Torey Lynn Mayfield grew up in Buckeye, Arizona on an onion farm. This is not the introduction to a southwestern, fiction short story. It’s true. And this Gap Year alumna has an incredible story to tell…

“I was raised among believers,” she says. “My siblings and I grew up in the church, our parents taught us well, and we were all committed Christians in our small town.” Torey was an active kid – the youngest of three – who became a star athlete in High School. “I was a pretty good basketball player,” she says. “I was even being looked at by a few colleges before my life changed forever…”

The summer before Torey’s junior year in high school, she attended a summer camp where she was introduced to the “gap year” concept by a few of the counselors there. When she returned home, she had pamphlets and brochures and even an application to Impact 360 Institute. She told her parents that she wanted to go to Pine Mountain, Georgia after graduation, and that’s exactly what she did.

Torey finished in the top 3% of her graduating class of more than 500 students. She was a star athlete with offers to play collegiate sports, but she felt God calling her 2,000 miles away. “It didn’t make much sense to anyone, really,” she said, “but I knew that’s where I was supposed to be.” Upon arriving on campus, however, Torey began having doubts. “I got scared. The reality of being so far removed from family and friends and ‘normal life’ hit me really hard.” She wanted to be back at home, with here friends, with her boyfriend, and enjoying a normal college experience at the University of Arizona, where she had planned to be. But then something happened. “After five days on campus, I knew that God had me at Impact 360 Gap Year for a reason. My first call after week one was to my mom, where I told her that Impact 360 was the best decision we made and exactly where I needed to be.”

The next 9 months were significant for Torey, “I learned what true community was all about. I learned that schooling is about more than grades; it’s about learning how to live with others – serving, seeking, sharing and showing grace – and meeting people where they are… no matter what.” Among the many things she learned at Impact 360 Gap Year was the idea of servant leadership.

Today, Torey is a senior at the University of Arizona where she serves her university, her community and her fellow students with the knowledge and inspiration she learned at Gap Year. “I am a part of a premier leadership group called the Ambassadors where I get to travel all throughout the United States telling high school students about the University and engage in conversations that lead them to think more deeply about their future.” Torey is also leading a project called “Bear Down for Hunger” through the university that will provide 20,000 meals to hungry people throughout the world. “My experiences through Gap Year and our month-long adventure in Brazil gave me a heart for helping people who are less fortunate and in need of help. I don’t know if I would have the same passion for helping others if it weren’t for the influence of my time at Impact 360.”

There’s even more about this farmer’s daughter from Buckeye. She’s also a leader on the Arizona Rodeo Team. She’s the header for the Team Roping event. My family has a long history with rodeo, and I love participating… but what I enjoy most is being able to be a positive influence in the lives of my teammates. Rodeo can be a pretty rough sport, but I am able to be a small light in this place. It’s a lot of fun, but I mostly love the relationships I am able to build here.” After graduation, Torey is planning to get her Master’s of Education degree at Liberty University for school counseling. “Impact 360 Gap Year taught me that helping others and giving back to my community is what is most important. I developed a genuine love for kids while I was there, and I think God can really use me to encourage and inspire others.”

Torey Lynn Mayfield: the rodeo-ridin’ daughter of an Arizona onion farmer… We told you this was a great story.