National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed each year in the United States, September 15 through October 15, to celebrate U.S. citizens whose culture and contributions to America’s story celebrates their ancestral roots in Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. This month, the “I AM NYACK” blog will feature stories on Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary students, alumni and faculty of Hispanic descent who have accomplished an impressive array of achievements and successes.
The following is the first in a series of profiles that exemplify the value and impact of Christian higher education at Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary.
Dr. Julio Orozco began his recent presentation at Nyack’s annual “Faculty Day” by revealing a personal dream fulfilled. During his time as a Nyack student, he longed to one day become a Nyack professor. Not only is he an Assistant Professor of Mental Health Counseling at Nyack’s Alliance Graduate School of Counseling (AGSC), but he also serves as the Director of Clinical Training and Field Placement. A true full circle story.
With a father who has been an Alliance pastor for more than three decades, Julio was quite familiar with Alliance institutions of higher education, but he points out that his dad did not try to influence his decision about college.
“Growing up in a Spanish-speaking congregation where the predominant culture was Latino, it was not that common at the time that students from our youth group moved away for college. Those that went on to higher education stayed in-state or at two-year local institutions, while the majority joined the workforce. My best friend, Hector Ayerdiz (NC ’05) was probably the biggest influence on me discovering Nyack as a place where I would go for college. Since we were 8 years old, we talked about going to college together, being roommates, and even having the same major, and we did that! We both visited another Christian school in the Southeast, but when we visited Nyack, we were anchored in the decision to come to school here for Music Education.”
Not only were Julio’s expectations of Nyack met, but the people educating and empowering him were as he says, “world class.”
“The excellence of the faculty was a huge draw for me. When I came to the School of Music in 2001, I was absolutely blown away by the faculty we were so blessed to have teaching us. As I got to know them more and more, I became keenly aware that they could have been teaching anywhere else in the world, yet they were here with me.”
“The impact that my professors from the School of Music, the Bible Department and the School of Education had on me, honestly made me want to be like them. They modeled Christian values of humility, excellence, grace, rigor, accountability, and skill at their crafts. They were both scholars and strong Christians, and I wanted to be that too, and perhaps have a similar impact on others like they had on me.”
What is even more impressive about Julio is that he lives in Maryland. After learning from another Nyack alumnus about an opening on the AGSC faculty, he eventually, “embarked on a faith-filled risk” and applied for the position and left the convenience of teaching at a university in Washington, DC. Today he teaches Marriage and Family Counseling, Research Methods and Analysis, Career Counseling, Counseling and Human Development, Social and Cultural Foundations of Counseling, Psychology and Theology, and Theology in Mental Health Counseling. As the Director of Clinical Training, he is responsible for teaching and facilitating the practicum and internship courses.
Also remarkable about Dr. Julio Orozco, he is the senior pastor of Grace Community Church in Germantown, Maryland.
“I have been there for 13 years. This is the church I grew up in that called me at the age of 24 to pastor a Spanish-speaking congregation. They wanted to make certain changes to have broader impact and continuity with the subsequent generations, and the diverse community we are situated in. In 2013, we became an English-speaking ministry, after having gone through side-by-side translation and being bilingual for a few years. The switch has helped us grow to now having folks from a variety of nationalities and backgrounds from around the world be a part of our faith family.”
With such clear accomplishments in church leadership, what would cause Julio Orozco to cling to the dream of teaching at Nyack?
“The two most rewarding aspects to realizing this dream is 1. the alignment I sense in my giftings, education, and vocation with my ministry calling. Serving as a pastor and educator have really good synergy and 2. Knowing that I get to be a part of having Kingdom impact by serving as a pastor in the Mid-Atlantic District of the C&MA and educator at Nyack is a tremendous source of joy for my life.
He says that returning to Nyack as a professor “felt like coming home.” In addition, he adds, “I was also very much encouraged to see the progress and the changes that have also come about in the years since I completed undergrad.” Julio has also enjoyed reconnecting with people in the Nyack community who are the same faculty who taught when he was a student. Though there is that familiarity, he admits calling his former professors by first name is not so easy. He says referring to a certain School of Music professor, “I still can’t do it, Dr. Lum!”
What words of wisdom can Dr. Orozco share with Nyack students following the path he’s traveled?
“Trust the Grand Weaver that He is piecing something together for our lives far more beautiful than we can create for ourselves. Follow His lead and call over your life and you will experience a deep abiding joy! I am not saying it is without challenges or pain, I am saying that the eternal value far outweighs the temporal strife as we live this life out in obedience, as a disciple.”