There’s a lot about the college experience that is future-focused. Students write papers to get the grades that will give them a diploma and someday launch their careers. With that, there’s a tendency to believe that “someday” is where calling begins. But for Hope College senior Julia Loula, answering God’s call impacts where she is now.
“I knew I wanted my future career to incorporate orphan care, and I felt like I wanted to adopt in the future,” Julia said. “I think sometimes there’s a misconception that advocacy and orphan care are in another country or in the future when you’re older. But there is a need right here in West Michigan, and there is something I can do right now, at this point in my life.”
And she has. In 2018, Julia formed a student group called Into the Light, dedicated to raising awareness of the orphan crisis among Hope College students and taking action by serving practically in their community. Into the Light members fundraise, provide respite care for foster families, and offer childcare during foster parent support group meetings. This year, they’re starting a mentorship program for college students to connect weekly with a mentee in foster care.
As the group was first taking shape, Julia learned that Show Hope offered a Student Initiatives program, so she reached out to Olivia Stanton, Show Hope Student Initiatives Coordinator.
“Olivia has been such an encouragement and resource throughout all of this—I honestly don’t think I would have been able to do it all without her,” Julia said. “It was so helpful to have her advice, wisdom, and support with Pause Campaign and the Empowered to Connect Conference.”
Since connecting with Olivia, Julia has led two Pause Campaigns which provided their group with education and context to the orphan crisis and really opened their eyes to see and meet needs in their community.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers sometimes,” said Julia. “Statistics like, ‘15 million orphans worldwide,’ or ‘13,000 children in foster care in Michigan’ make you feel like, What can I do? It’s too big. But thinking instead about the individual stories and the people behind them is helpful. You don’t have to change the world all at once—it starts with a person. It starts with just being there for one kid.”
After leading her second Pause Campaign in March, Julia decided to host Show Hope’s Empowered to Connect Conference (now Hope for the Journey Conference) and open it up to anyone across the campus.
“Being trauma-informed is not only important for people in orphan and foster care communities—it’s for everybody,” Julia said. “We thought it was important to invite people in any major to be a part of it.”
The group of students met over Zoom once a week to discuss what they’d watched and were even joined by two Hope College staff members who provide foster care. They shared their firsthand experiences, what they were learning throughout the conference, and invited the students to ask them questions as well.
“Pause Campaign and the Empowered to Connect Conference are so manageable and laid out well,” Julia said. “But they have the power to make such a huge difference and can truly help you learn and reflect on your place in this big need. It helps you to take next steps and invite other people into advocacy.”
Julia will graduate next spring with a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology and plans to attend medical school. She hopes to work in pediatrics, providing relational care and supporting children and their families beyond medicine.
“I’ve really seen a need for there to be doctors who are trauma-informed, who look at the whole child and their whole story,” Julia said.
Hundreds of high school and college students are engaged and mobilized each year by Show Hope’s Pause Campaign. These young leaders are making tangible impacts on the lives of waiting children and the families who have stepped into adoption and foster care journeys.