Fifth grade: a time of braces and transitions. Most fifth graders are thinking about sports, their growing awareness of the opposite sex, or the looming years to come in junior high.
But for Grace Erwin of Avilla, Ind., fifth grade was the year she landed on her future career path.
“I’ve always had a strong sense of justice, and from a young age, I’ve been passionate about ensuring that everyone is treated fairly,” Erwin said. “It was in fifth grade that I decided that I would make a good lawyer, and that’s been the dream ever since.”
Now, Erwin is working toward a bachelor’s degree in political science with the hope of becoming a family lawyer in the future. The same passion that spurred fifth-grade Erwin to stand up for her mistreated classmates at recess continues to drive her forward today.
A Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science
Erwin first heard of Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., when she was recruited to play volleyball by Head Women’s Volleyball Coach Katie Van Hofwegen. Volleyball was a passion of Erwin’s, but her top priority was finding a college with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Erwin recalled the day she arrived at Grace for a volleyball camp, “I automatically fell in love with Grace’s campus.” But it wasn’t until she realized that she could study political science and double minor in pre-law and behavioral science at Grace that Erwin was sold.
Once Erwin stepped on campus her freshman year, she quickly got involved in co-curricular activities like the mediation team and eagerly attended classes like “Introduction to American Government,” where the class frequently discussed the 2020 Presidential Election.
“Little did I know at the time, I would be supplementing that content with hands-on experience, playing a role in the election myself,” said Erwin.
Stepping Up as an AP Stringer
When a state representative from the Associated Press (AP) approached Grace College Program Director for History and Political Science, Dr. Jared Burkholder, asking for a student to serve as a “stringer” for the 2020 Presidential Election, he thought of Erwin right away.
“Even though voting is such a regular part of our democracy, most of us don’t know much about what happens at the polls or how media agencies like the AP make projections after the polls close,” said Burkholder. “So this was a great opportunity for Grace, as a political science major, to be a part of that process. I knew Grace would step up and do a great job,” said Burkholder.
“I was immediately thankful for the opportunity,” explained Erwin. “But walking into the justice building that night, I was nervous! I just kept telling myself, ‘This is a big deal — it’s the national election,’” she said.
In journalism jargon, a stringer is a freelance correspondent and Erwin was tasked with reporting the Kosciusko County poll results to the Associated Press the night of the election. Approximately every half hour, using a printout of the latest results, she would call in the numbers, which the AP would then use to make their projections.
“One of my big takeaways,” said Erwin, “is that anyone can do this — everyday individuals can play a special role in the election. That is a neat reality.”
As Erwin reflected on the experience, she acknowledged one of the core attributes that makes a Grace education unique.
“I’m thankful that Grace is so connected to the community, and I’m thankful for advisors like Dr. Burkholder who give me opportunities like this. At larger institutions, you just don’t have access to your advisors or to the community like you do at smaller schools like Grace,” she said.
Erwin looks forward to her next two and a half years at Grace, benefitting from a highly interactive student-teacher apprenticeship model where she will develop critical thinking skills alongside a Christ-centered understanding of what it means to be a part of God’s humanity.
On top of that, she anticipates many more opportunities to put her bachelor’s degree in political science to practice in and outside of the classroom — all to fulfill her fifth-grade dream of becoming a lawyer. – from grace.edu