Working beside Spencer on Campus Ministries Leadership Team was one of the most encouraging parts of my experiences at Williams. Much like Chris, Spencer showed his belief in my leadership abilities, and encouraged me at times I wanted to give up. I worked with Nicole on Student Activities Board, and like Spencer, she walked alongside me during some hard and frustrating times. Nicole mentored me, teaching me what it meant to become a godly woman.
Tell us about the jobs you have had since leaving WBC.
When I graduated from Williams, I moved to Kansas City to take a job at an inner city elementary school, and I've been there for the past seven years. I also spent a year working part time for an international missions-sending organization that was based out of Kansas City.
Please tell us about what you are doing now.
I live in Overland Park, Kan., about 10 minutes away from the school I work at in Kansas City, Kan. The school is in one of the most forgotten parts of the urban core of Kansas City - you definitely don't just get lost and end up there. Our school is 86% Hispanic, with the majority of our students being bi-lingual. I teach accelerated reading to fourth and fifth graders, and direct a mentoring program that I started three years ago.
Our neighborhood is riddled with rival gangs, and recruitment for these gangs start at the end of elementary school - fifth grade. After watching some of our most creative students being recruited year after year, I was tired of watching the neighborhood win, and decided to do something about it, starting the mentoring program. I asked several friends of mine from church if they would pilot the program with me, and come on board as mentors. To my surprise, they agreed (I'm not sure they knew what they were getting into!).
We started our first year with four mentors, and five of our most at-risk students. It was a rough year - we saw little signs of behavior improvement, and it didn't seem like the students enjoyed the time with their mentors.
One student, Louie, had a rough home life (dad in and out of prison, living with mom, brother, aunt and three cousins) and was one of my biggest concerns. Louie was one of my students, and had so much potential - if he could get past his life experiences. I matched him with a good friend of mine, but wasn't sure it was going to work out. At the end of the school year, Louie asked if Ryan could come back the next year to hang out with him again, and still asks about him - three years later!
I have been humbled by the ways God has shown up - in public education, no less! We started out with three mentors, and just finished our fourth year with almost 20 mentors. Over the course of the program, we are seeing behavior and discipline problems drop, and grades are steadily improving. One of the most beautiful parts of the program this year was having a fraternity from University of Missouri-Kansas City literally show up on our doorstep, wanting to be part of our program. They brought in 14 mentors, and have already signed on board to come back next year to do it all over again!!
This program is what motivates me to get up each day - knowing that even in the smallest ways, seeds of hope are being planted in each of these kids' (and their families’) lives - and knowing that one day, the gangs won't exist because the would-be members are in college, changing the course of a neighborhood forever!
What ministries, mission trips or community activities have you participated in?
The most amazing thing I've been able to be part of was taking two trips to Ethiopia, with an organization called Food for the Hungry. The first trip I took with eight friends from church to Zeway, a local community that we decided to sponsor children from. What a heart changing experience! I fell in love with a completely different type of people than I had met before, and had the opportunity to meet the children that I sponsored. At the end of that trip, I came back knowing I had left part of my heart in Zeway.
I spent the next six months talking to Food for the Hungry staff about returning the next summer, for a longer stay. FH typically only sends out short term (1-2 weeks) trips, and extended trips they called Hunger Corps (1-2 years). They had never sent someone into the field for two months, but decided they would take a chance on me, and approved my trip.
The plan was for me to teach English, both to the social workers who work with our children, and to the children in our sponsorship program. I saw firsthand social workers, who were giving their lives to be the hands and feet of Christ, living each moment to meet the needs of the children they worked with, and I saw children who had nothing by American standards, but were the happiest kids I've ever met.
The experience was like none other - building relationships with the social workers, and being able to teach these amazing kids - I was even able to teach two of the kids I sponsor!
How have these activities impacted your life?
My trips to Zeway have impacted my life in many ways. It has challenged me to be more selfless, giving my time and attention to the marginalized people around me. Working alongside the social workers in Zeway taught me to pay attention to people I normally wouldn't even notice.
Spending the summer with some of the most marginalized people in the world reminded me that people everywhere -regardless of cleanliness or dirt, poverty or wealth, need to be -and should be- loved. Whether stricken with HIV in rural sub-Saharan Africa or living in a penthouse suite in New York City - everyone has the right to be loved. It is our responsibility - and honor - as Christ followers to be that to people.
It is Christ in us, the hope of glory that goes before us and follows after us, shining Light into the darkness that surrounds so many. It is our hope, our peace, and our love that directs others into that Light.
Is there anything else that you would like to tell us about yourself or your time here at WBC?
I couldn't imagine having been anywhere else for my college experience. My time at Williams was precious - even though there were times I wondered what I was doing at a place stuck between fields that only the mosquitoes could seem to find with no problems!
Looking back on my experiences - both educationally and socially - it was the greatest decision I could have - and did - make regarding my education. From Dr. Swaim's constant teasing and nicknaming me "Trouble," to Dr. Foster's passionate lectures on the life of Christ, it was definitely some of the greatest years of my life!
“Williams Baptist College Alumni: Higher Learning beyond the classroom. Higher Purpose beyond ourselves.”