A Gap Year Leads to Leap of Faith

When Grace Winnes graduated from high school in 2020, she planned on attending college in Minneapolis. But after she learned that classes would be moved online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she decided to take a gap year.

She worked at a coffee shop and bakery in the Minneapolis area, where she showed up to work every morning at 4:30 a.m. She then embarked on a two-month road trip to visit National Parks in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Wyoming. All the while, Winnes was looking for colleges with social work programs.

“I had known for a long time that I loved working with people and that I loved being the hands and feet of Jesus,” she says. “Social work appealed to me. I wasn’t sure where to look, so I Googled ‘Christian college social work program.’” Dordt was in the search results.

When Winnes visited campus in March, she knew right away that Dordt was the place she wanted to be: “I walked on campus and felt like I was at home.”

She remembers driving back to Minneapolis that day and listening to a hymn:

Because he lives, I can face tomorrow

Because he lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know, he holds the future…

“I thought, ‘I know the Lord holds the future. So I’ll go wherever he wants me to go, and for now, I think that’s Dordt.’”

Before she started college, Winnes prayed the Lord would provide friends who love and seek him—friends who live out their faith. “At Dordt, he gave me that strong Christian community. Questions like, ‘What has the Lord been teaching you?’ or ‘How have you seen him move this week?’ are regular topics of conversation in my apartment. He is faithful to complete the work that he started in so many ways, and I am grateful.”

Winnes has also appreciated Dordt’s social work program. “Our social work classes are rarely quiet because we’re always building connection. My professors make the coursework practical by helping us to understand the theories and policies while also equipping us to develop strong interpersonal relationships with others. I love social work so much.”

Winnes’ social work internship was at Kinsey Elementary School in Sioux Center, where she worked alongside two school counselors to engage in classroom, small group, and individual work. She says she has learned so much from that experience.

“Most of it is about building a base of social, emotional, and academic skills,” she explains. “It’s meaningful to know that these skills will be foundational and might have an impact on them for the rest of their lives.”

There’s rarely been a dull moment in the six semesters that Winnes has spent at Dordt. She’s gone on PLIA during spring break a couple times, worked as a summer camp counselor at Summit Ministries in Colorado, and worked as a student employee for the Social Work Department.

“I also interned for Dordt’s campus ministries, where I helped with organizing events, setting up a leadership retreat, facilitating small groups, and more,” she says. “I’ve had so many wonderful experiences at Dordt.”

Looking back, Winnes is grateful she took a gap year. “I’m glad I took that time. The Lord did a lot of prep work in my heart during that year, and I’m glad Dordt was the place that I chose to attend for college. It’s been so formative. I now feel equipped to go out into the world and be a faithful follower of Jesus, while also stewarding the gifts he’s given me.”