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From the graduation files: Mission team sparks Saba native’s desire to pursue Lipscomb education

Michel Hassell becomes the second in his family, and from Saba to graduate from Lipscomb University

Anna Moseley  | 

News - Saba

In honor of the May commencement ceremony, follow the Graduation Stories Series to read about some of the experiences of the May 2019 graduates. Family and friends are invited to join in the celebration at commencement on May 4 at 10:30 a.m. for graduate students and 3 p.m. for undergraduate students in Allen Arena.  

From the graduation files: Mission team sparks Saba native’s desire to pursue Lipscomb education

More than 17 years after the first Lipscomb mission trip to Saba, Saba native Michel (Henry) Hassell will become the second member of his family, and from his small Caribbean island, to graduate from Lipscomb University when he walks across the Allen Arena stage this Saturday.

“My brother Myron was the first Saba native to come to Lipscomb,” said Hassell. “He graduated from Lipscomb in 2016 and now I am graduating and two of our cousins and four other Sabans are at Lipscomb.”

His brother’s interest in Lipscomb was sparked by the interactions he had with Lipscomb students during their mission trips to Saba. Even though his brother attended Lipscomb, Hassell had his sight set on attending college in Miami.

“I feel like I ended up at Lipscomb instead of Miami so I could build a foundation here so I won’t get lost when I do move there,” said Hassell. “I think if I went to Miami for college, I would have been lost spiritually, but now that I am firm in my faith, I can be more rooted in it wherever I go.”

Although he grew up in a religious family, Hassell said he wasn’t accustomed to the devos and chapel services he saw everyone engaging in on campus almost daily.

“Growing up, I went to church every Sunday, but I didn’t practice my faith everyday. When I first got to Lipscomb, I saw a lot of people trying to act out their faith in everyday life. Being here and having a lot of people speak into my life spiritually has really helped me deepen my faith with God and learn spiritual discipline.” — Michel Hassell

For Hassell, the spiritual aspect of Lipscomb became really important. He said it would be hard to find that anywhere else, as well as the camaraderie felt with his professors.

“For me, getting an education at Lipscomb wasn’t about the degree,” said Hassell. “There are so many students and professors that you meet and get to have relationships with and these relationships provide continual learning opportunities from people.

“Getting a degree is important  but the best part of getting an education at Lipscomb is getting to be close to my professors and being able to talk with them about things other than work. Being at Lipscomb has really helped me grow as a person and learn from professors, not only about academics, but also about life.”

For Hassell, his college education is more than academic. He said college sparks a continual learning process that has helped him grow academically, spiritually and even socially. Being at Lipscomb taught him it is okay to be different and unique, he said.

“At Lipscomb, there are a lot of different people,” said Hassell. “I see so many personalities. At first, I thought I had to be someone else to fit in, but I learned that even though I came to American, I don’t have to change who I am to fit in because everyone is unique here.”

After graduation, Hassell plans to fulfill his dream of moving to Miami, becoming a professional dancer and financial planner, but still plans to visit his family and friends back in Saba.

The Start of Saba Mission Trips:

Every spring break since 2002, various teams of Lipscomb University students have traveled on  mission trips to the small island of Saba, creating relationships with the community and sparking interest of Lipscomb with high school students.

“The annual trips to Saba began after Lipscomb alumni Michael and Aletha Thomas moved to the island of Saba in 2001,” said Erin Gupton, missions coordinator at Lipscomb University. “Michael was pursuing a medical degree at Saba University School of Medicine and Aletha began teaching at the only high school on the island.”

Through the Thomas’s involvement, the two quickly got to know the island and the community that resided there. The two were also good friends with Jeff Fincher and Mark Jent, who had just started the Lipscomb Missions program.

Their friendship with Fincher and Jent and the Thomas’s involvement in the community led to the first of many spring break mission trips to Saba. The Thomas’s hosted the group and Fincher and his wife, Tasha, led the team.

There are currently seven Saba students enrolled at Lipscomb: two graduating seniors, Hassell and his cousin, Antoniette Granger, and five freshman—Francine Zagers, Ruben Hassell, Julian Varon, Nathanael Johnson, and Leroy Goorcharran.

Learn more about Lipscomb Missions.