Redding resident embraces challenges in online bachelor’s-degree program

For Immediate Release


Sarah LawhorneREDDING, Calif. - Sarah Lawhorne’s journey to earn her bachelor’s degree took her over 40 years. She started her undergraduate education at the University of Maine in the 1970s, and she completed it on April 27, when she graduated with a B.A. in organizational leadership from Simpson University’s ASPIRE degree-completion program.

Lawhorne, a 60-year-old Redding resident who grew up in Maine, first applied and was accepted to the ASPIRE program in 2006, but due to life circumstances she postponed finishing her degree. By the time she returned in 2011, the university was offering an online organizational leadership degree.

“There are many advantages to online education,” Lawhorne said. “Despite its requirements of discipline and dedication, you can acquire a degree from anywhere in the world that has Internet connections.”

The past 16 months have offered many challenges for Lawhorne. “When I began this educational journey I had very limited abilities,” she said. “The last time I wrote a paper was 40 years ago in long-hand. I barely typed, I had never used Word, never done a PowerPoint or used YouTube.”

Lawhorne admits that she was never very successful at academic learning and was usually a C student. That changed when she entered the ASPIRE program.

“I wanted to give it my all, so I could finally feel accomplished in my academic endeavors,” she said.

Her hard work paid off, and she graduated with a 4.0 GPA, making her eligible for Alpha Sigma Lambda, a national honor society for continuing education students who receive a GPA of 3.8 or higher.

Like many women, Lawhorne said, she delayed getting her degree in order to focus on family responsibilities. She worked at various jobs, including being a special education tutor, running an inn on the coast of Maine, and teaching skiing for over 35 years.

Ever since childhood, she has had a passion for the Middle East; in 2009, Lawhorne made her first trek to the region to attend the King of Kings Media School in downtown Jerusalem.

“It was an amazing environment,” she said. “Living in such a diverse community was fascinating. I learned that when we demonstrate honor toward others no matter where they come from or what they believe, we honor God, and our behavior opens doors and hearts to share his love.”

In 2010, she attended Youth With A Mission’s (YWAM) Marriage of the Visual Arts Discipleship Training School, in Herrnhut, Germany. She and a small team of students spent two months in the nation of Jordan teaching English and computer skills. She also participated in a Middle Eastern prayer summit in Cairo, Egypt, a few weeks after the Arab Spring uprising.

Lawhorne made her third visit to the Middle East in spring 2011, when she visited Tunisia, a nation in North Africa, on another YWAM outreach trip. After finishing this trip, she felt it was time to return to California and finish her bachelor’s degree.

Now that she has graduated, Lawhorne is considering several opportunities, including graduate studies at the London School of Theology, where she could learn more about the Middle East at the school’s Islamic Institute. She is also investigating positions at YWAM and other non-governmental organizations where she could utilize her organizational leadership degree.

“The ASPIRE program not only helped me realize my educational goals, but it also gave me the desire and confidence to expand the scope of my dreams,” she said.

Article by Elise Wilson. Photo by Falicia Schuman.


Simpson University is a Christian university offering undergraduate, graduate, and teaching credential programs. Academic programs include ASPIRE, a degree-completion program geared toward working adults in the north state. Simpson’s newest programs include degrees in nursing, biology, outdoor leadership, and master’s degrees in counseling psychology and organizational leadership. For more information, or to arrange a campus visit, call 1-888-9-SIMPSON or visit


Contact: SU Public Relations
(530) 226-4737