When Mariah Price was in the fifth grade, she walked starstruck onto Grace College’s campus. She was on a college visit led by a Grace alumnus and the founder of her school. Throughout her visit, Price became more and more overcome by everything she saw and learned about the school, dreaming of one day returning as a real-life Grace College student. Little did she know, she would not only attend Grace, but she would earn her double major degree, bachelor’s in sociology and counseling, become the president of the Black Student Association on campus, and serve as the student body chaplain. One day, the fifth grader’s small feet that carried her around campus would leave big footprints at Grace College.
Growing up, Price was a lover of people.
“I loved relationships as a kid and I really appreciated the mentors that I had,” she said. “They made me want to be that kind of person for someone else.”
When she moved from Chicago to Winona Lake, Indiana, to begin her first year at Grace, she didn’t yet know what she wanted to do with her career — all her enneagram two self knew was that she wanted to help others. She landed on a double major degree with a bachelor’s in sociology and counseling.
Initially, she wanted to use her bachelor’s in sociology to become a mental health counselor, but she quickly realized how passionate she was about youth. So, Price decided she would earn her Master’s in School Counseling so she could work in a high school as an academic counselor. This seemed like a perfect fit, as academic counselors can be a crucial part of a high schooler’s development, encouraging students professionally, socially, and personally.
“Parents fill an important role, but having a source outside of your family to give you advice and push you forward is impactful,” said Price.
When she first started earning her double major degree at Grace, she didn’t get as involved on campus as she had hoped. She went to classes, spent time with friends, and watched her college days pass by. Then everything changed when she was asked to help revamp the Black Student Association (BSA). Her vision as president was to ensure that Black students felt welcomed and supported at Grace from day one. She served as the secretary her first year, and then president her second.
“I tried to do my best to reach out to them,” she said. “Grace culture is unique, and we want to help people feel invited and heard.”
Mariah also joined the chapel team as an underclassman. She communicated with speakers, coordinated and planned chapel events, and even got to meet chapel guests for dinner when they arrived in town. It was at one such meeting that Price was introduced to Cokiesha Bailey Robinson. Now, a good friend of Price’s, Robinson serves as the associate dean of student diversity and inclusion.
“Mariah is one of the reasons that I wanted to be at Grace. She has been a very encouraging student-leader presence for me and for all that know her,” Robinson said. “She has helped students feel like they belong at Grace, and will be leaving great footprints as a legacy.”
This year, her fourth and final year, Price was chosen to be the senior chapel coordinator after two previous years on the chapel team. Although chapel looked different this year due to COVID-19, Price has enjoyed being the liaison between Brent Mencarelli, Grace College’s chaplain, and the rest of the student chapel team.
“It has been amazing to watch Mariah grow in her leadership skills,” Mencarelli said. “She is a relational leader who has an ability to help others work together toward a common goal. She also exhibits a consistent kind attitude and always remains calm under pressure.”
In addition to serving as student chaplain, Price stepped into a student leader role for the gospel choir on campus. Through her many leadership roles, Price has learned essential lessons for her career as an academic counselor.
“I guide others best through my leadership roles. I want to make sure Black students are seen and loved. I want to meet students where they are at. Sometimes that means throwing a Friendsgiving party for someone who had to miss their family’s Thanksgiving. Sometimes it means giving someone my contact information so I can be there for them. And sometimes it means taking someone to Light Rail to talk for hours,” she said.
Price hasn’t just left her footprints at Grace, she has left a substantial trail behind her everywhere she’s gone.
For the past two years, she has interned at Sunshine Gospel Ministries, a youth outreach program in Chicago. During her time there, she has built genuine relationships with the youth as well as with the staff. Last summer, she had the chance to lead a work readiness program where she prepared high school students for work life and trained them in financial literacy.
Now that she has only one semester left of her bachelor’s in sociology and counseling at Grace, Price wants to make the best of it. She is building a legacy here that encourages other students, inspires new leaders, and invites everyone to belong.
Kierstyn Worthem, Price’s friend and fellow student leader at Grace, said: “Mariah makes Grace feel like home. She influences those around her by being her authentic self. I’ve been inspired to be a better friend and leader because of her.”
“I want someone to be able to say ‘My experience at Grace was better because of Mariah,’” Price said.
And if you take a look at Price’s footprints around campus, it’s obvious that she has done just that! – from grace.edu