Congratulations to Connor Durochia, Nyack’s 2021 Valedictorian!

Connor Durochia earned a Bachelor of Science in Youth and Family Studies. Leading the pack in academic achievement. Graduating summa cum laude. Majoring in an area that wasn’t always his cup of tea.

“It’s funny. I never actually liked youth group growing up,” Connor reveals. But those gatherings rubbed him the wrong way for all the right reasons. “I always found it not fun, cliquey and too much about the games rather than the Lord.”

Raised in a Christian home, his relationship with God became a more personal one in high school when he recognized that academic achievement didn’t bring true fulfillment; serving God and others did.

“As my pastor discipled me and I grew in my faith, I saw the need to be an active member of my church and youth group. I desired others to know Jesus and His gospel in their lives. I saw that our youth group was dwindling and others were checking out. The wounds in my friends’ hearts were real. I wanted to do something about it.”

Connor became a man of his word. “By the end of high school, I was leading my own discipleship group and preaching at church. When I was at school in person, I was leading youth at The Plant Church.” He currently leads youth ministry at his home church in Vermont and has been active in a ministry for the homeless.

He sensed a call on his life in 2016. “I always wanted to teach students, but at the 2016 LIFE conference, God made it clear that I would not only teach students, but lead them to Him. I wouldn’t be satisfied or find purpose in anything else besides serving Him and His children.”

Attending that conference actually had another purpose. That’s where Connor learned about Nyack College. The following year, his pastor drove him to visit the campus. During the visit, they attended the chapel service.

“Dr. Wanda Walborn spoke with great power and I felt the Spirit moving in that place,” he recalls. “It just felt right to be there at that time in that place. On my way home, I already knew where the next part of my life would be.”

The Hinesburg, Vermont native is also an alumnus of the Nyack College Honor Program. Coming from a small town that is described as a “suburban rural mix” surrounded by open farmland with parks, walking trails and recreation centers. Connor’s hometown evokes the same comfortable feel that he found at Nyack. “Beyond all the incredible trips, classes, retreats and seminars, I enjoyed the community of the Nyack Honors Programs the most.”

Within the first two weeks of his freshman year, the initial uneasiness of being new and feeling “lost in a sea of people,” a welcome change happened. “I had a group of peers to go to lunch, downtown, attend church and Bible studies and just do life with. The Honors Program put us all together in many of the same classes and weekly experiences, so we got to know one another quickly and deeply. I am so grateful for Dr. Weir, Dr. Gates, Dr. Pinkham and Dr. Dueck for all they did for us.”

Connor also credits former Missionary-in-Residence Erik Wahlen for impacting his personal transformation. He was a part of a campus small group led by Erik. “My ministry and life have found freedom because of the time he invested in me.” He also names Anna Shuman, head of the Youth and Family Studies department, as a professor he had for many of his courses. “She’s shown me not only how to lead a healthy ministry, but how to be a healthy individual.”

Asked to share his favorite memory of Nyack, his response is not surprising. “If I had to choose one, it’d probably be my first birthday away from home freshman year. Late after class my friends ‘kidnapped me,’ brought me to a bowling alley and proceeded to celebrate my birthday. They blessed and prayed over me. It was that moment where my friends became my family.”

With a younger sister who is a student in Nyack’s School of Nursing, Connor’s rave review of Nyack is successful word of mouth promotion. But what would he say to other prospective students?

“Nyack changes who you are. When you come here, you encounter Jesus who changes your life. It won’t be what you expect. But it’ll be what you need. Don’t just come to Nyack for an education and a career. Come to figure out who you are in Christ and what He’s calling you to. Nyack will take you deeper than you’ve ever gone before. I promise you. You’ll leave this place changed!”

Congratulations, Connor! Go and be the change you want to see in the world!