Written by: Emma Baldwin
Not all heroes wear capes—sometimes they wear gloves and carry a broom like Vanessa Valladares.
Vanessa is an OKWU employee and a junior through OKWU’s Adult and Graduate Studies program. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management.
Vanessa, born in Honduras, moved to America with her family when she was one, living in Chicago, Illinois, until she was about ten years old. From there, she moved to California as a teenager and then moved to Bartlesville with her family. The Valladares’s were invited to a local church, Iglesia Fe, Esperanza, y Amor (Church of Faith, Hope, and Love), by the pastor’s daughter, who worked at the business they started. Through this invitation, Vanessa, her mother, and two sisters came to know Christ. Because of her faith experience, Vanessa said, “Bartlesville holds a very special place in our hearts.”
Vanessa and her family moved back to California for family matters, though they came back to Bartlesville shortly thereafter. “The first people that were waiting for us at our house were our pastor’s family,” Vanessa shared.
In this way, Vanessa planted her roots in Bartlesville before enrolling at OKWU.
She explained to me how she and her mom and sister began to search for jobs. “My little sister was three at the time. So, we would drop her off at Headstart [daycare] and my older sister, my mom, and I would just sit at the park, thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’” While her mom and sister started different jobs, Vanessa was still searching, at one point starting a daycare to babysit the many children in her church. Eventually, however, she applied to work with Buildings and Grounds here at OKWU upon the recommendation of one of the women in her church: “I have my interview…I walk out, I get home, and it was like ten minutes later they call me to say, ‘You have a job!’ And I’ve been here five years now.”
After working with B&G for two years, Vanessa earned the benefit of attending OKWU as a student for free. “2016 came, and Samantha Peterson [Vice President of Enrollment] comes up to me and asks, ‘So when are you going to come to my office?’ I told her, ‘I don’t know,’ and she said, ‘How about this? I need you in my office at ten o’clock tomorrow.’”
Peterson encouraged her to enroll despite Vanessa’s own hesitation of starting school again nine years after high school graduation. She eventually was convinced, however, and shared how quickly time has flown since.
Of Vanessa’s reasons for working at Oklahoma Wesleyan, the first is very practical. Her goal is to help save up money for her mom so her mom will not have to work as she gets older and can instead spend time with her grandchildren. “You know what, Mom? I’m doing this for us…That’s my purpose. With God, there’s no coincidence, there’s always purposes. There’s no coincidence that I’m working here. There’s a purpose. Little by little, He’s revealing that purpose to me.”
The other reason, she explained, is so that she can practice humility and serve the people around her, just as Jesus serves. Vanessa said, “This job is very humbling. It takes a servant’s heart to do this job, and that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to serve. That’s why Jesus was here. He said, ‘I came to serve, not to be served.’ That’s what God has called us to do—to serve others.”
Along the way, Vanessa has also learned some profound life lessons. She says, “Stay humble—very humble, serve others, and just be a servant. Not a lot of people have that ability to serve others, especially now in society. Everything is me, me, me, and it’s not supposed to be like that. Jesus wasn’t like that. He put others before Himself. I hope, one day, everyone realizes that. If it was like that, the world would be so much better.”
Vanessa’s favorite thing about life at OKWU is “the friendliness on campus. The OKWU community is like a family. You hardly find that nowadays, as well as the companionship and the love that we all have for God. We don’t have to hide our beliefs out here because everyone loves God here. You can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.”
Vanessa plays bass guitar for her church’s worship band and enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She and her mom often open their home to the kids in her youth group, wanting to give them a sort of home away from ho
me. Vanessa hopes to stay in Bartlesville and, if possible, continue to work at OKWU, though maybe with a different branch of the school. However, she is remaining flexible. She told me, “If God opens a door somewhere else, I’ll take it too.”
When asked if there is something about her that people wouldn’t necessarily expect, Vanessa responded, “I can be very shy and awkward. If you see me walking around school, I’m kind of quiet, but I’m not usually like that. I’m not like that whatsoever. I’m a crazy person…but in a good way. I’m super loud and funny. At church, I just let it go. The people here don’t know what happens off campus. My mom tells me, ‘I don’t even know how we’re related.’”
Vanessa also shared about test she recently took a test at OKWU that revealed her top five strengths. She said that the main one she possesses is positivity. “Before Christ, I never considered myself a positive person. My mom was like, ‘You’re so negative and antisocial.’ But when God came in, He changed that into joy, and now I am so full of happiness. Life’s too short to be bitter. Just be humorous, be crazy. You only live once…as long as you’re doing it in a good way. Don’t go crazy, but just live life. Enjoy it. Love it.”
When asked what final piece of advice she would like to share, Vanessa replied, “Stay humble. God loves a humble heart. He says that He looks away from the people that are over-righteous, but He looks at a person with a humble heart. He looks within you. He doesn’t see your physical appearance. That does not matter to God. What matters to God is what’s in your heart. Stay humble and serve because we are called to do what Jesus did. Jesus said, ‘I’m here to serve.’ If we want to be like Jesus, we need to serve. Be a willing servant. Stay humble and serve.”