Raising Independent Kids

When Carl and Pat Simonsen learned that their son, Matt ’98, wanted to go to Westmont, they decided to investigate. To their surprise, they discovered people in their own Aloha, Ore., church who were connected to the college. Liking what they learned, they endorsed his decision to enroll.

While he wanted to return to California where his family had lived for five years, Matt was also searching for a school that would accept his somewhat unusual circumstances. After three years of high school, he fell only two units short of graduating. Rather than return for his senior year, he wanted to begin college. To please his father, he earned his G.E.D. degree to officially complete high school.

Westmont was one place Matt sought admission. He had heard about the college from people he met at a church camp, including his future wife, Amy Rock Simonsen ’98, whose mother is an alumna.

Given Matt’s credentials and potential to succeed, college officials agreed to accept him. Not only did he start college a year early, but he graduated with a religious studies major in only three years by taking summer classes at a community college. He is working at Westmont as a PC support specialist this year while Amy earns a credential to teach high school biology. His long-term goal is attending seminary and becoming a pastor.

Rebecca Simonsen ’02 started attending Westmont this year after visiting her brother on campus and getting to know the college. She is particularly interested in pursuing biology research with Westmont professors.

“I’ve been impressed by the intellectual searching and independent thinking the Westmont faculty encourage,” Pat observes. “I went to a major university and felt very isolated as a Christian. I’m glad Matt and Rebecca are learning to think independently within a biblical framework.”

Pat also appreciates the relationships professors developed with Matt. “Dr. Neu was concerned about Matt’s young age when he enrolled, so he took Matt under his wing and looked out for him.”

“These close relationships between faculty and students make Westmont distinctive and very different from universities where T.A.s teach all the classes,” Carl notes. “Students at Westmont feel comfortable approaching their professors and getting input on translating material into a biblical context.”

“We also appreciate Westmont’s commitment to teaching Christian values and providing a support system for students,” Pat adds.

Carl works for Intel Corporation as an Intel Fellow and director of advanced library architecture and design integration. He designs “libraries” of circuits used in building computer chips.

An R.N. at a free clinic sponsored by the Adventist hospital in Portland, Ore., Pat cares for people with no insurance. Her specialty is teaching and nutrition, but her duties involve all aspects of health care. Off the job, she visits her mother, an Alzheimer’s patient, and ends up supervising her care as well.

“We’ve spent years training our children to be independent, and we sent them to college with confidence,“ Pat notes. “I’m glad their professors also give them freedom to think independently and form their own judgments. At the same time, I know they’re encouraging students to grow in their faith.”

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