Finding Community as a Transfer Student

After accepting Jesus into her life at age 17, Destiny Rogers ’23 transferred to Wheaton College as a Bible and theology student, building new bridges and seeking to follow the Lord wherever life takes her.

Words: Jenna Watson ’21
Photos: Josh and Alexa Adams

Wheaton College IL headshot of Destiny Rogers

In her own words, Destiny Rogers ’23 has an unlikely story for a Wheatie.

It all goes back to Southern California, where she grew up in a close-knit home with her parents and five siblings. Her family members were not Christians and were skeptical when Rogers got involved with a well-known megachurch youth group in high school, at the invitation of a friend. Yet Rogers was inexplicably drawn to the people and spirit of this youth group. “I was what they called an ERG—Extra Grace Required,” she said. “I literally would go to events and not say anything. I would go to small groups and just sit there, pretty closed off.”

Although Rogers hardly remembers why she continued to attend the youth group, she knows there were leaders there who wanted the students to know Jesus on a personal level. For a year, despite Rogers’ hesitation, they continued to love and encourage her as she learned more about Christianity. “Then suddenly, I was just falling so deeply in love with Jesus,” Rogers recalled. “I came to understand that this was not just a fun thing to do on a Wednesday night, and I gave my life to Jesus when I was 17.”

Brimming with newfound life in Christ, Rogers was eager to apply to Wheaton College, which she’d heard about through one of her mentors at church. But on the cusp of her senior year of high school, her family suddenly entered a difficult season, leading to her parents’ divorce. For the sake of her younger siblings, Rogers decided she needed to be at home. For the next two years after graduation, she effectively ran the household and parented her younger brothers while attending community college. It wasn’t the start to her college journey she expected, but she says wouldn’t trade those two years for the world. “That’s where the Lord shaped me and matured me, and I think that’s when I became an adult,” she reflected.

By contrast, the transition into Wheaton was all the more difficult because of the self-sufficiency and level of responsibility to which Rogers had adapted. When her dad agreed to support his daughter’s decision to study Bible and theology halfway across the country, despite his own surprise at the choice, Rogers was eager to jump into Wheaton’s Christian community. But it wasn’t as easy as she’d hoped.

“That first semester was really, really lonely,” she admitted. “I went from running a household to not knowing how to do anything. I didn’t even know how to dress properly to go outside in the winter.”

The transition into college is rarely without its challenges for any student, but for Rogers, this transition required a willingness to engage in new patterns of community and dependency. What she didn’t realize was that community is not formed automatically, and that dependency is not easy to re-learn.

“I didn’t realize the boldness you need to have when you transfer,” she said. “Wheaton is fully equipped with so many resources. There are awesome people around everywhere, and there are people who are willing to enter into a relationship with you. But that’s not all just going to happen to you.”

There was almost a sense of embarrassment to ask for help early on, Rogers says. “Students don’t want to be the one who needs help, you know? But that’s not the message of the gospel.”

By the end of her first year at Wheaton, Rogers got involved with Orientation Committee, track, and cross-country, and within these communities, she began to find her place on campus. As much as she recognized the need to intentionally pursue opportunities, she was also receptive to invitations like the one that landed in her inbox from David Walford, the cross-country coach who noticed her running skills and asked her to consider joining the team. Walford, known affectionately by the team as “Wally,” quickly became a mentor figure to Rogers. “He’ll hear my story, and he won’t shame me for it,” she said. “It’s hard not being a typical Wheaton student, and Wally has done a really good job of making me feel heard and validated.” 

Rogers has also found a home in the Bible and theology department, deepening her passion for apologetics and biblical scholarship. Ever since she witnessed her younger brothers understand the gospel from an early age through her youth group, she has felt convicted that there is no need to water down the message of Jesus. And she wants to be part of making that power and clarity more evident in megachurch settings. For example, in her experience, megachurch communion takes place in the back of the sanctuary and is easy to skip. No one stands for the reading of God’s Word. But Rogers is convicted by how God cares about the posture and intentionality of worship, and she wants to make engagement with those practices more commonplace in megachurch settings. As she considers her next steps after college, she’s already looking into graduate studies on the reverence of God in megachurches.

Actively engaging with the opportunities available to her is a common and hard-won theme in her life, and it’s what she would encourage of anyone at Wheaton—especially transfers. “Engage,” she said. “In Scripture, there are dozens of people who just passed by Jesus while he was performing a miracle. Similarly, Jesus is so present here on campus, and the Lord is doing miraculous things. There are not going to be very many times in the future when you’re surrounded by people who love Jesus and want to know him more. There’s an opportunity here at Wheaton to come and meet Jesus in a new way. But engage; don’t just pass by.”