In every stage of life, there comes a time to decide on a new direction. Many college students enter their studies unsure where their calling will lead them, unsure what direction to take. Such was the case for Emma Critchfield when she arrived at Cornerstone University as an undergraduate student.

Unsure of what she wanted to do but knowing she wanted to work with children, Critchfield decided to major in child and adolescent services. As part of her program-required practicum, she found an opportunity to serve within Grace’s Table, a nonprofit organization in Grand Rapids that works with teen moms. With no previous knowledge of the organization, Critchfield decided to take the leap and invest herself into its mission.

“After I began volunteering there, I quickly realized that this was something I was very passionate about. Volunteering at Grace’s Table became the highlight of my week,” said Critchfield. “After my practicum was done, I continued to volunteer with Grace’s Table because I loved it so much.”

When the time came for Critchfield to begin considering internships, she knew that Grace’s Table didn’t have an active internship program. However, she decided to take another step out in faith and see if the organization would be willing to take her on. Because of her tenacity and dedication, Critchfield became the first intern at Grace’s Table under the supervision of Founding Director Lisa Anderson.

“I knew from my first meeting with Emma how special she was. She is eager to learn, willing to dig in and work hard and has the warmest most welcoming smile!” said Anderson. “All of these things are really important when you are working to provide safe community and learning opportunities for girls who are also pregnant or parenting. We can’t say it enough, we are really grateful for who God made Emma to be, and are so glad we get to be a part of her story as she helps us grow ours!”

At the end of her internship in December 2018, Anderson approached Critchfield about the opportunity to continue serving—this time as a full-fledged staff member.

“This was a beautiful next step for the relationship we’d been building. Not only did she continue serving our kids, but she began to take on administrative duties, and quickly became our Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator,” Anderson said.

Critchfield began her new part-time role in January of 2019, all while still attending Cornerstone.

“I think the most valuable lesson I learned at CU is to be open to an experience, even if it’s not what you originally had planned or thought you would do,” Critchfield said. “I never thought I would have this role in a nonprofit organization, and I never planned to work at Grace’s Table in this capacity, but it has turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”

Now a senior, Critchfield has built a hearty list of skills throughout her time at Grace’s Table whether working with families, attending development seminars or recruiting and organizing volunteers. She has also cultivated powerful relationships with those she ministers to and the staff who serve alongside her.

“I am amazed at how much my relationships with others have helped me personally in every aspect of my life. At Grace’s Table, the most important work we do is building relationships with moms. Regardless of where I end up, or what I end up doing, I will always value the relationships I form along the way,” said Critchfield.