Italy “ZZ” Kokonaing

by | Nov 10, 2023

Senior Italy “ZZ” Kokonaing has always been driven to excellence and dedicated to success. When looking for a college to attend, he had high standards for himself with the expectation that his success would come from his own talents and hard work.

However, when ZZ came to Bethel for his campus visit, he immediately recognized God’s calm and inviting presence on campus. In addition to anticipating a vigorous academic life, he knew that he would be part of a Christ-centered community.

That community would become essential to ZZ as a catalyst for his desire to become more like Jesus.

“God has been using everything I have experienced during my time at Bethel to help heal my family, relationships, and past traumatic experiences,” ZZ says. “He has given me a lot of hope recently to keep pursuing life-giving relationships and to encourage friendship at Bethel.”

Those relationships have come in the form of faculty and professors who have challenged him to excel beyond his grades and also flourish in his faith, friendships, time management and heart for God and community.

They have come in the form of mentors who have been there to encourage him to take initiative in his personal and spiritual growth, supporting him in times of despair by providing wisdom and encouragement to seek professional counseling.

And, they have come in the form of fellow students experiencing vulnerability in their pursuit of Christ. ZZ found support and a safe space to open up with a classmate as ZZ was dealing with anger and confusion around the death of a close friend. That classmate showed ZZ what resilience looks like, serving others despite his own stress and tragedy.

“A single yes to God has led me to a powerful education, a deeper spiritual walk with Jesus Christ with awesome mentors, a three-month trip to South Africa, and a lot of good music and memories,” ZZ says.

“Thank you for acting in generosity, committing to my academic success as a student and helping me achieve bigger dreams and goals I could never get to without your support,” ZZ adds. “I ask that God blesses you more than you have blessed students like me. I do not think I would be able to balance my academic life and other life-giving activities – like music and worship – if I had to work to pay for school. It has relieved a lot of stress for me and allowed me to engage more in the community.”

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