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Why Tiara Chadran no longer keeps her faith to herself

I got involved in a church Bible study when I was in high school, and then my life crumbled. My dad was sentenced to seven years in prison, and I had to deal with more family responsibilities than I’d had before. So when I came to Pitt, I knew I wanted to get connected to some sort of Bible study. When my gymnastics teammate, Bri, invited me to the CCO athletes’ fellowship, I got to know CCO staff member Kelly Cooke. I’ve met with Kelly every week since my freshman year, and I’m a senior now. 

Since getting involved in the CCO’s ministry, I have become a less selfish Christian. I used to keep my faith to myself, but last year, Kelly challenged me to open up. She said it would help me to grow as a Christian and would invite others to be more open as well. I had never given my testimony to other students. After I shared my story at the CCO athletes fellowship, I was able to lead and relate to people in new ways. 

My desire to work with people who are in high-risk situations was awakened when Kelly invited me to be part of a summer internship with other Pitt athletes through The Pittsburgh Project and Eastminster Presbyterian Church. But it was on my first trip to Haiti with fellow athletes that I really started to develop a passion for helping people

I’ve gone to Haiti every year that I’ve been at Pitt, but that first trip was the most important experience of my life so far. We spent time in two orphanages, and it’s been amazing to see how much the kids have grown year to year. The first year I went, I had never been out of the country before. It was complete culture shock. I was devastated—how can places like this even exist? But the kids were so open and felt so blessed by everything.

Coming home was reverse culture shock: it was hard to go back to “life as usual.” That trip solidified friendships with the other students who went. Sharing that experience brought us closer together. 

Now that I know I want to help people, I’m applying for many different programs. I’m considering nonprofit work, or working with those with mental disabilities, or with orphans like I did in Haiti. 

It’s hard to imagine my college experience without the CCO. Without the support of Kelly and that community of Christian athletes, I think I probably would have unraveled as I went through the daily pressures and responsibilities. 

It feels like as a student-athlete, everyone has an agenda for you—coaches, teachers, and advisors. Kelly believes in me and helps me to see myself as a leader. She cares about me as a whole person, and she’s been there for me no matter what. 

—Tiara Chadran, University of Pittsburgh 2016, Psychology and Sociology major

This story first appeared in the winter 2015 issue of On Campus magazine.