My Journey from High School Loneliness to Belonging

by Abigail Reed

“While processing a transitional season in high school, God remained a constant support and soon brought transformation to my life. He introduced me to community and eventually led me to APU, where I continued growing and forging meaningful relationships with others.”

Lauren Dawson ’20 entered the doors of her new high school and faced crowds of unfamiliar faces. She thought of her sister starting college far away, and her church mentor, who had recently left the area. As the days trickled on, Dawson felt more alone—feeling unseen and unknown in the midst of her circumstances.

Through it all, however, Dawson never lost sight of Jesus. Since singing “Jesus Loves Me” at just four-years-old, Dawson had committed to following Christ, consistently attending youth group even in the difficult times and believing in God’s restorative power.

Little did she know God would meet her on an ordinary night at youth group, when the youth pastor’s wife put a hand on her shoulder and asked to go chat. For the first time in months, Dawson felt seen and heard. As she became more invested in her faith community once again, she began making new friends at school and stepping outside of her comfort zone—shedding light on the lies that she had accepted for so long.

“God reminded me I actually belonged the whole time,” said Dawson. “I was seen and known by my heavenly Father who has loved me since day one. I didn’t have to believe that false narrative and continue isolating myself from others.”

Dawson’s transformation continued throughout high school, and she eventually followed in her sister’s footsteps and arrived at APU brimming with excitement. Walking onto campus, Dawson felt welcomed on campus and eager to get involved.

She immediately joined a D-group, forging relationships, which would last for years to come and deepen her relationship with Jesus. Her involvement led her to become a D-group leader and eventually a Service and Leadership Team representative, using her experiences to prepare and equip others to lead their own discipleship communities.

“Through the D-group community, APU affirmed the importance of always having others to support and encourage you, while doing the same for them,” said Dawson. “They truly enriched my college experience.”

As a communications major, with a minor in youth ministry, Dawson looks to the future with plans on working in ministry. She feels open to God’s call, whether leading from a podium as a pastor or continuing her calling in discipleship coordinating and training. Wherever she finds herself, Dawson hopes to spread the love that carried her through her high school years, sharing the freedom and joy found in Jesus’ name.

This article is part of a series that features the inspiring faith stories of APU's students, faculty, and staff. If you are a member of the APU community and would like to share your faith story, contact Rachel White at

Abigail Reed is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a liberal studies major with an honors humanities minor.