In the Right Place

When Cayley Serfass ’24 was facing doubts about her calling, an anonymously funded Wheaton scholarship reaffirmed her conviction that Wheaton was the place God wanted her to be—and to stay.

Words: Grace Kenyon ’22
Photos: Kayla Smith

Wheaton College IL Undergraduate Student Cayley Serfass

Cayley Serfass ’24

For economics and Spanish major Cayley Serfass ’24, the college decision came down to wherever felt like home. She remembers visiting her brother, Cole ’22, and a close family friend, who were both students at Wheaton. It was a casual Friday night and they went out for ice cream and hung out. She also remembers going to the dining hall and overhearing someone else in line say to another student: “Hey, I’ve been praying for you. How’s it going?” It was a small moment that seemed to encompass so much about the type of community Serfass witnessed at Wheaton.

During that visit, Serfass felt at home instantly and when she visited other schools, she realized she was comparing them to how she felt at Wheaton.

Arriving at Wheaton was less simple. Serfass graduated high school in 2020, a key transition in her education journey that ended up marred by the pandemic. She arrived on Wheaton’s campus and struggled to establish friendships, finding herself spending far too much time alone. She had come to Wheaton because she wanted a place to nurture her faith in community, and instead, she found loneliness.

Things started to turn around during the spring of her sophomore year when she participated in a Wheaton in Mexico study abroad trip. Her host mom was a 75-year-old Catholic woman who had encountered her share of troubles. She had been separated from her husband for more than a decade before he eventually died from COVID-19. Yet this woman never seemed to be swallowed in self-pity, always reminding Serfass of God’s goodness.

“She had been affected by the same things and hurt in the same ways, yet was able to look at everything with such a beautiful attitude,” Serfass recalled. “I think it just made me reevaluate how I was looking at everything.”

Through ups and downs of anxiety and bitterness toward God, Serfass eventually got more actively involved in the college group at her church, College Church. Throughout the last two years, her small group mentor has helped her look back at the ways Serfass has grown since her freshman year and how God has been good to her in that time.

“This past year, I’ve seen God so clearly and so blatantly and obviously, in so many ways,” said Serfass. “And it’s just so easy to be grateful now.”

The ultimate frisbee team is one such group Serfass is most grateful for. As Serfass puts it, the ten women on the team have almost nothing in common except frisbee and their love for God. Through these friendships, she has found the kind of community and conversations that she expected when she first decided to come to Wheaton. For Serfass, some of the sweetest moments are the conversations that happen on the way home from frisbee tournaments, or in the living room of the campus apartment she shares with two roommates. Now, as she prepares to graduate, Serfass also shares the campus with her younger sister, Ainsley ’26, who is a sophomore at Wheaton.

“She is like a little ray of sunshine,” Serfass said. “She just knows Jesus loves her, inside and out.”

With a deepening interest in justice, Serfass hopes to pursue law school in the future. Last summer, a friend handed her Chanel Miller’s memoir Know My Name (Viking, 2019), which documents Miller’s sexual assault case at Stanford University. Serfass realized that even cases that have relatively indisputable evidence can sometimes be very difficult to prosecute and Serfass wants to be one of the people advocating for victims.

As the first step toward that advocacy vision, Serfass will be living for a year in Bolivia and working as a legal intern with International Justice Mission, which works on behalf of victims of human trafficking, poverty, and other forms of injustice. In many ways, Serfass said, the decision to go to Bolivia with IJM is a culmination of many small moments and conversations with peers and mentors throughout her time at Wheaton.

Serfass is also grateful for the doors that have opened for her at Wheaton. After a discouraging season of applying to internships and grants, Serfass had received a lot of rejections. She was struggling to figure out her next steps, asking God what he was doing, and feeling like God was being silent. So when learned she was nominated and selected for one of two anonymously funded $5,000 scholarships from the College’s annual giving day in 2023, it felt like an answer to prayer and a confirmation: Yes, she is in the right place for right now.

“It was really reaffirming,” said Serfass. “Like I was supposed to be at Wheaton. It is my place.”