In the next month, I will approach the day I’ve been looking forward to since I was a senior in high school: graduation day. Imagining my college graduation as a high school student, I dreamed I’d be graduating with a degree in biology or chemistry, plans to attend medical school, and an initiation into the armed forces. However, that’s almost completely opposite of what is going to occur on May 10, 2019. I’ll be graduating with a degree in nursing, with plans to enter both the work force and world of academia while pursuing my graduate degree.

2019. A year later than I planned, I am finally able to graduate five years later from when I entered college in 2014. Five years on the campus of the University of Tennessee. Five years of classes, late assignments, and thinking about coffee when I first wake up. Five years of exam anxiety, singing rocky top, and walking around a never-ending construction zone. Five years in which I’ve witnessed a presidential election, both a zika virus and measles outbreak, and over one-hundred school shootings. Five years in which I’ve learned more about poverty, medicine, and social injustice. Five years that I have often felt defeated by the world and what I’m learning.

But despite the seemingly overwhelming despair in the world, I’ve also spent five years in fellowship with others at Ukirk. Five years of eating meals in the basement, laughing over coffee, and catching skittles in my mouth. Five years ago, fifteen-or-so students and I sat in the basement to eat pizza and talk about God. I met people like Jaclyn and Katherine who would become lifelong friends. The house began changing, pastors changed jobs, and seniors were replaced with freshmen. A sweet coffee shop was installed, and I became dependent on the caffeine that flows freely there and the laughter that is ever-present in that room. I’ve sat on both Andy and Jaclyn’s couches and cried, multiple times. I’ve also cried from laughing. I’ve binge-watched the office and slept on the couch. I’ve celebrated friends and been celebrated and I’ve taken part in so much community. We went from twenty students gathered in a circle on Wednesday nights to over fifty dancing on the lawn before worship. I’ve watched this community grow and accept me every step of the way over the past five years.

Christmas 2014Christmas 2018


And that’s amazing! A community in which students, no matter the race, gender, sexual orientation, background, socioeconomic status, or even religious beliefs are welcome into this community, no questions asked. A place so incredibly non-judgmental it’s honestly a little scary. Like seriously, how is everyone THIS caring and loving and accepting?

Well I can’t answer all the questions in life, but that question is one that I can answer – God’s presence and the spirit that God has placed in each room and heart of everyone at Ukirk is what makes it such an amazing community. I am incredibly grateful that I have been changed and loved well while at the University of Tennessee. I can honestly say I would not have survived college without the people in that place. I’m not sentimental about much while leaving Knoxville, but I am most certainly leaving a piece of my heart with Ukirk. I love ya and I’m praying for ya, Ukirk.


Malerie Lazar
Graduating Senior
Bachelor of Science in Nursing