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My Dream of Earning A Degree At Thirty Five

 By Sandra Casillas 
My experience at Pillar College has been quite the journey thus far. A leap of faith and obedience was what it took. When I began this new journey in my life at age 35, the very thought of going back to school after all these years was quite terrifying. My anxiety was especially heightened because I simply hated school! I had been out of work for nine years because of an illness. I had also been out of high school for 17 years. Returning to school was simply frightening, if not terrifying. But I was convinced that it was the Lord who directed my path to Pillar. 
Before enrolling, I remember times when the Lord kept pressing upon my heart to go back to school. At the time it seemed ridiculous, if not somewhat humorous, for someone my age who disliked school. The school’s name kept popping up on my radar: first on 1190 AM WLIB, a local gospel station, promoting Pillar as New Jersey’s only evangelical Christian college and then later a speaker at my church who was an alumna. 
Before both encounters, I knew little about Pillar and I wrestled with God – asking what He was trying to say to me. I reluctantly obeyed and decided to head back to the classroom. But it was not Pillar. It was at a local community college that only lasted for one semester because I was miserable. I never felt at peace because I was sensing that was not where God wanted me to be.  A year later after withdrawing, I was attending a leadership conference where I unexpectedly discovered that the keynote speaker was from Pillar. I was convinced that it was God speaking to me and I finally surrendered. The following week I applied and was accepted. 
My first semester at Pillar was challenging as much as it was exhausting, especially since I had been out of school for a very long time. I was now a college freshman but I felt like a child learning to walk. For example, using a computer to type an assignment seemed like a foreign experience. I had to re-program my brain for the collegiate, academic experience because I was coming on empty. It was a frustrating start that ended with many tearful nights. 
But with the help of the Lord and great support from professors and staff alike who were always there to pray you through, encourage you and uplift you along the way I am moving forward one day at a time. What I love the most about Pillar is the small classroom size, knowing my classmates and professors on a personal level, and an overall intimate feel of our campus. Pillar offers extra academic support with love and care that one can only experience at a Christ-centered institution. At Pillar, I feel like I am more than a student ID number; but like a unique child of God with a divine purpose. Best of all, I love the fact that prayer is an integral part our classroom experience and student life. It is not unusual for one of your peers to stop you in the hallways or in between classes to pray. 
Finally, at Pillar College you feel as if you are part of one big family that is learning and growing together. Personally, I am growing daily, both academically and spiritually. But I have also come to learn and understand that everyone has his or her journey to take. Everyone has his or her path to blaze and his or her unique story to tell. But there is one common denominator: Christ. As I enter my sophomore year as a Psychology & Counseling major, I plan to continue to grow and mature – but only through Christ who strengthens me. Over the summer, I was elected president of the Student Government Association for the Newark campus. Amazing for someone who was lost and dreaded school only a year ago. Only God! 

Sandra Casillas
Sophomore – Class of 2020
Psychology & Counseling major

If you’d like to learn more about professions that enable you to serve wholeheartedly and faithfully in your life’s work or want to learn more about a biblically based, Christ-centered education at Pillar, we’d love to introduce you to Christian perspectives at work in your future career. For more information on how Pillar College can help you pursue your ministry and educational goals, please phone us at 973-803-5000 or email [email protected].