by Mark Pomerville
Ever since high school, Annika (Hargreaves) St. John ’10 was certain that she wanted to use her gifts to help people, specifically in the area of social work. While attending Providence, her teachers and peers encouraged her to follow God’s calling. “Providence shaped me heavily,” says St. John. “Not only did I learn a great deal about a variety of subjects, but I also made friendships with my classmates and professors that had such a profound impact on me. Everyone cared about each other, and they inspired me to seek the Lord in whatever career I chose to pursue.”
In May 2010, St. John graduated from Providence and began to search for opportunities to serve others. Wanting to be certain that social work was truly God’s calling, she began working as an Early Intervention Tutor at Behavior & Education Strategies & Training (B.E.S.T.) in Salida, CA. Part of St. John’s duties included performing behavioral therapy with kids who were recently diagnosed with autism, utilizing the principles of applied behavior analysis to help children of all ages improve their coping skills with sensory overstimulation. “My goal was to make kids feel like they belonged because sometimes they struggled to connect with others,” reflects St. John. “I did my best to help them through their loneliness and frustration by communicating in positive ways. I look back fondly at my time in college and know that because of the friendships and connections I made at Providence, I was able to show these kids the same care and personal connection that my professors and peers had shown me. After serving so many kids, I knew that social work was truly where the Lord wanted me to be.”
After serving at B.E.S.T. for a year, St. John began to pursue higher education in the hopes of earning her Master’s degree in Social work. Graduate school proved rigorous and demanding, requiring strong commitment and determination, but St. John was up for the challenge. “The first quarter of graduate school was intense,” says St. John. “However, Providence prepared me for anything. I had written so many papers during my time at Providence that my graduate studies didn’t seem as difficult.” In June 2016, St. John earned her master’s in social work and began several advanced internships.
Today, St. John is a Hospice Social Worker for St. Joseph’s Medical Center through CHI Franciscan Health System in Tacoma, Washington, one of the top healthcare service providers in the nation. Every week, St. John visits various homes and health facilities with terminally ill patients, many of whom only have six months left to live. From offering proper healthcare advocacy, as well as assessing patients’ financial needs, she offers resources and emotional support to those who have been neglected due to their critical condition. “There is never a day when I don’t love coming to work,” says St. John. “As a social worker, I’ll meet people in the worst situations that they can go through. Many of the families I see are going to lose someone they love. Some days are harder than others, but I know that God has brought me here to be a light to the people I meet.”
While St. John’s empathy and kindness have brought joy to many of her patients, she meets some people who face death with little hope of where they will spend eternity. “For Christians, there is hope in death because we know that we will be in heaven with our Father,” says St. John. “However, some of the patients I see don’t have that hope. Fortunately, Providence not only prepared me for the world, academically, but also grew me spiritually. The Lord has given me opportunities to pray with my patients, and I truly believe that through having a solid Reformed Biblical foundation, God has equipped me and called me to serve and glorify Him through my work.”
As St. John continues to fulfill her calling, she remembers how Providence equipped her to care for others in ways she never expected. “It seems like every step of the way, the Lord used my Providence education to help open doors for me,” states St. John. “I’m so happy I studied liberal arts because I was exposed to a variety of subjects. I became well-rounded, and I am now able to effectively relate to people and offer compassion to them no matter where they are in life.”