Each student has a unique story and journey to the university they attend. Over the next four weeks, four new students’ journeys to Biola will be told. These four students have experienced God’s providence and presence in their lives as they live and learn in a new place, seeking God daily in their education at Biola University.


  • Major: Communications
  • Minor: Political Science
  • Home State: California

Seven scholarships — freshman Ekko Hendrix checked each one off in her journal as she received the good news. Her plan to attend Biola University slowly realized in those check marks.

Every scholarship represented confirmation in the step of faith she had taken by committing to attend Biola University, the university she didn’t think she would ever be able to afford.

“I knew going to college was going to be a challenge financially no matter what,” said Ekko Hendrix. “I really thought Biola was impossible.”

Life was not handed to Hendrix easily. She had to grow up faster than her peers, taking responsibility for herself and her education, including figuring out how to finance her college education this year.

Seven days after Hendrix was born, her mother, who had been the first in her family to attend college, had a stroke and aneurism, setting her back mentally and physically to a similar stage as her newborn daughter.

“My dad was never in the picture and my mom couldn’t take care of me, so my aunt took care of me a lot,” said Hendrix. “For me, it’s like the phrase, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ That village was my family.”

Hendrix learned to walk, talk, read and write as her mom did the same.

“As I went to school, my mom went to school,” said Hendrix. “It was hard because I learned to read and write faster so I often took care of any documents that needed to be written at a young age, even small things like writing the grocery list.”

Taking on a lot of responsibility at a young age was not easy, but also built Hendrix’s confidence as a leader. She looks at her past struggles and the grace of God for where she is today.

Working 30 hours or more a week during high school, Hendrix began saving for college as she was already mostly financially independent from her family.

It was her senior year of high school when Hendrix became interested in attending Biola. After wrestling with whether or not she could afford to attend Biola, she took a step of faith in trusting that God would provide. She applied for as many scholarships as she could.

After receiving seven scholarships and a financial aid package from Biola including a sizeable scholarship funded by Biola supporters, Hendrix is now a freshman at Biola University studying communications with a minor in political science, planning pursue a career as a criminal juvenile defense lawyer. Hendrix hopes to be an advocate and voice for troubled youth, giving them opportunities they may not have otherwise.

“The first week [at Biola] I was so scared, but being able to talk to people and help them know that they can find a way to afford Biola and trust in God,” said Hendrix. “It’s hard to know what trusting in God looks like because it’s one of the hardest things, but I want to share that with other people.”

Written by Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator. For more information, contact Jenna at 562.777.4061 or


  • Major: Undeclared
  • Home State: Kentucky

It was passion and trust that ultimately led Kentucky-raised Jordan Shutt to Biola University. Biola was nowhere on his radar when he first started looking at colleges, but after a short senior trip to Hollywood, he knew God was leading him to ministry in Los Angeles, he said.

Matthew 16:24-26 had burrowed itself in Shutt’s heart at a camp before he went on a missions trip to Haiti his senior year of high school. The idea of losing his life for Christ tore him away from his plan to have a stable life as a dentist and adhered his heart to a new way of living. Shutt committed to following God’s plan instead of his own trusting in the unknown.

“[God’s] promises are actually true and once I realized that and made that connection between my mind and my heart, that’s when I changed,” said Shutt.

For him, that meant following God to a place he never thought he would live — California. It also led him back to a passion he had been harboring since he was young — music.

“I’ve been given a hunger to go into the harvest and make disciples through music,” said Shutt, now a freshman at Biola, looking to major in music in worship.

A lover of music from a young age, he learned the classics growing up — first pursuing drums, vocals, and eventually learning guitar. When his family converted from Catholicism to evangelical Christianity and subsequently switched churches, his love of music developed into a love for worship.

“It was somewhat selfish, but there was something about worshipping in a different way with better sound that awakened something in me,” said Shutt.

Thus began his journey to leading worship at church and a life-changing transformation as a follower of Christ and musician. As he describes it, his priorities went from playing for an audience in the church to playing for an audience of one.

“For worship, my goal in guitars went from trying to play really cool things like Led Zeppelin to ‘How can I literally make my guitar disappear?’,” he said. “How can I make my tone sound so good that people don’t even recognize me, that it’s only God who is glorified?”

Shutt’s passion for Christ and living out worship whether in class or through music has continued to thrive now that he’s on campus.

“Now that I’m here, I’ve just fallen in love with the worship culture because it’s so not people-focused, but God-focused,” said Shutt. “Everything that people do here, as small as holding open a door, falls back into doing it for the love of Christ.”

Recognizing the radical change in his life plans in the past year and seeing the possibly instability in his future, Shutt said he is grateful that God brought him to Biola.

“There are so many unknowns, but one unknown that’s taken care of is being here at Biola,” he said. “I have so much peace being here.”

Written by Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator. For more information, contact Jenna at 562.777.4061 or


  • Major: Public Relations
  • Home State: Nevada

Alexa Ciancimino knows what it means to overcome suffering. Diagnosed at age 2 with cystic fibrosis, it has been a long journey health-wise for the freshman student.

Moving to California to attend Biola exhibits her zest for life and new experiences, but also her desire to fight for a better life.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetically inherited life-threatening chronic lung disease. Although Ciancimino’s case isn’t considered severe, the disease changes over time and she has seen more than her share of ups and downs.

Ciancimino’s family moved from New Jersey to Las Vegas when she was in third grade because the air quality was better for her lungs. Her sensitivity to allergens are at a high level of 10,000 — most people have a high of 10.

“My immune system is always cranked up and any little allergy will make it go crazy,” said Ciancimino.

Because of this, Ciancimino has spent a lot of time at the doctor’s office or in the hospital, on top of her daily treatments.

The difficulty and trials of high school were escalated for Ciancimino as she endured the severity of her condition.

“I’d be on antibiotics for two weeks and then I’d go off and then I’d get sick again right away,” she said. “I never had a stable period or time of health.”

It was during this time that she felt the depths of despair and eventually found hope in Christ.

“Having cystic fibrosis makes you feel really lonely. It’s tough to realize that God is with you during those times,” said Ciancimino.

Although she had given her life to Christ at a younger age and loved her religion classes at the high school she attended, Ciancimino hadn’t come to know Christ deeply.

“I don’t remember asking God for help. I wasn’t even able to talk to God,” she remembered. “But I feel like as time went on, I became more involved with the Bible. My mom was constantly encouraging me towards him, reminding me that pain doesn’t last forever.”

Philippians 4:13 became her life motto: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Repeating that still today, she sees how God has carried her through her sickness and helps her persevere each day.

“[God’s] really strengthened me in every aspect,” said Ciancimino. “Even coming [to Biola], I was nervous. You don’t think you can, but you have to take a step back, listen and realize you can do it.”

It’s her zest for life, family and reliance on the strength of God that keeps Ciancimino pursuing her dreams each day.

“I think there is so much to live for and I don’t ever want to give that up just because I’m sick,” she said.

Now at Biola University, she is enjoying college life studying public relations and is grateful for a new doctor in Long Beach who has already been able to improve her health with new treatments. Living closer to the beach doesn’t hurt either — the coastal salt air helps her lungs.

“Everything has fallen into place. And it has been so meant to be,” she said.

Written by Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator. For more information, contact Jenna at 562.777.4061 or


  • Major: Biological Science (Pre-Med)
  • Home State: California

James Zapata had a plan: He would play football, go into the Naval Academy, become an officer in the military and go into law and politics. His life was mapped out to a T, he said. Then, in one fell swoop, he was on a different track than he ever intended — a track that landed him at Biola University this fall.

It was his sophomore year in high school when an injury during football put him in the hospital. He went from running the field to not being able to walk with a torn ACL instantly. More so, an injury meant he was like damaged goods to the Naval Academy. Zapata was devastated.

“I was literally de-cleated by God,” he said. “I remember sitting there after surgery and having to reevaluate my life.”

That’s when his mentor and people from a church he attended in sixth grade showed up. Somewhere between junior high and high school, Zapata’s connection to God had faded, giving way to the glory of football and popularity.

“God used them to impact me,” said Zapata. “My mentor encouraged me to read the book of James and I found God there in my struggle.”

Zapata’s reliance on God grew during that time as he recovered and went back to football the next year, always writing Bible verses under his gear before games. He worked his way back up to a starting varsity position when tragedy struck again. The day before fall season started his senior year, Zapata was injured during practice. This time, he wouldn’t get back to the game. After surgery and more physical therapy, he decided to stick with the team, but in a completely new capacity.

Leading prayers before games and meeting with teammates to talk with them about struggles, life and God, Zapata found himself in a role that neither the team nor coaches had seen before. Zapata was making an impact for Christ in his public high school. He was the first player to ever receive the “Most Inspiring Player” award at their football banquet that year.

“I had thought these things, being successful in sports and popularity were important, when really a relationship with God and pursuing that is more important,” said Zapata. “God did more through me being injured then I could have ever done or contributed on the field.”

Today, when Zapata’s injury flares up while he’s running, he sees it as a reminder of who God is and what he did in his life.

“That’s when God saved me,” he said. “He came in and personally put his hand on my life and said, ‘James, I’m steering you in the right direction from here.’”

That direction led Zapata to community college for three years as he grappled with where God was leading him. Following the motto, “His plan over my comfort,” he continued to pursue opportunities to inspire others. Developing a service oriented club at Saddleback College and leading small groups, he knew he wanted to help others in his profession.

For him, that meant exploring kinesiology and physical therapy — something that shaped and helped him as he recovered from surgeries in high school — before ultimately deciding to become a doctor or surgeon. The field of study allows him to explore his fascination with science and how science gives a better understanding of God and his creation.

“I want to break the misconception. Science and Christianity aren’t opposites,” said Zapata. “Science can help us better understand creation.”

As he looked to study science at a Christian university, Biola University seemed to be the strongest choice.

“When I came to Biola, it was like this is home,” he said. “To have this community, this campus, the professors really facilitate learning about God — I’ve never seen that in a school. It’s just awesome. I can’t express it any better than that.”

Written by Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator. For more information, contact Jenna at 562.777.4061 or

  • Fall Receptions

    September 13, 2015

    Biola University will be in a city near you holding receptions for applicants of Biola University and their families. This is a free opportunity to hear from an admissions counselor, an alumnus, as well as connect with other local students and families considering Biola University for their future!

  • Saturday Tour & Brunch at Biola

    September 19, 2015

    Trying to visit as many colleges as possible? Come and enjoy Brunch at Biola! We know how hectic it can be to take time out of your week to visit a college campus, that's why we have opened up a Saturday tour followed by a nice brunch at our Cafeteria.

  • Biola Bound

    October 24, 2015

    Do you want to visit Biola, but live out-of-state or in zip codes 94000-96199? Biola Bound may be the perfect visit opportunity for you! Come for a great weekend, explore what Biola has to offer, and have some fun in Southern California.

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