Adopting a Cause: Alumnus Becomes CEO of Awake & Alive
Alumnus Darin Shrock could never have predicted the plan God had in store for his life after graduating from Bethel in 2006. In six short years, he went from history major, to law school graduate, to father of three adopted children, to CEO of the nonprofit organization Awake & Alive.
Awake & Alive is an organization founded by Schrock’s wife, Jolene, and her friend Danielle Black that gives Ethiopians tools to help themselves better their own future. They first collaborated with the Ethiopian nongovernmental organization Bright Future, which exists to provide communities in Ethiopia with the means to receive a proper education and a stable job. Recently, Awake & Alive opened a school for 30 at-risk children, ages 4-6, in the slum of Kechene, Ethiopia. In the future, Shrock says they hope to expand the school to teach students from K-12.
The story of how Shrock became CEO of Awake & Alive begins with something very close to his heart — adoption. Shrock married his high school sweetheart during his sophomore year at Bethel and went on to pursue a law degree at Thomas and Cooley Law School. As the Shrocks struggled to start a family, they began to consider adoption as an option.
“In a way, Ethiopia chose us,” says Shrock.
Ethiopia was one of the few countries that would consider them suitable adoptive parents due to their young age. In fall of 2009, the Shrocks adopted Claire Dollame, and two years later they returned to adopt Stella Marta and Benjamin Fikadu.
Awake & Alive was born out of a passion for the people of Ethiopia that developed after the Shrocks pursued Ethiopian adoption. They knew they were helping by adopting, but Jolene wanted to do more. She teamed up with Black, who had also adopted from Ethiopia, to create the organization to help the millions of children who don’t get adopted.
“The idea of Awake & Alive is intertwined with adoption,” says Shrock. And since he had experience helping form nonprofit organizations through his law practice, he took on Awake & Alive as one of his clients.
As the organization grew, Awake & Alive realized the need for a strong leader to plan for future goals. At the end of August, the board of directors offered Shrock the position of CEO. He was considered an ideal fit because of his background in law and the deep connection he had to the organization through Jolene. As one of the only paid personnel, Shrock’s duties as CEO include revamping the website, organizing fundraising events, creating business plans and more.
“I pretty much wear all the hats,” says Shrock.
He considers it an honor to communicate the Lord’s love to the people around him.
“It’s an opportunity to really live out the gospel, and I don’t know anything better than that,” says Shrock.
Shrock has been working part time on the future goals for Awake & Alive as their new CEO while continuing to practice law at his own firm. His hope is that their few small schools will grow into a movement in Ethiopia to provide education for every child.
Shrock says working as the CEO has been a challenge, but it has been a great opportunity to learn from a different culture in need of assistance.
“I’m not a hero, and nobody who helps this organization is a hero. That’s not a proper view of the situation. In fact, most of us learn more from them, from the people in this area,” says Shrock.