My LRAP story begins with a dream and ends with a dream—quite literally. You see, ever since I was fourteen I wanted to become an editor for a publishing company. I must admit, the movies I watched and the stories I read starring protagonists who lived in big cities and worked as editors and writers made the profession look glamorous. However, my dream of becoming an editor wasn’t based off of Hollywood’s scripted narrative. My dream came from a lifelong passion of wanting to help people tell their stories. We’ve all heard the phrase, “A picture says a thousand words.” While this is true, I wanted to use my passion for editing to help the literary and publishing communities show the world how a thousand words also creates a picture.

I started researching publishing houses, following literary agents and authors on social media, and saving information about publishing internships when I was in high school. Doing this helped keep my passion and excitement alive—it gave me hope. There was one thing, however, that I knew was an inevitable part of this journey: college.

I had always planned on attending college after graduating high school, but I was unsure how I would pay for it. My parents made too much money for me to qualify for financial aid but not enough to help me pay tuition. Sure, I applied for scholarships and had some college credit from AP courses I’d taken, but I knew that I was going to have to take out student loans if I wanted to go to college. And if I wanted to see my dream of becoming an editor come true, I knew I had to go to college.

As I began the grueling yet necessary college hunt, I didn’t care where they were located so long as they had a good English program and were relatively small. While browsing the internet going from one college website to another, I stumbled across Spring Arbor University (SAU). It had a charming name, it was small, and it wasn’t too far from my hometown, so I looked into it. As I researched it, I came across this new program they were offering called LRAP (Loan Repayment Assistance Program). Intrigued, I read every article, blurb, and small print that mentioned the program, and for the first time since I had realized I was going to have to take out loans, I had hope for my future—for my dream.

I filled out SAU’s new student interest form and within days I received a call from my admissions representative. Over the next few months I would chat with them about the school, freshman expectations, dorm life, the English program, and LRAP. They had everything I wanted in a school plus an amazing opportunity for me post-graduation. It seemed too good to be true, but as a person of faith, I also believed it was an answer to prayer. In fall of 2012 I was accepted into Spring Arbor University, and I was so excited to take one step closer to fulfilling my dream.

When people would ask why I chose Spring Arbor University, I had a list of reasons ready—a list that always ended with LRAP. I could tell those listening to me were skeptical of my ability to qualify for LRAP, but I didn’t care because LRAP was what gave me my motivation all throughout college to obtain my dream. If I worked hard, networked, did an internship, and got good grades, my chances of getting a full-time job in my field after graduation were good. And if I got a full-time job in my field, I would qualify for LRAP. This, knowing I could have help paying off my loans after graduation, motivated me to keep going. Every late night in the library, long day in class, hours spent researching internships—it was all worth it because I was going to be okay after graduation. I was going to be able to go after my dream without being crippled by debt.

My last semester in college was spent in Chicago where I interned for a non-profit that published stories written by children. I loved it, and I was able to learn so much about editing, publishing, and business. With just a few months left until graduation and no job secured yet, I started looking for jobs all over the country with just one rule: the job had to be in my field and full-time. By April of 2017, I had a job offer as a copy-editor at a small non-profit in Colorado. It wasn’t an editor position at a publishing company, but I never expected to get my dream job right out of college. I knew that would take time. I was, however, thrilled to have an offer that would give me editing experience and take me one step closer to my dream. I accepted the offer and then began emailing the team at LRAP. I wanted to double check that I would qualify for the program at my new job and after talking to some of the nicest, most helpful LRAP team members, I had the information I needed. LRAP was going to help me pay my student loans.

I remember when I received my first LRAP check in the mail. I cried, I laughed, I jumped up and down with joy, and I was filled with extreme thankfulness. See, while I had found a job in my field doing what I love, I owed more in bills every month than I made. Making a little more than minimum wage while also trying to pay loans and monthly bills seemed nearly impossible. You know what did make it possible though? The LRAP check that I received every three months. I’m not exaggerating when I say that without LRAP’s help, I could not have kept working at that job as a copy-editor. I would have had to move home where there was zero chance of me finding any sort of work in my field, and I know that if that had happened, my dream of becoming an editor would have died over time.

Remember how I said my LRAP story begins with a dream and ends with a dream? Three years later and I’m writing this from my home in Nashville, Tennessee, where I work as an assistant editor for HarperCollins Christian Publishing. I’ve been here for a little over a year and a half living my dream—helping people tell their stories—and when I think back on how I got here, I owe LRAP a big thank youThank you for helping my dream come true and for helping my hope stay alive.