Westmont Magazine Outstanding Seniors Overcome Adversity: Wesley Zuidema
Wesley Zuidema, 2013 graduate, talks about his challenges and blessings during his years at Westmont
Fearlessly Following God
Wesley Zuidema grew up visiting Westmont with his parents, Kevin ’84 and Cynthia Watt ’87, but he fell in love with the community when he competed for—and won—a prestigious Monroe Scholarship. “The students seemed to care that I was here and invested in me,” he says. “When I heard a lecture by Telford Work, I knew I’d be free to explore my faith and question it freely in an environment that was supportive rather than fearful.”
The 2011 Mediterranean semester offered Wesley meaningful and challenging experiences. He ate a Sabbath dinner with a Jewish family in East Jerusalem, which is largely Palestinian, and stayed with a Palestinian family in the West Bank, listening to the hopes and fears of both families. “The things they want are shockingly similar,” Wesley says. “I recognized that God loves all the people, wants peace and is working to bring Israelis and Palestinians together to see each other as human beings.”
“Wesley is one of those rare students who is deeply perceptive and intelligent and genuinely cares about the well-being of others,” says political science professor Thomas Knecht.
His professors chose Wesley to serve on the student panel that interacted with President’s Breakfast speaker Robert Gates, former secretary of defense. “Wesley is one of the finest students in the history of the political science department,” Susan Penksa says. “He is brilliant, yet humble; principled, yet open minded; kind, yet firm.”
Wesley participated in the week-long Model United Nations in New York. Students from many countries had the opportunity to negotiate with people holding many different perspectives. “I learned how to be frustrated in a healthy way, leading me to see the other side and to work toward common ground,” he says.
During the fall 2012 semester, Wesley served as an intern in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. He compiled and edited state data and worked with teams to find compelling ways to interpret it before making it public. He also corresponded with people who wrote to the White House with questions, concerns or problems about education. “It was fascinating to work with big-picture data while engaging with individual, personal cases on a more human side,” he says.
Wesley graduated as the top political science student and plans to marry Kristen Brizendine ’11 in August. He works in technical support with Santa Barbara-based Anchor Point.
“The past four years taught me what I didn’t know—and how to think about what I don’t know while trusting God,” he says. “I came to Westmont uncomfortable with perspectives that challenged mine. I’m leaving with a fearlessness about who God is, knowing He is in control of my life. No matter where I go or who I meet or what perspectives I am challenged with, all truth is going to be God’s truth.”