Rachel Dibbins, a senior psychology major with a minor in military science, loves the sounds and smells of San Diego beach waves, but doesn’t come close to needing them to be with family.
Born and raised in San Diego County, Dibbins grew up with the iconic beach settings of California. But living in California wasn’t all about the lifestyles seen on television and movies as one of the most important things to Dibbins is being around family.
With a fondness for family and California, the news of her father’s job relocation came as a bit of a wrench in the normality of daily life.
“When I was a senior in high school my dad got relocated for his job,” Dibbins said. “My dad moved to the Midwest my senior year, and my family is ridiculously close, so I struggled not having him in my life every day.”
Having lived in Oceanside, California for her entire life, Dibbins knew a life in the Midwest would bring all kinds of differences, both environmentally and culturally. Even with this in mind, she was prepared to make the move out east, nearly half the country away from home.
“I was looking for a tennis scholarship at the time, and Fort Hayes State contacted me so I decided to check out the other schools in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA),” Dibbins said.
This is eventually what led Dibbins to check out Northwest, but it is ultimately not what kept her interest.
“I came across Northwest’s home page and remember seeing the theme of ‘family’ on just about everything that was posted,” Dibbins said. “I also remember seeing that there was only 12,000 people in the town and thinking ‘how does anyone live there?’”
Despite a small number of citizens, Dibbins was still willing to give Maryville a shot. She eventually made it around to visiting Maryville for a college visit and knew going in she’d be in for some culture shock. But what happened to Dibbins was more than just culture shock.
“I remember walking around Maryville and everyone waving and smiling,” Dibbins said. “The first few times I thought that the person must have mistaken me for someone else they knew, but I quickly realized smiling and waving was just what people did here even when it came to total strangers. Now, I go home and smile and wave at everyone and people look at me like I’m nuts.”
Dibbins has had to adjust to the weather and setting of Northwest’s campus during her time as a student, but she’s done more than just adjust. Maryville has given Dibbins the opportunity to learn and grow over the past four years.
She started school on a scholarship for tennis, but eventually moved on from the original thing keeping her at Northwest. Dibbins evolved, eventually finding new friends on both the tennis team and softball team who were always supportive no matter what sport she played.
This has led Dibbins to be constantly thankful for the friends and family she has made over the years.
“The people here are indescribably special in so many ways, and I’m just so blessed that I’ve been able to be a small part of that,” Dibbins said.
Despite her humble nature, Dibbins has found time to be involved with two organizations known for the dedication to giving back and protecting others: The Show Me Gold Program and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nodaway County.
Show Me Gold in particular has driven Dibbins to be a member of the National Guard.
“The Show Me Gold Program has so much opportunity, and to be a woman in the United States Army is just such an honor,” Dibbins said. “I get to meet so many people with these incredible and inspiring stories. To be able to stand next to them and call them my sisters has given me a sense of pride that nothing can beat. It has given me such a greater respect for our country and our freedoms.”
While the U.S. Army is a prevalent part of Dibbins’ life, anyone who follows her on social media will be sure to see one of the most influential parts of her life: a girl named Abriana, Dibbins’ little in Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“Abriana was born premature, she had a 1 percent chance of survival and she regressed quickly after being born,” Dibbins said. “By the grace of God, a few days later she started improving. While she suffers from physical, developmental and mental disabilities she is your average eight year old who loves Barbie’s, glitter and constant laughing.”
Abriana is more to Dibbins than just a girl though. Dibbins says the idea of Big Brothers Big Big Sisters is to make an impact on the children they are paired with, but Abriana has given her just as much.
“She teaches me everyday that despite how ugly our world looks or how bad our situation might seem that our attitude is everything,” Dibbins said. “Above all she has taught me how to love others with an open heart. I am just so proud of her little heart and how she loves everyone she meets. I think the world would be a much better place if we all had a little Abriana in us.”
A humble and go-getter attitude paired with the distances Dibbins has traveled are only matched by her love for God. When she talks about everything she has accomplished over the years, this love is always present, playing a role in one way or another.
“I want people to know that I will sin all the time, every day and for the rest of my life,” Dibbins said. “But we don’t have to live in that truth; we get to get up out of that darkness and shine God’s light because he wrote a different ending to our story than brokenness. I just think that is so important for people to hear, especially college students.”
Dibbins says California is her home, but there can be more than one home. For her, it’s not just about where someone lives, but where someone can feel loved too.
“Home will always be Oceanside, and I do hope to come back someday,” Dibbins said. “However home is also Maryville, Missouri and Ottawa, Kansas and anywhere else that I can build a life surrounded by love.”