Alum Highlights

Tyler Matthijssen: Class of 2015

ALUM HIGHLIGHTS: TYLER MATTHIJSSEN

(seen on the right)

LFP Cohort Class: 2015

LFP Alum Tyler Matthijssen certainly never would have imagined in her time here at Eastern that upon graduating, she would not be finding a middle school teaching job as expected, but instead would be fighting the battle of cancer. She recounts her journey through diagnosis and treatment in her open and blog posts. Tyler’s courageous steps to be raw, vulnerable and truthful about her experience has given others the privilege of taking a glimpse into her life and hearing about her daily battle. She credits her inspirational story to one of being surrounded by prayerful friends and family, and that through her battles with God, feelings of bitterness, and feeling pathetic, she believes that ultimately, somehow, she has come out stronger.

Tyler expresses a continued battle of feeling very alone at times, bitter that this illness has left a permanent imprint on her through side effects that will last for the rest of her life, and the wish of not losing a year of her life to this disease. She had been planning to move out, get her own apartment, many of these and other such expectations and dreams have not yet come through. Tyler has often stayed quiet about her story, due to fear of having such strong feelings resurface, and fear of people looking at her with sympathy.

Yet, despite these fears, she wonders if her extreme story may actually be relatable, such as to people who often feel stuck, and as though their life circumstances have doomed them to a life of constant struggle? She wonders if to such people, perhaps, her life and journey can speak to such experiences? She shares that everyone has their own hardships, and that this battle is hers, and will continue to be hers for now. Yet, in the midst of this hardship, she is learning how to talk about this battle, and she believes it is God’s goal for her to connect with others to share her story. Tyler recognizes the enemy’s goal to keep her from sharing this story, and perpetuating feelings of loneliness and a lack of desire to connect her story back to how God worked and continues to work in her life. Yet, she is taking the courageous steps to confront such lies of the enemy, no longer let them control her life, and instead take the bold step out into the freedom of sharing her story.

Tyler has experienced the reality that life is always going to be full of hardships, insecurities, and doubts. Yet, despite these, she has found beauty in so much that she used to just believe she deserved, thinking that life just randomly happened to bestow such provisions upon her. However, she has learned that God is so much more purposeful than this type of perspective on life, and there is so much purpose in everything that He puts in people’s lives. She says that while she is still learning the purpose of it all, it is very exciting!

With this new perspective on life, Tyler is currently searching for a full-time teaching job, so she can have a middle school classroom of her own. She hopes to continue to inspire others to recognize the beauty in the mundane, and help them to know there is so much more than meets the eye.

Tyler shares that her time in LFP was an amazing experience that allowed her to meet some of her best friends to this day. These friends have been ones she has seen get married, have children, and who visited her and sat with her in the hospital while she was loopy on medicine! Tyler says that LFP gave her the push she needed to lead a club, continue to have a social and academic life in addition to all of the schoolwork, and ultimately, taught her just how much strength she really possessed!

Mike Wilson (Class of 2010)

ALUM HIGHLIGHTS: MIKE WILSON

 
LFP Cohort Class: 2010
 
Major: Biblical Studies (Minor: Anthropology, Sport & Coaching)
 
EU Leadership: Founder and leader of Run 4 Kenya, Cross-Country Captain, Resident Advisor, Track & Field Coach at Conestoga High School
 
Michael Wilson is a 2010 Eastern graduate. Although originally from Akron, OH, Mike currently lives in the Wayne area with his wife, Val, who is also an Eastern Graduate. During his time at Eastern, Mike competed in cross country, and ran unattached with a running club in track and field meets in the spring semesters.  He was also the founder of a campus group called Run 4 Kenya. They used half marathons and trail-racing events to raise more than $10,000 to support freshwater and education-based initiatives in Nairobi, Kenya. "We didn't have a clue what we were doing when we started it, but it was fun to learn, screw things up, figure it out, and see others enjoy the process of being involved in something outside the campus walls."
 
Please tell us a little about your work since graduating from Eastern.
 
Since graduating, Eastern has given me the opportunity to pursue what I love. Over the course of the last few years, we have steadily built a cross country team, as well as a newly-instituted NCAA track & field program. I coach both the men's and women's teams. It has been a process, but I wouldn't trade it. I have an unbelievably talented assistant coaching staff and, without them, none of what we do would be possible. I started coaching as a part-time coach at Conestoga High School during the spring of my senior year at Eastern. I was asked to stay as an assistant for Eastern's cross country programs in the fall of 2010, and I was hired as the head coach of the program on a part-time basis in 2011. I worked full-time in the Undergraduate Admissions Office for 5 years, and during that time, we started building track & field. In the summer of 2015, Eastern announced the addition of track & field as an NCAA-sponsored sport. This is our 1st full indoor season and our 2nd full outdoor calendar.
 
How has your involvement with LFP influenced you?
 
My involvement with LFP made me very self-aware...I credit Tess Bradley, the director of the program at the time, for helping me figure out how to work on my strengths and become aware of my weak points. I was a pretty stubborn 18-20 year old, so I'm sure it took some patience on her part...I learned a great deal about followership, servant leadership, how to influence, how to communicate well, and how to reconcile my faith with a lot of tough questions. It was a great forum in which to discuss tough issues with a bunch of bright individuals - some who were quite like me and others who were not. In that setting, I learned a lot about myself and how to use my gifts to serve others.
 
What are your plans for the track and field team?
 
I'm extremely competitive. I want to see our programs grow quickly, both in size and in depth. We have 40 freshmen on this year's roster, and it's incredible to see such a young group working so hard. Conference championships sound nice, but I think our program is far more interested in moving to the national level...
 
 
Now, I think that goes hand in hand with two things that are extremely important as we build the culture of our team: excellence and character. We want to build young men and women of character who expect excellence of themselves and of each other, no matter the situation. That is a long-term process. No amount of tweeting inspirational quotes or instagramming workout pictures ever got a kid on a national podium. We expect that our athletes show up early, stay late, and work hard at something. We don't have a track. Figure it out. We don't have indoor space to practice vaults. Figure it out. Saturday mornings are for working harder, not for sleeping in. They'll experience failure alongside victory. They'll realize other people are talented too, and that wishes are very different than goals. They learn sacrifice, team-work, humility, endurance, perseverance. More importantly, they learn that these things matter off the track and, when they tie that all together, they start to realize character. So, yes, we want to win. As we do it, we want to do it really well. We have a very long way to go, but we're off to a decent start, and there is a lot of energy around our young team. Looking forward to seeing what they can do!
 

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