Five Years Out: Student Ministries Director Joelinda Coichy ’11

The series “Five Years Out” catches up with Bowdoin alumni to learn what they’re up to and where they’ve been since earning their diplomas in 2011.

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For much of her life, Joelinda Coichy was convinced she would become a lawyer.

“My parents emigrated from Haiti, so a huge part of my cultural background, as the daughter of immigrants, was trying to accomplish success,” Coichy said. “It governed a lot of what I did, including attending Bowdoin.” At college she stayed the course, majoring in government and legal studies and in Spanish.

An additional part of her drive to succeed was formed in the aftermath of her parents’ divorce, which occurred when she was in middle school. “When my parents divorced, it was rare, and frowned upon in the Haitian community,” Coichy said. Growing up as the first-born in her family, Coichy believed that if she could just achieve professional and material success, she could “make things right and better in my family.”

Yet as she pursued her studies at Bowdoin, Coichy began to feel she might have another destiny. She had gotten involved in the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship, and she was volunteering with local teenagers at her Brunswick church. “Slowly, I had the sense that my identity didn’t need to be grounded in fixing my family—this was something only God could do,” she explained.

She added, “I became disillusioned with what the law could actually do, and I was simultaneously experiencing this vibrant community of young people who were finding ways to care for each other and pray for each other. Government is a good thing, but it falls short in some areas.”

Coichy decided she should pursue both a divinity degree and a law degree. But when the fall of her senior year rolled around and she needed to write an essay for her law school application, she froze. “I can write essays!,” she remembered scolding herself. “But I couldn’t do it. I took it as a sign I should wait.”

Instead, with help from a Bowdoin connection, she got a job with a startup social media marketing company in Atlanta, Ga. “At Bowdoin, I barely used Facebook!” she said and laughed. “But at Bowdoin, they tell you that you can learn anything, so I became a social media analyst.”

She loved the job, but even as she was being promoted at the company, she felt she wasn’t in the right place. As she had done at Bowdoin, she volunteered with young students at her Atlanta church. “I found that I loved being able to share hope,” Coichy said. “I was drawn to this work of helping people understand who Jesus was, and I felt like I needed training for that.”

Two months before she left her workplace, her company was acquired by Oracle. Coichy cashed out her stock options to cover her moving expenses back to Boston, where she had grown up and where much of her family still was.

That fall, Coichy enrolled in Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, in South Hamilton, Mass., where she received a scholarship to pursue a master of divinity degree. The program was intensive — Coichy took classes in Greek, Hebrew, church history, Christian ethics, theology, and more.

After her first year at the seminary, the church she had attended in Watertown as a child, called Grace Chapel, approached Coichy regarding a role as a youth director at a new campus it was opening in Watertown. She took on the job part-time while she finished her studies, and she stepped into the role full-time once she graduated, and she also began working with young adults.

Coichy has just completed her first full year in this job, and is planning an August wedding to a fellow seminary classmate. “My fiancé is studying systematic theology at Boston College with a particular interest in issues of peace and reconciliation,” she said. As she contemplates her future, Coichy points out that she and her future husband, who is white, together can offer a unique perspective on these issues. “We think part of our calling is to speak about racial reconciliation,” she said, both in the US and around the world.

At the moment, however, Coichy is satisfied with and challenged by her current ministry, where she says she uses all the skills she learned at Bowdoin — strategic thinking and planning, public speaking, and writing. “Although I am not doing what I expected, Bowdoin gave me what I needed,” she said

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