"When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Broadway star," said Grace Pandithurai, the 2013 recipient of the Regent University Alumni Association's Alumnus of the Year award. Pandithurai, '10 (Law) (shown right, accepting award from Founder and Chancellor Dr. M.G. "Pat" Robertson) always longed to star in Elton John's musical adaptation of Aida. However, her parents—who raised Pandithurai in a traditional Indian home—had different plans
"My dad looked at me and said, 'Indian people don't do this; you can be a lawyer, a doctor or a computer scientist,'" said Pandithurai.
Pandithurai's father would remind her of the hardships, bribery and corruption he witnessed in his homeland. He had a special interest in the United States' legal system, which—despite Pandithurai's dreams of Broadway—instilled within her a love of pursuing law and justice.
"Since [my father] was so passionate, I became passionate," said Pandithurai.
However, Pandithurai's passion for music is a part of her day-to-day working environment as the Assistant District Attorney in Wichita Falls, Texas. There she is charged with the emotionally-challenging work as a prosecutor, representing children who are victims of sexual assault.
"I listen to a lot of worship music when I'm prepping cases," said Pandithurai. "And I belt it out at the top of my lungs."
Pandithurai began working for the state of Texas two years ago, and immediately began putting the values of servant leadership and ethics she learned at Regent into practice. In the midst of what she considers the "most heart-wrenching job" she's ever had, it's Pandithurai's Christian faith that holds her together.
Day-by-day, she confronts sexual predators and encourages her young—too young—clients to share their story. Her role in her clients' lives is synonymous with "pulling out the thorn" from the calloused wounds of rape victims, Pandithurai explained.
"When you pull the thorn out of your hand, there's a little hole—and it hurts for a little bit, but once it's gone, it's gone," said Pandithurai. "You'll have a scar, but the pain isn't there."
Though it may initially hurt to agitate a victim's sense of stability from the trauma of assault, according to Pandithurai, telling the truth is the first step of recovering and healing.
"I think telling the truth gives the victim a little bit of power back, because they realize they're probably preventing that from happening to somebody else," said Pandithurai. "And I want them to know that they have someone who is going to fight tooth-and-nail to make sure that they get justice."
Pandithurai reminds herself of the men who were tenacious in the pursuit of taking their paralyzed friend to the feet of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. Just as they stopped short of nothing to ensure their friend had the opportunity to be healed, Pandihurai does all that she can to infuse hope into the victims she comes in contact with.
"We all need to live our lives with that kind of passion and servant mindset that we're willing to do whatever it takes to get others to the feet of Jesus," said Pandithurai. "This is the life I want to live, not just professionally, but personally."
Learn more about Regent University Alumni Association.
By Brett Wilson
Photo courtesy of Alex Perry
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