Whenever a drama production is in the making at Providence Christian College, one can be sure that Ellen Avants will be involved. A native of Yorba Linda, CA, Avants will graduate this spring with Liberal Arts concentrations in English and Biblical and Theological Studies.
However, theatre remains her greatest passion. She expresses this fact in unambiguous terms: “I don’t think I enjoy anything more than being able to perform.”
Why did her parents name her Ellen? “My mom wanted an Ashley,” Avants explains. By the time she was born, the name Ashley seemed too popular, so her parents decided to use it as a middle name and call her Eleanor after her grandmother.
Almost every Sunday, Avants visits a local grill in Yorba Linda with her family called Blue Agave, which serves food influenced by the cuisine of Mexico, South America, and the Southwestern United States. Once they discovered the restaurant, it became a favorite family tradition.
The oldest of three siblings, Avants has a younger brother and sister. Her brother enters the story with unique significance. To students at Providence, who each possess a special narrative of how they arrived at the college, Avants’ experience will not come as a surprise. Avants comments on Providence’s name: “I can’t tell you how fitting it is.” When Avants was in high school, her brother decided to play baseball for a semester. Chas Nagel (a current senior at Providence) happened to be on the same team. The parents of Avants and Nagel had been acquainted in the past, and Avants emphasizes the unforeseen nature of their meeting: “It was kind of like, ‘What are you doing here?’ ” she says.
Nagel’s parents informed hers about Providence. At this point, she was considering not going to college and instead finding a job after graduation. However, events proceeded in a different manner. Avants calls the fact that her brother would try out for baseball–and that the Nagels would be involved–“providential.”
An English concentration was a natural choice for Avants. “I’ve always enjoyed reading,” she affirms. “I would pretend to read books before I could even read.” However, a time did occur during her freshman year when she lost interest in it. This situation did not last long, though: “But then I took a few English classes from Dr. Belz my sophomore year and he kind of converted me back.”
What has influenced her most about Providence? “The one thing that changed my perspective…was Dr. Swanson’s teaching about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.” Here she pauses, saying she doesn’t know how to describe the idea without turning it into “a Dr. Swanson lecture.” She laughs, then clarifies that her appreciation is for “the whole teaching that he gives in Romans 8 about how we’re not condemned to sin anymore.” This has taught her to develop a love for Scripture and how it connects.
After graduating, Avants hopes to perform, either on stage or onscreen. She believes that acting in a place where people need to hear the gospel would be the perfect vocation. Her goal would be to establish herself in that arena as a witness, and by God’s grace not fall into the sin that is prevalent there. She asserts: “You can only do it with God’s grace, because otherwise you don’t have a chance.”
Avants states the message she would like to communicate to present and future Providence students: “Four years sounds like a long time, but it goes by fast. You want to savor it…academics are important, but you need to make time for relationships.” She emphasizes our need to take advantage of the small Christian community with which God, in his Providence, has blessed us.