Over and over, people told Rebekkah Wallin that her dream of attending Baylor was just not likely to happen. With no mother or father to pay for school, she could easily have believed them. Short on resources but long on determination, Wallin never gave up on the Baylor dream--but she never dreamed just how an incredible gift would make it possible.
Wallin--a spring 2015 graduate who majored in speech communication--never knew her father, and her young mother and stepfather were consumed by their own problems, at the expense of Wallin and her four siblings. She grew accustomed to her parents vanishing for days at a time, and she and her older sister were often tasked with finding food for themselves and their younger brothers and sisters.
When she was eight years old, her grandmother made a monumental decision that changed the course of Wallin's life. Boys and Girls Country, a group home near Houston for children dealing with adverse family situations, would be Wallin and her siblings' new home. Less than a year after the move, Wallin's mom died suddenly. At a very young age, her family became children with similar backgrounds, and the house parents who took care of them and prepared them for a better future. The home provided a nurturing environment, as well as tutoring to help in school, where she began to excel.
Amidst the upheaval, Wallin decided she was going to go to Baylor--as a fifth grader. The decision was about as simple as it could be--she heard of it as a 10 year old, learned of its Christian foundation, and said, "That's where I'm going to go." But getting here wasn't so simple. Boys and Girls Country provided college assistance to residents, but not enough to cover the costs of Baylor. With few solid options, her dream could have died. But a miraculous gift ensured that it didn't.
When Wallin gave a speech at a fundraising dinner for Boys and Girls Country her senior year of high school, she boldly spoke of her desire to attend Baylor. What she didn't know was that a Baylor Regent was there that night, and her story had resonated in a powerful way.
Not long after that speech, Wallin got a call from Baylor. "I'd been getting calls from a lot of colleges, and I thought it was just a normal call," she said. "They said, 'We have some really good news.' I expected it just to be standard. But they said, 'Someone has agreed to pay for your school.' It took me a minute and I felt like, 'Wait...Really?' And then I wanted to run around the whole campus and yell, 'It's happening! It's happening!'"
The donor's identity is a Regent who has chosen to remain anonymous, and Wallin still does not know the identity of her benefactor. But as she finished her final semester at Baylor preparing for a career in corporate communications, she finds herself eternally grateful and eternally aware of how different her life could have turned out.
"Every day," she says. "Every day I think of it. I'm so thankful. What if I hadn't found Boys and Girls Country? What if I hadn't come to Baylor?"
Beyond that--what if an anonymous donor hadn't been moved to action? For Wallin, nothing will compare to a gift from a person she's never met, but who changed her life--and inspired other lives, as well.
"Whenever I go back now," Wallin says, "students come up to me--and this never used to happen--but now they've seen me come here. And they come up to me and say, 'We want to go to Baylor, too.'"
Wallin joined the sales team of Oracle's Austin office in July.