Updated: Apr 1
College is, admittedly, not for everyone. Going to college doesn’t automatically qualify us for a great career. Some of us hopped into the workforce immediately after graduating high school. We watched our friends marry and stay local, move away to settle down, or a combination of any of the aforementioned. Still, the most tenacious learners will go as far as earning a master's or doctoral degree. I’m glad we all have different paths, and it’s safe to say, none of us are doing it wrong.
Before the ever-changing technological advancements we have been blessed with, as of 2021, there might have been an assumption that college was the answer to a poverty-free life. However, the cruel irony, in the name of student loan debt, often leaves graduates with more money owed than what their first salary could put a dent in.
According to a February 2020 article from Forbes, student loan debt was near $1,600,000,000,000. If that number looks foreign, it’s completely understood, but we’re talking 1.6 trillion dollars! That accounts for 44.7 million borrowers who have accumulated an average of $32,731 in student loan debts, according to the statistics.
While the Covid-19 pandemic shocked and surprised the world, the movement into the modern digital age was ushered in, and its arrival was inevitable. We watched seemingly successful restaurants adapt their business plans to incorporate mobile ordering. A few retailers offered and reformatted their parking lots for new curbside to-go options. And as life continued happening all around us, there was always an enormous amount of activity occurring online.
Dr. Pingnan Shi (or Dr. Ping, as he’s called around campus) made time to explain a new, incredible opportunity available only through our organization. It’s a program designed to help adults from neighboring areas who can benefit from the Hope To Rise program.
“It’s a way for the Hope Center to help the community,” Dr. Ping proudly proclaimed. The program offers various course options, ranging from high school equivalency fast track programs to improving computer literacy skills to industry-recognized Microsoft certification.
The Hope To Rise program is a new project that Dr. Ping hopes will succeed at the Center. Ideally, the doctor shared his hopes that it will eventually, organically, evolve into a blossoming ministry.
Our organization operates various other programs, but two, in particular, were mentioned as foundational in the new program’s blueprint. The Sisters of Survival (SOS) and Grace House Adult & Teen Challenge helped instigate the motion to move a learning center on-site. After seeing the success in offering high school equivalency diplomas within both programs, Marian University decided to partner with us, in an attempt to expand their Project Build concept into a community outreach program.
“We wanted to start Hope To Rise because we saw the needs, a lot on the east side,” Dr. Ping said, seated at his desk. “Some students didn’t have a high school-equivalent degree, some didn’t finish high school at all.” Dr. Ping described how a lack of or limited education regarding computer literacy, personal finances, and practical skills were all grave causes for concern. The high school equivalency education offering has grown from internal needs within our programs to now.
We thank God for blessing us with the resources through the partnership we have developed with Marian University.
“Students need to think like entrepreneurs, and that’s something we don’t teach them in schools, unfortunately,” Dr. Ping said when I asked about the benefits of enrolling. If we’re preoccupied working for someone else, we never take the time to learn how we could earn money for ourselves, through a multitude of entrepreneurial opportunities.
Having worked as an engineer for nearly 20 years, Dr. Ping felt God called on him to serve in his ministry, instead. This made the move easier, and a normally drastic pay cut did not falter Dr. Ping’s decision. He served diligently at a private Christian school, employed as a math teacher. “It’s not something I planned for,” he said. “But that’s how God directs.” God’s will be done, and in those times, we can only follow the calling.
During his time teaching, Pastor Hubert Nolen, and his son, David, met Dr. Ping while working together at the now-defunct organization, Collaborate 317. There they worked alongside other social entrepreneurs to serve inner-city kids, homeless individuals, single moms, families of prison inmates, drug addicts, veterans, and survivors of human trafficking. Dr. Ping reiterated the importance of our spiritual relationship and how we must always put Christ first. Celebrating His glory, I was reminded of a verse, so I opened my bionic Bible (app) and found, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Never was God’s voice any louder.
It was in 2018 that Dr. Ping started his own non-profit and decided to focus on his entrepreneurial endeavors. Towards the end of 2018, the education director left our ministry, and David Nolen only had one name come to mind– by January 2019, Dr. Ping was officially our new education director. And while Dr. Ping still teaches mathematics, some courses he offers for free even, he is also profusely passionate about his one-on-one tutoring business.
Eventually, he even hopes to open a school geared towards middle school-aged students. He said he would like to teach basic math, computer skills, entrepreneurship, and hopefully offer trade skill training, which is often overlooked in modern culture. These skills, he’s hopeful, will be building blocks for starting small, or even big, business start-ups.