After two semesters filled with fun and plenty of hard work, I will finish another year at Liberty this Monday. My sophomore year was different than my freshman year, but it had the same two themes – change and growth.
A lot has changed since I arrived on campus last fall, and I have been blessed with many opportunities to grow as a person.
At the beginning of the year, I started working in live video production of Liberty’s NCAA games. I still remember how nervous I was when I heard the countdown for the broadcast to go live for the first time, but, after a year of experience, I’ve grown more comfortable with working in live sports and have improved as a broadcaster. I’m still far away from being a perfect camera man, but nothing will motivate you to improve more than your video streaming live and playing on a huge screen above your head!
Throughout the year, I was also blessed with the opportunity to learn in the classroom. This semester, I took 13 hours of communication classes, and I am still amazed by how much I learned. Two of my classes were taught by Mr. Bruce Kirk, who was recently honored with a first place Chancellor’s award for excellence in teaching. Mr. Kirk has been an incredible professor to learn under, and I can’t wait to learn more from him next year.
When not going to class or working, I enjoyed making great memories with my friends. Spending nights around bonfires, going on a weekend trip to Leesburg, Va., running a 5K in Blacksburg, and visiting nearby Bedford are memories that I will have for a lifetime.
I enjoyed developing skills, learning in the classroom, and making memories with friends, but I am also thankful for spiritual growth. The most rewarding portion of my year was spending Sunday nights with less fortunate kids in downtown Lynchburg. As a volunteer at the Lighthouse Kids Ministry, I walked the streets of neighborhoods that made me realize how blessed I am and broke my heart for many children who lack basic physical and relational needs.
At Lighthouse, I saw God change lives. I watched girls, with no presence of their earthly father, find their Heavenly Father, and boys, struggling to find their significance in a violent and perverse culture, find their significance in Jesus Christ. Working at Lighthouse strengthened my faith, as I saw my Savior change lives, and also made me realize how much I have to be thankful for.
At the end of my freshman year, I was amazed by God’s blessings in my life, and I am once again thankful for another year filled with so many incredible moments and opportunities. With real-life experience in my future field, classes taught by incredible professors, lasting memories with great friends, and an opportunity to see God change lives; my sophomore year was another one filled with blessings.
On a beautiful spring day in Lynchburg, there is nothing better to do than take in a Liberty baseball or softball game. For my series on Liberty's athletes, I recently had the opportunity to talk with Liberty softball’s Sammi Shivock.
Sammi was born and raised in New Castle, Delaware. While growing up, she wanted to do what her older brother did, and he played sports. As a result, she competed in baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, and volleyball throughout her childhood.
In eighth grade, Sammi was playing baseball and softball, but, when she joined a traveling softball team, softball became her only sport.
Sammi had loved playing baseball, but she enjoyed her new opportunity to play travel softball. When she was 16, she traveled with the Delaware Cobras and went to nationals.
“It was just a great experience to get to travel around with your girls and play ball, and just all through the summer-every weekend-getting to play softball, playing five games a day; it’s just a lot of fun,” Sammi said.
In addition to playing on traveling teams, Sammi took the field for her school, Red Lion Christian Academy. According to LibertyFlames.com, throughout her high school career, she helped her team win three conference championships and led Red Lion to three state tournament appearances.
Sammi demonstrated a lot of talent in softball, but she said it wouldn’t have been possible without some help. "My mom has been an inspiration. She’s been by my side, and I wouldn’t be where I was without her and the rest of my family for that matter,” she said.
Sammi also had the help of her coach, former Liberty volleyball player Nikki Parkinson. “My high school coach has had, and continues to be, a big impact on me, and I am so thankful for her,” she said.
Sammi’s coach had competed for Liberty, but Katie Warrington, Sammi's high school teammate, introduced Sammi to Liberty for the first time.
“I wanted to play Division 1 softball for a Christian university. I came and visited with Katie, when she was visiting, and I just loved the atmosphere of this campus, and I knew this was where I wanted to come,” she said.
Sammi became a Liberty student in the fall of 2010. Her transition to college wasn’t always easy, but it was beneficial.
“You get hit with a lot, but it teaches you so much. You learn discipline. You learn time management. I mean, it really helped me grow up and learn a lot of things, and I’m really thankful for that,” Sammi said.
While making the difficult transition, Sammi made playing college softball look easy. In her first year, she hit more home runs than any other freshman in program history, and she tied a program record with four runs in a single game.
After completing a successful freshman season, Sammi was named to the Big South Softball Championship All-Tournament team for a good reason. In the tournament, she hit a game-winning home run to defeat Gardner-Webb, and, on the next day, she hit the ball over the fence to win the Big South Final over Radford.
“That’s one of my most memorable experiences, not necessarily the plays or anything, just winning that as a team, together, and getting to win that Big South Championship. It was just a great experience all around,” Sammi said.
Sammi has experienced tremendous personal success on the field, but her favorite part of being a Liberty athlete is being with her teammates. “The relationships that I’ve made with them, I just wouldn’t trade that for anything,” she said.
As a Sport Management major, Sammi was named to the Big South All-Academic team, and she hopes to one day be a community relations director for the Baltimore Ravens.
In addition to her life as an athlete, she has enjoyed being a student at Liberty as well. “I’ve loved my experience here. I’ve learned so much; I’ve grown so much being here. I’ve met so many different people that have touched my life in different ways and helped me grow,” she said.
Like other Liberty athletes I have talked with over the last year, Sammi is a talented person that gives all her glory to God, her teammates, and others in her life. I can’t wait to see what she does for the Flames as she finishes her Junior season and prepares for her last season of Liberty softball.
I never had the privilege of attending Liberty, when its founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, was still alive, but I’ve heard that he often encouraged students to finish strong.
Throughout my life, I’ve noticed that starting strong isn’t hard at all, but finishing strong is an entirely different story. When I played basketball in high school, sprinting to the other end of the court was much easier in the first minute of the game than it was in overtime.
If you’re a senior in high school and planning on attending college in the fall, get ready for an exciting experience that will likely test your perseverance. At the beginning of a school year, Liberty’s campus is filled with enthusiastic students ready to tackle a year of work, but, by April, an onslaught of tests, papers, projects, and the college routine causes most students to become extremely ready for a break.
As assignments began to pile up at the end of the semester, it’s easy for motivation to take a sky dive but more important than ever to persevere. When sleep is the first thing on your mind, and care for your grades is slipping away; remember that your strength comes from a higher power.
Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua’s verse is one that we ought to remind ourselves of each day. Even when facing overwhelming circumstances, we can be strong, because the Lord is with us.
While working to be successful in academics, it can often become difficult to keep your priorities straight. God wants to give you the strength to persevere, but he also wants a close relationship with you. Even when you’re working non-stop on assignments, don’t forget who you are working for.
In the busyness of your life, you may be tempted to give up your time with God, when you need it the most. Make time to spend with God each day. Life isn’t all about academics, so be sure to finish your semester well in the other areas of your life too.
Dr. Falwell was a visionary, who believed that Liberty would one day be a great university. In only 41 years, the college he founded has grown to include around 13,000 residential students and over 100,000 online and residential students combined. Dr. Falwell's vision was great, but, in order for it to become a reality, he had to trust God and persevere through difficult circumstances.
Towards the end of a year in college, completing your assignments and preparing for exams may be a struggle but, like Dr. Falwell did, don't give up and trust God. Finish strong!
Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to interview athletes from many of Liberty’s Division 1 athletic teams. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and I recently had the pleasure of talking with an athlete, who chose to never give up despite difficult circumstances.
In Andrew's family, participating in sports was a tradition. “It was kind of what I grew up with. My dad was a coach. My brother and sister both played. My sister was on varsity (since like eighth grade) in three different sports, so we’re a very athletic-minded family,” he said.
Andrew decided to carry on his family’s tradition by joining Highland Christian’s elementary basketball team in fourth grade. He continued to play basketball into high school but also played baseball before giving it up to focus on a future career in college basketball.
In his tenth grade year, Andrew and his basketball team experienced a difficult season. He recalled the final record being around 5-20. The Knights faced adversity but bounced back to post 20-5 records in Andrew’s junior and senior years.
“Half of us had grown up since elementary together, playing ball, so that was special in and of itself, and then all the accomplishments that came with it were just extras,” Smith said.
Andrew received plenty of “extras” to go with his team’s success. According to LibertyFlames.com,he earned many personal awards and capped off his senior year by receiving all-state honors and averaging 25 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game.
Smith wasn’t dreaming of playing for Liberty until he took a deeper look at it and visited the campus. “It kind of all clicked, because it was Division 1, it was Christian (which I liked)… but then it was also a big school relative to what I had been through-graduating with 40 kids,” he said.
Since Andrew took the court for Liberty in the fall of 2011, his journey has been a rollercoaster. Before his freshman and sophomore years, Coach Layer was considering redshirting Smith, but team injuries prevented it from happening and forced Andrew to grow up fast.
“Freshman year, if I would have been redshirted, I would have learned certain things that would have helped me this year, but I think God has a reason for all those experiences, and I think they helped me develop into the player I was able to be this year,” Andrew said.
Andrew Smith played a break-out season this year and frequented the highlight reels with impressive blocks and dunks. In a home game against Campbell, he blocked a shot and ran to the other end of the court to tip in an alley. The play was so impressive that it aired on ESPN’s Top 10, a segment that Andrew used to watch before school every day.
Smith personally had a successful regular season, but, with many transfer and freshman players, he and his teammates knew it would take time to gel together.
“We kind of just kept telling ourselves that and staying focused, working day-to-day, but don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t easy to keep your mind straight when your 0-8 and then 1-11, so it took constant reminders from yourself and then coach,” Smith said.
Not giving up wasn’t easy for Andrew and his team, but they saw their hard work pay off when their longest winning streak came at the perfect time- the Big South Tournament. Coach Layer almost put the red shirt on Andrew at the beginning of the season, but, in the tournament, Smith started for the Flames and played a crucial role in his team putting on its Big South Championship shirts.
A Big South title sent the Flames to the NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Oh., an experience that Andrew said was surreal and unlike anything he had experienced before. Liberty suffered a devastating loss to North Carolina A&T at the buzzer, but Andrew is positive about his team’s future.
“If we just keep building, we’re going to be a hard team to beat by anyone. I think we could even get some good out of conference wins, next year, against some tougher opponents,” he said.
Just like his team bounced back in high school, Andrew and the Flames bounced back from adversity to have a successful post season. Smith believes this year was a “stepping stone” to what he can do in his future at Liberty, and I believe he is right. Andrew Smith is a great player with incredible potential, and I can’t wait to see what he does in his next two years as a Liberty Flame.
It’s that time of year again! The campus is growing busy as high school students from near and far arrive on campus. Four times each year, Liberty welcomes high school students to College for a Weekend (CFAW).
If you are in high school, you may be visiting Liberty this very weekend or planning a trip for the near future. I remember stepping foot on Liberty’s campus for the first time at a Friendly Friday in March 2011. To be completely honest, I didn’t get as good of a feel for my future school as I could have.
Now that Liberty is my second home, I’ve noticed a few things that high school students can do to make their visits as beneficial as possible. I hope these tips will help you during your future visit or maybe even this weekend!
See the Campus
Obviously, a big reason to visit a college is to see the campus in person. Take some time to explore Liberty’s campus and be sure to take advantage of a provided tour. Getting a grasp of Liberty’s massive facilities can be challenging, but the more you learn, the better you will understand what your future life at Liberty may be like.
Spend Time with Students
Seeing the campus is something that many visitors are good at, but I believe spending time with Liberty students is even more important. Liberty boast impressive facilities, but looking at the campus and not meeting students is kind of like looking at a house without meeting the roommates your considering moving in with. I believe that Liberty’s student body is even more impressive than its facilities, so be sure to spend time with students.
Always be respectful of students’ time, but, if you are invited to do something with them, go for it! Eating meals and attending events with other students will give you a great feel for life at Liberty. Talk with students in your residence hall and the classes you visit. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all, who can understand student life better than students themselves?
Throughout your visit at Liberty, try to experience college life instead of simply observing it. For example, think about working out at the gym with some Liberty students, instead of just visiting the gym.
Meet the Faculty
College life is filled with plenty of fun, but one of the main purposes of college is to prepare you for your future career. You will be spending a significant portion of your college career in the classroom, and your professors will play a play a vital role in how enjoyable your college experience is and how successful your future career is.
If you are looking at a particular area of study, take time to talk with professors and get a good feel for your program. You can likely even set up an appointment to meet with a professor and discuss your degree plan. If the professors you meet are anything like mine, they will be more than happy to talk with you and answer any questions you have.
Don’t Get Lost!
Liberty’s campus is massive and its two largest buildings (DeMoss Hall and Green Hall) are no exception. At some point in your visit, you will likely feel lost but don’t be afraid to simply ask a student for directions. At some point, every student at Liberty has wondered through the halls of DeMoss in search of a classroom, and students will understand your predicament.
Also, be sure to download Liberty’s mobile app “myLibertyU.” The app has a great maps tool that will show you your current location, allow you to search for a building’s location, and plan a bus route for you to get across campus.
I hope that these tips will help you make the most out of your visit at Liberty. Whether you are experiencing Liberty’s campus this weekend or planning to in the near future, have a great visit! If you get a good look at my university, I think you will like what you see.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below!