SPU Students give back
Photo by Nick Onken
The Reconciler
Nikkita Oliver’s faith drives her to take racial reconciliation seriously. “It’s about educating and encouraging others,” she says. This Indianapolis native has been part of more than a dozen programs to promote discussion, community, and healing at Seattle Pacific University and in Seattle.
Nikkita Oliver remembers her excitement as she sat – squeezed into a pew at the church across the street from Seattle Pacific University – listening to John Perkins speak. His voice started soft and calm as he spoke about reconciliation and Christian community development, but by the end he was downright preaching.
Up to that point, four years ago, Oliver wasn’t sure she belonged at SPU. Going to high school in a multiethnic, inner-city school in Indianapolis, and being multiracial herself (African American and Caucasian), she was acutely aware of being in the ethnic minority at Seattle Pacific. However, that day she realized God had called her to the University – not only for her own development, but also to aid in the reconciliation initiative on campus.
John Perkins, a leading reconciliation advocate, spoke of the “three R’s”: relocation, redistribution, and reconciliation. He said it would be impossible to achieve cross-cultural Christian community development without them. Oliver took action on all three.
As a sophomore, after a year of living and building relationships on campus, she relocated to inner-city South Seattle to begin, she explains, “incarnational ministry,” where other people’s “needs and reality become my needs and reality.” Her apartment is where local children come for tutoring. She shares, or redistributes, all she has freely – whether it’s the knowledge she gains as a student, her apartment, or her food. On the Seattle Pacific campus, she lives out reconciliation by advancing programs that promote cross-cultural awareness.
“Nikkita could run for president. She is a community builder with a unique ability to connect with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.”
—Joe Snell, Former Director of Intercultural Affiars
Not only did Oliver serve as student intercultural director, but she also helped make this a core student government position. She has directed SPU’s annual hip hop show for the past three years; led the student multicultural club, Mosaic; mentored several students; and served as a bridge between multiethnic and white students. She’s done all of this while holding a full-time job through a Christian organization and a part-time job with Multi-Ethnic Programs on campus – and being a full-time sociology major with a 3.89 GPA.
“It’s not easy,” she says. “But what drives me is the calling that God has put on my life while I have been a student at SPU.”
She graduates this spring, and will leave her legacy of furthering SPU’s heart for reconciliation. The record 20 percent of multiethnic students in this year’s incoming class were drawn to Seattle Pacific in part by the reconciling work of students such as Oliver.
Her friend and mentor Joe Snell, former director of intercultural affairs, puts it this way: “Nikkita could run for president. She is a community builder with a unique ability to connect with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.”
If you want to know more about John Perkins and the Perkins Center, visit www.spu.edu/perkins
By Ineliz Soto, Photo By Nick Onken
Check our archives for more stories with Heart & Soul.