Esther Ruiz: A Story of God’s Unfailing Provision

Esther Ruiz ’22 quite literally grew up in the church. After immigrating to the United States from Guatemala and El Salvador, her parents planted a church in Los Angeles and poured themselves into ministry. Throughout her childhood, Ruiz spent countless hours watching her mom and dad model service until she too began volunteering with Sunday school and helping with worship.

“When I was 12, I consciously decided that I wanted to follow Jesus,” said Ruiz. “I knew I loved him because of how he impacted my life—not just because my parents loved him.”

Her faith continued to grow in high school even as her parents stepped away from ministry to focus on their family. In 2015, her mom, Vilma Orozco, decided to pursue her Master of Divinity at APU alongside working as a full-time nanny and primary caregiver for her family.

Ruiz would come home from school and watch her mom diligently studying and writing her papers. With her mom as an inspiration, she began to dream of one day attending college herself.

But in 2017, shocking news came to their family: her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Ruiz witnessed her mom faithfully trust in God and continue attending her APU classes, despite dwindling energy and chemotherapy treatments. Meanwhile, Ruiz took on caring for her younger sister, on top of finishing out her senior year of high school and filling out college applications.

Her dreams of attending APU quickly seemed unreachable. When a high school financial counselor looked at the price of attendance alongside Esther’s life situation, she suggested looking at a community college instead.

“I walked out of that office determined to not give up on APU,” said Ruiz. “My God is a provider. I grew up with little, and God always provided enough. I knew he could do it.”

At home, she came across APU’s Multi Ethnic Leadership (MEL) Scholarship opportunity. Taking a leap of faith, she applied—securing an interview among 19 other applicants. On a rainy morning, Ruiz’s mom, her constant source of support, put on her wig and nicest dress and drove her to campus.

“I had been on APU’s campus before, but only for my mom,” said Ruiz. “This was my first time coming to a university with myself in mind. It was so special to have my mom there by my side."

God opened the door, and Ruiz was granted the scholarship: bringing the price of enrollment down so significantly that she quickly committed to attend APU as a liberal studies major with a special education concentration and a leadership minor.

But God was not done yet. When Ruiz arrived at the first MEL meeting, it was announced the scholarship had increased in amount. As the beginning of the school year unfurled, additional grants emerged.

“I ended up not paying a dime during my time at APU,” said Ruiz. “God saw me, his child, and declared me enough, providing for my needs in supernatural ways.”

Before long, Ruiz began to thrive as an APU student, experiencing a sense of belonging within her multi ethnic leadership cohort. From gathering together with the group once a month to engage in deep conversations about social justice and racial reconciliation to helping advance positive change on campus, she grew from a timid freshman to a confident woman. She attended chapel, invested in a local church, and started a club called Educators of the Future.

In 2019, Ruiz’s mother graduated with her Master of Divinity and was also declared cancer-free.

“My mom found the motivation to beat cancer through this university, ” said Ruiz. “APU was life-giving for her. She would lay in the hispanic seminar classrooms with her eyes closed listening to her professors, feeling the strength to keep going.”

Inspired by her mom’s strength and perseverance, Ruiz has plans to become a teacher who serves low-income students in the Los Angeles area. When she saw her mentor, Danelle Woodman ’20, apply for prestigious graduate schools to pursue her master of education, Ruiz began to dream big.

“Danelle was the only woman of color I knew personally heading for graduate education,” said Ruiz. “She inspired me to reach for the stars and apply.”

Her APU professor, Aurora Matzke, PhD, senior associate provost, coached her through applications and essays to apply to the University of Southern California. Matzke did not know, however, that Ruiz was also quietly applying to Stanford—unsure and hesitant about the outcome. To her surprise, she received an acceptance call in early March.

“The acceptance, of course, came with a hefty price tag,” said Ruiz. “I remember praying in APU chapel through the worship service. I sang the words of the song as a declaration: ‘I’ve seen you move the mountains, I’ll see you do it again.’”

And God did it again. Esther attended a financial aid consultation for Stanford in tears as she heard of scholarships which would cover the complete cost of the year-long Master's in Education program.

“None of this would have been possible without God, ” she said. On May 7, 2022, Ruiz was first in line at the undergraduate commencement ceremony, proudly donning her cap and gown, and when the signal was given, she opened the university gate leading a new class of difference makers toward a bright future. “He is my provider. It has been an amazing journey—from the professors I’ve learned from to the community I’ve built. I’m ready to go out and make a difference as an educator.”