Senior follows her heart into mission work

Just after her freshman year at Wingate, Kirby Goodin came to a crossroads in her life. She entered college intending to get a degree in accounting and become a CPA, but things weren’t going well.

“I was getting a little fed up with it,” she says. “My grades weren’t where I wanted them to be. My test grades weren’t good. I was having to work really hard on my homework to bring up the grades from my tests.”

Freshman year wasn’t a complete wash, however. Goodin had accepted a job with Student Ministries soon after she’d moved into her dorm room, and through that organization she volunteered to help families in Sumter, South Carolina, who had been affected by the flooding caused by Hurricane Joaquin and other storm systems in September of 2015.

Joaquin stayed out to sea, but it combined with other systems to dump 6 trillion gallons of rainwater on the state of South Carolina in just a week. The flood waters overwhelmed homes, destroying furniture and irreplaceable keepsakes. And many of the homeowners didn’t have flood insurance.

After the waters receded, Goodin and other Wingate students made the roughly two-hour trip south to help move furniture out of houses and do some general cleanup. They also packed boxes of food to hand out, since so many families were displaced by the flooding.“It’s not that far from Wingate,” she says. “You realize some of that stuff can happen right there in your backyard. I think I realized that that’s not the first and only time that’s ever happened. There are plenty of other people out there that have similar needs or have different kinds of needs. I realized how good it felt to help somebody else and just to be that lending hand to somebody who might need it.”

Goodin was hooked, and the seeds of what she really wanted to do began to take root in her mind. The problem, it turns out, was passion. Goodin’s passion is people, not numbers.

Now a senior majoring in human services, Goodin is happy with her grades, her recent mission trip to Jamaica, the five (or so) service-centered jobs she has on campus and a future helping students like her find their passion.

But making the leap from accounting to human services wasn’t as easy as it sounds. First, she had to convince her parents.

Finding her passion

Goodin wanted to be an accountant for a very specific reason – and it wasn’t because she liked math. “I liked money,” she says. “I wanted to have a lot of money so I could have a lot of nice things.”

Goodin’s parents, a school teacher and an auto mechanic/car salesman, weren’t necessarily thinking about the house, cars and jewelry their daughter would one day want to buy, but they certainly wanted her to have financial security. Persuading them to let her change her major – and to something that sounded a little nebulous, like human services – took some doing.

“I don’t think accounting is for me,” she told them in the summer after her freshman year. Their reply? “You need to stick this out.”

Tenacity and resolve are excellent traits for a parent to instill in a child, and Goodin gave it her best shot. She continued on the accounting track her sophomore year, but a D in Business Statistics rattled her. “I’m not a D student,” she says. “I think the lowest I’d made in high school was a B or a C. I was the only sophomore in a class with juniors and seniors. I should have waited a year to take that class.

”It probably turned out for the best. While continuing to plug away at accounting, Goodin’s passion for people blossomed. She set up weekly Bible studies, where participants worked on a service project every other week. She signed up for a W’Engage course in which students stocked a food pantry in New Orleans. She continued her work with Student Ministries.

All the while, she kept thinking about how she really wanted to spend the rest of her life. “I think I realized that money shouldn’t be the main goal for what I want to do with my life,” she says. “That was really the drive there. I realized that shouldn’t have been my main goal.

”She made another pitch to her parents. Goodin herself wasn’t sure where she’d go with human services – and she’s still figuring that part out even now – but she knew it more closely aligned with her evolving values.Her parents started to come around. To seal the deal, she promised to eventually get a master’s degree, as her mother had done a couple of decades earlier.

With her parents on board, Goodin dove into her classes with enthusiasm. Human services, she says, is a combination of psychology and sociology, and her Adulthood and Aging, Social Stratification, and Race in Society classes are directly applicable to her real passion: mission work.

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“A lot of that stuff you can implement not only in the classroom but outside the classroom in your daily life,” says Goodin, who hopes to forge a career in higher education as a campus minister or administrator focusing on service. “It helps when you’re doing service projects, because you’re learning the psychology of children or older adults. I like what I’m learning now. It’s useful for what I’m doing.”

Mission-oriented

Since switching majors, Goodin, a member of the National Honor Society at North Iredell High High School, has brought her grades back up to the level she’s accustomed to.

“The grades have been good,” she says, “but the passion’s changed. I’m not going into class trying to learn material and leave, take a test and vomit up everything I know and get the heck out of there. Now I’m enjoying what I’m learning.

”She gets to apply what she learns in class 15 hours a week during her various on-campus jobs: missions and service coordinator for the Office of Student Ministries, presidential ambassador, assistant to the dean of academic support programs, executive board member of the Bulldogs Activities Resource Committee, and Koinonia community mentor. She’s also been an Orientation leader and a peer mentor and has been on several volunteer missions, including two trips to Haiti to help local communities (not to mention, she was named “top dog” at Homecoming last fall).

It all came together in March, when she and nine other students sacrificed a few days of their spring break to assist people with disabilities, both physical and mental, in Jamaica. Living like the monks who work full-time at the Missionaries of the Poor monastery in Kingston, Goodin and the other Wingate students, along with the Rev. Dane Jordan, minister to students, and Cameron Jackson, assistant vice president of auxiliary services, helped people dress, eat, brush their teeth and other tasks most people take for granted.

“We saw a lot of things that maybe other people have never seen before and were doing a lot of dirty, not-fun tasks,” Goodin says. “I was putting lotion on dirty, crusty feet. But one of the things I kept telling myself, from a faith standpoint, was, ‘This is Jesus.’ When Jesus said, ‘You know, When you serve the least of these, you are serving me,’ that’s exactly what we were doing.”

The trip was unique in that the tourism element was limited to one trip to Devon House, Kingston’s famous ice-cream shop. Otherwise, the Wingate contingent concentrated on comforting the afflicted.“I think it was kind of a spiritual awakening for a lot of people,” she says. “A lot of Christians get in the routine of you go to church, you read your Bible. It’s a lot of me, me, me. ‘What can I do to grow my spirituality?’ But I think we forget sometimes how much service is supposed to be a part of that. What I saw in a lot of the students was ‘I’m worshiping through my service’ or ‘I’m literally serving Jesus when I’m doing these things.’”

It’s something she’s built for: accounting for the least of these. And she credits Wingate with helping her find her way.

“I’m really thankful for the leadership opportunities I’ve had at Wingate,” Goodin says, naming as mentors in particular Jordan and Glenda Bebber, dean of academic support services. “Just looking back, I’m really thankful that Wingate’s helped me become the person that I am today and prepared me for the real world and allowed me to grow into a person that I’ve wanted to be.”

After graduation in May, Goodin plans to spend a couple of months interning with a mission in Haiti before most likely returning to Wingate in some service-oriented capacity, possibly as a graduate assistant, while she figures out how to make good on the commitment she made to her parents to get a master’s degree.

Taking a year off required some more heart-to-heart talks with her parents. “I think my mom had a mini heart attack when I told her I wanted to take a gap year, because she’s afraid I won’t go back to school,” Goodin says. “But I think I’ve calmed her down. She likes where this is going, just because she likes my heart for people. I think Mom and Dad are finally OK with this switch.”