Cheyanne Welch has known what she wanted to do since she was pretty young – and that was to live a life in service to others.
There was some thought of marine biology when she was really little, but she realized pretty quickly – as a matter of faith and heart – that for her, it was all about helping other people live better lives.
About to graduate from Upper Columbia Academy, the private Christian academy operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Spangle, the 18-year-old Canada native counts among her fondest memories the old-fashioned, five-family fruit-canning parties she was part of growing up, helping at the free store at her church, participating in work bees for shut-ins, cooking for friends and neighbors who were ill, and going on missions with her parents.
She was born in Alberta and spent her earliest childhood in Cairo, where her parents were doing missionary work. Now living outside Victoria, B.C., she and her parents and sisters Jasmine, 16, and Kiara, 14, are committed to lives of service through their church.
Welch first came to Upper Columbia Academy two years ago for a cousin’s graduation and just loved the campus in Spangle and the sense of shared purpose she found at the school.
“God told me I could grow here,” she said, and so she has spent the final two years of high school as a resident student, this year serving as an assistant in the girls dorm. She’s participated in volleyball and is the principal saxophone player in the band. In the summers, she has been a camp counselor in Alberta.
But her main focus remains on service through her faith. In 2010 she went with other students and a few parents to Tizimin, Mexico, bringing paint and other supplies to local churches and businesses. She helped run the vacation Bible school. This past spring break, she went to Miryalaguda, India, on an evangelical mission.
“It was incredible to see how God worked with people in the area,” she said. “There was a lot of poverty, violence and drinking, a rough place where it was difficult to preach. Yet our site had the most baptisms out of the three villages where we went.”
She said she feels she learns as much as she teaches when she makes such trips, coming to understand cultures and the lives of people everywhere. She did not grow up wealthy, so she often fundraises to help pay for her mission trips abroad.
Welch hopes to earn a college degree in business communications and international relations with a goal of working for World Vision as a missionary, interested in focusing on programs that teach basic health, how to keep water supplies clean and grow good gardens. “I’m interested in helping people establish self-sufficient communities.”
Her parents – Derrick and Rosemarie Welch – are pleased with her career plan to dedicate her life to helping others. “I’m so excited for the future; I’m so ready for this,” she said.
And although she will be leaving Upper Columbia Academy, another Welch sister is arriving this fall, when Jasmine will enroll. There appears to be a family tradition developing.