Photo provided by Dakota Kohfield
Dakota and Tanner Kohfield sat in the Coates Library Starbucks that hadn’t existed during their undergraduate years. This was not their first experience with the Trinitonian: In 2017, then-junior Dakota spoke to us about her engagement to Tanner. Now, the Kohfields were being interviewed together as married alumni.
“We met at Trinity [during] our freshman year. Same hall. We had calculus class together, so we started doing homework together. We did games, running group, training for the half marathon,” Tanner said.
The pair got married in July 2017 and graduated in December of that same year. Following graduation, the Kohfields worked for six months until August 2018, when they got involved in a year-long volunteer program in Tucson called the Tucson Young Adult Volunteers. During this time, Tanner worked on doing home repairs in the Tucson area.
“I was climbing up ladders to repair coolers [with] pretty long hours and pretty hot days [before going] to an indoor job writing grants.” Tanner said. “That’s been nice. Sometimes I miss working with [my] hands, [but] it’s been nice to sleep. I had to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to bike to work and now I’m waking at 8:00 a.m.”
Dakota worked with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Tucson to provide legal assistance to migrant youths undergoing deportation proceedings.
“They were all, having arrived in the U.S. recently, automatically put in deportation proceedings,” Dakota said.
During their volunteer year, the couple lived close to the border, alongside people in damaged communities. According to the Kohfields, their way of living reflected their location.
“We didn’t have cars our whole year. We just biked,” Dakota said. “We lived on a small stipend with others, so it was just a way to reflect on all different parts of the program.”
Their humble life in Tucson during that volunteer year brought to light the many difficulties that others faced on the border.
“Air conditioning is a must in San Antonio, but especially in Tucson when it would be 110 degrees. People’s coolers would break, and the air conditioning company would charge 500 dollars to fix it. People just didn’t have the money,” Tanner said. “The things I took for granted, like cool air, those aren’t always available.”
After their volunteer year ended, the Kohfields decided to return to San Antonio, where they reconnected with the University Presbyterian Church (UPC). Both of them had been affiliated with the church since they were attending Trinity.
Dakota had grown up Presbyterian. She discovered the church her first Sunday on campus, after Googling churches that were close enough to walk to.
“I loved it. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly,” Dakota said.
While Tanner originally wasn’t interested in church, Dakota invited him along one day.
“I grew up Catholic and had some problems with religion in general, but then I went to UPC, and it was … very open and accepting and a completely different vibe than I’d ever really seen from a church,” Tanner said.
When the couple returned to San Antonio, a position in the church was vacant, and Dakota decided to apply. She currently holds the position of Interim Director of Children’s and College Programs. Dakota has been working with university chaplain Alex Serna-Wallender with programs that would involve the students at Trinity, focusing on the church’s presence on campus.
“The ideology of the church aligns with what a lot of students at Trinity have. It’s a very progressive church,” Dakota said.
According to Serna-Wallender, no events are planned with UPC yet, but Dakota has several ideas in the works.
“We had some good conversations about the ways the Chapel is able to support faith organizations and talked about her experience here as a student,” Serna-Wallender wrote in an email interview.
Meanwhile, Tanner had transitioned from the physical work during his volunteer year to becoming a full-time grant writer.
“I have about five or six clients that I write for now, and it’s anything from art-based nonprofits to healthcare,” Tanner said.
The couple is not sure how long they will stay in San Antonio. Tanner has plans to go to law school next year, while Dakota is looking into social work programs.
“I’m interested in therapy or counseling for migrants and other children who have experienced trauma. I’m looking at perhaps a social work route so I could provide the therapy that, I think, is a missing component in the services that migrants have access to,” Dakota said.
The Kohfields emphasized their efforts to get Trinity to connect with UPC while they remain in San Antonio.
“You don’t have to be a Christian, you don’t have to be a Presbyterian, you don’t even have to know what you believe,” Dakota said. “There’s not just one type of person who can go to church or find community in the church.”