APU Alumnus Connects Community Through Art

This article was originally published on APU’s website.

E. Trent Thompson ’17 glides his brush down the canvas slowly, deliberately. He is painting with love and with a goal. Each stroke tells a story and each painting connects his community in new and profound ways. Thompson, who graduated with a B.A. in cinematic arts and a minor in fine art, runs a creative agency and sells art at a collaborative workspace in Livermore, California. He discovered inspiration for his art on his way to the office, where he often passed by a homeless woman named Sydney who sat outside the building. “I would say hi and move on about my day,” he said. “Occasionally, I brought her lunch.” Over time, Thompson built a friendship with Sydney, which sparked an idea. He asked Sydney if he could take a picture of her to use for a painting. “I wanted to make her feel seen, to know that people care for her and wish they could help.” She said, “Yes,” and, in that moment, Pictures 4 People was born.

“This is a grassroots movement that aims to call attention to the needs of individuals in our community that we walk by everyday,” Thompson said. His Instagram account captures the stories behind his artwork. “Each painting is attributed to a specific cause, highlighted through the person and the art, to raise money for a community organization doing the groundwork to make the world a better place.” These nonprofits include a food kitchen, a homeless shelter, a special needs organization, and a ministry dedicated to helping victims of abuse.

“Painting ties into my faith directly,” he said. “I’m trying to love with actions instead of words, to focus on listening to their stories and planting seeds of hope as opposed to judging.”

Over the course of the last five months, he has met and painted portraits of six people, including four homeless individuals. Thompson uses acrylic and spray paint on canvas, a form he calls “urban contemporary” that lends a unique style to each piece.

He garners positive feedback from his portrait subjects and from the surrounding tri-valley community. Many people who view the paintings on Instagram ask if they can donate money or goods. Recently, Thompson collaborated with several local nonprofits to host an auction. More than 100 people attended. “We packed the house and sold all the paintings,” he said. “We raised nearly $8,000, all of which went to local nonprofits to assist the individuals.”

Three of those he painted attended the auction and connected with the people who bought their portraits. This successful outcome was more than he hoped for when he began the project, let alone when he graduated from APU just two years earlier. “APU helped me build confidence,” he said. “As an artist, I decided to try something unlike I had ever seen before.”

Thompson’s desire is to infuse compassion into the community through his paintings. “By purchasing a painting, we hope to fund community organizations and projects that will better the lives of our brothers and sisters in need,” he said. To view Trent’s art, visit his website.

Kaleb Armbrust Reflects On Soccer Career

This article was originally published in ZU News.

“I didn’t want to go here at first,” Kaleb Armbrust said while reflecting on his time at APU. “I was looking to do my own thing because my parents and my brother went here. I kind of wanted to go on my own path.”

Armbrust was looking at playing soccer at two other schools—a small school in Tennessee and Point Loma Nazarene University, one of APU’s main rivals. He is originally from San Diego, so Point Loma felt a bit like home and he already knew the coach.

However, as the time came closer to making a commitment for college, Armbrust decided on APU.

“I kept praying and praying about it,” Kaleb Armbrust said. “God closed that door [of Point Loma] and brought me here instead. I had a good relationship with the coach already, from my brother playing and me watching the games. Seeing how the team was, a close-knit family, I felt better and better about coming to APU.”

Armbrust’s brother, Keenan, was a sophomore on the men’s soccer team at the time.

“He was the first one that I called when I decided to come to APU,” Kaleb Armbrust said. “I got two years in high school and two years in college to play with him.”

Both brothers played offense and Kaleb had an immediate influence.

“Kaleb’s had a big impact, really from day one,” head coach David Blomquist said. “He was an important attacker for us, even as a freshman.”

Unfortunately, Kaleb got into a bad tackle and broke his right ankle in the first scrimmage of the season.

“I had been working really hard during training. I was pretty bummed out,” Kaleb Armbrust said.

Luckily for Kaleb and the team, the healing process went much faster than expected.

“Our trainer was really good. I actually got back in about five weeks,” Kaleb Armbrust said. “It was tough. You’re kind of timid coming back, especially with your ankles. That was a bummer having to sit out there every practice just watching.”

Armbrust had the option to take a redshirt, meaning he would sit his freshmen year out, but still be eligible to play for four years.

“Coach asked me if I wanted to redshirt, but I wanted to spend every bit of time with my brother that I could. So I told him no,” Kaleb Armbrust said. “My trainer said that I could get back soon. The team and my brother were really encouraging. I was trusting that God knew what he was doing and I was just excited to get back and play.”

Kaleb healed just soon enough to make the team’s annual trip to Hawaii. But one week before, his brother Keenan got injured too.

“I tore a ligament in my foot. I thought to myself, ‘This is it, I won’t get to play with him this year.’ It felt like God was trying to get our attention,” Keenan Armbrust said.

Keenan healed quickly too and came back before the end of the season.

“It was down to us having to beat Dominican at home to clench the conference title,” Keenan Armbrust said. “Kaleb ended up having two assists to my two goals and I had an assist to his goal for us to win. I remember him running to the corner and praying and it just felt like God was looking out for us all along.”

Once they were both healthy, the brothers turned the Cougars offense into a force to be reckoned with.

“It was great to have both of them on the field. Brothers sometimes have that sixth sense of what the other’s going to do,” Blomquist said. “They’re connection on the field was fantastic. Those were some special games.”

Blomquist said as good as they were on the field, their impact was even bigger off the field.

“They were APU through and through,” Blomquist said. “It was great to have two players playing significant roles on the field but also understanding how the program functions as a family off the field. They really got the big picture of what we’re doing for the men’s soccer program.”

Kaleb said that game was his favorite memory at APU, making history with Keenan.

“I just think it’s pretty insane that we got to play together through high school and college. God has blessed our journey together and I think our coaches would testify to that,” Keenan Armbrust said.

Since graduating, Keenan is now playing for the New Orleans Jesters in the National Premier Soccer League.

The past couple of seasons haven’t gone as well as his first one here, but Kaleb has still enjoyed his time at APU.

“We’ve had a couple rough years but it’s been fun, just being able to persevere with all the guys. Everyone encourages each other through all the pain and struggles,” Kaleb Armbrust said.

The men’s soccer team is still looking for their first win, they sit at 0-5 as of Sept. 22. They’ve already lost two games by one goal.

“It’s been a little tough, because we’ve been playing pretty well,” Kaleb Armbrust said. “We really feel like we’ve been controlling the games, but the results just aren’t going our way, so it’s kind of humbling and frustrating. We’re trusting that if we keep playing the way we can, it [the wins] will come eventually.”

Kaleb and Blomquist think the Cougars can still turn the season around.

However, Kaleb has other things to worry about. He will be graduating in May and will be getting married in July.

“Two of my best friends on the team, my roommates, will be my groomsmen. It’s really cool having guys that I can be so close to, that I can invite to my wedding,” Kaleb Armbrust said.

He and his fiancée are planning on moving back to Sacramento, where they went to high school together. He’s not sure what he wants to do yet.

“I love the outdoors, so hopefully something in that industry. We’ll see what God has planned for that,” Kaleb Armbrust said.

He shared one last thought on his time at APU.

“It was a blessing to play with my brother. I miss that, of course,” Kaleb Armbrust said. “But it’s also been really cool to play for myself and be a leader on the team.”

Swimmer One Step Closer To Olympic Dream

This article originally appeared in ZU News.

Azusa Pacific junior swimmer Rosalee Mira Santa Ana hopes to swim in the Olympics someday. While her next chance will not come for another four years, she got the opportunity to swim against Olympians at the 10th Annual Asian Swimming Championships in Tokyo from Nov. 14-20.

“It was a good experience to be a part of it because the Asian Championships are only every four years,” Santa Ana said. “To be given that chance to be there is a lifetime experience that I will always remember.”

Santa Ana represented the Philippines at the Asian championships and swam against athletes from over 33 countries across Asia and Europe. European countries were invited to participate as it was designated an “open meet.”

“I just really thank God for the opportunity that he blessed me with. I had lots of adversities that I went through during the semester, but He was able to help me and give me the strength I needed to swim very well,” Santa Ana said.

Santa Ana competed and placed in three events. She got 8th in the 800 meter freestyle (free), 11th in the 200 free and 12th in the 400 free.

“I’m really thankful for the times and places I got,” Santa Ana said. “Just to travel around the world was a cool thing.”

Santa Ana will get the chance to swim against Olympians again at the 13th International Swimming Federation (FINA) World Championships from Dec. 7-11 in Windsor, Canada.

Despite her excitement, Santa Ana said she feels pressure to compete well.

“I’m a little nervous, but it preps me up to be in these world level meets,” Santa Ana said. “Just being there makes me nervous. There’s a lot of things behind the scenes that you have to do.”

This process includes going through a warm room and cold room to prepare, and then walk through specific hallways to enter the pool area and get introduced on the big screen in front of thousands of spectators.

This will be Santa Ana’s first time competing at the world championships. She doesn’t see it as her last.

“The world championships are just the next step. It’s actually the step before reaching the Olympics. I feel like it’s a stepping stone to the highest dream that I’ve been trying to reach for,” Santa Ana said.

The Olympics have been a goal of Santa Ana’s for years. She said she wants to keep getting better until she reaches that level.

“My dream [has been] to be an Olympian ever since I was young. It’s a big dream that you always think of, but I wasn’t sure if it would be a reality. Just to be a part of world level meets make me feel really humbled,” Santa Ana said. “If God gives me the chance to be in the Olympics, that would definitely be a dream come true.”

Santa Ana holds the APU record for the 500 meter free, 1000 meter free and 1650 meter free events. Right now, she is focusing on cutting time in her events to qualify for the “A” group for the NCAA Championships.

“My goal is to qualify for the NCAA Championships this year. I’m very excited if I’m given that chance again,” Santa Ana said.

Santa Ana was not able to go to the NCAA championships last year, but she went as a freshman and ranked 25th in the nation for the 500 meter free and 1650 meter free events.

Head coach Tim Kyle said he has seen Santa Ana’s growth in her time at APU.

“She’s grown in every which way: In her faith, as an individual and really just being grounded in developing. She works tremendously hard in the pool,” Kyle said.

Kyle said Santa Ana is a great representation of APU and is a supportive teammate.

“I’m proud of her for the things that she’s accomplished and I know she’s going to do great things. She has the motivation and the skill, if it’s God’s will, she could reach or attain all the goals she has set for herself,” Kyle said.

Sophomore Elodie Poo Cheong has also helped Santa Ana as a friend and fellow swimmer.

“Rosalee is a hardworking and focused person. She knows what her goals are and she will work hard for them no matter what,” Poo Cheong said. “She’s also doing a great job at balancing her studies and swimming, which is hard at a collegiate level. Competing at an international level means a lot. All the work and sacrifices she put in are paying off.”

Poo Cheong speaks from experience, having also competed at the international level. She has only known Santa Ana for about a year, but said their friendship grows every day.

“We’re really close friends and we genuinely care about the other. We share a lot, whether fun times or less fun times. We push and encourage each other in and out of the water to become better swimmers and better people,” Poo Cheong said.

Along with her goals of making it to the Olympics and NCAA championships, Santa Ana hopes to inspire and teach others to swim one day. She wants to take the stories of these championships and help others learn with them. For right now though, she’s focused on the present.

“I’m just trying my best to take it a day at a time,” Santa Ana said. “Time goes by quickly.”

Santa Ana and Poo Cheong both helped APU close out 2016 by earning “B” cut times in the 500 free, 200 free, and 50 free in the Winter Invitational. The Cougars overall as a team are 3-2 on the season and will continue their season next semester, starting out with a meet against Cal State East Bay on Jan. 14.

Brothers On & Off The Gridiron

This article originally appeared in ZU News.


Josiah and Jonathan Thropay were raised in a different way than most people. Their father would often wake them up at 6:30 a.m. to run 2.5 miles followed by push-ups, sit-ups and singing lessons, all before school started.

Fast forward to today, and the Thropay brothers are both seniors at APU who lead the football team both on and off the field.

“They’re leaders on the team. Every player to them matters,” head coach Victor Santa Cruz said. “They hold guys accountable. They’re also trying to relate and communicate to all of the team.”

This is Jonathan’s fourth year playing for the Cougars. He is an outside linebacker who was named first team all-GNAC last year. As a junior in 2015, he led the team with 81 tackles, including seven for a loss and a sack.

Despite the big numbers, Santa Cruz is quick to point out that it’s the brothers’ behind-the-scenes work that really makes the difference.

“The thing that stands out is their love for the team and their love for the game,” Santa Cruz said. “It shows up in the off-season in how you practice, how you prepare. They go the distance when it comes to practice and watching film.”

Josiah transferred from Mt. San Antonio College his sophomore year. In 2015, he led the Cougars’ tight ends with 12 catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns.

“I’m here, number one, because of Jonathan and two, because of what was happening here at APU. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life,” Josiah said.

Although they’re both seniors on the team, Josiah is actually 11 months older than Jonathan. When Josiah transferred, it was the first time they had ever played together on the same team.

“He’s my brother, my best friend,” Josiah said. “I don’t view him at all as a teammate. We’re each other’s biggest fans. He gives me added motivation to be great. Aside from personal ambition and wanting to do good for the team, I want to be good for him, too.”

Both brothers are constantly watching each other. When one is on the sideline, the other is on the field playing.

“When he makes a play, does something good or something bad, it affects me way more than if someone else on the field was to mess up,” Jonathan said. “Or, if [Josiah] makes a big play, I’m more excited than if another teammate was to make a good play.”

The Thropay brothers have come a long way since they started playing football at APU. Jonathan remembers the days when he would be late to practice and even fall asleep at team meetings.

“There was a lot of immaturity I was dealing with,” Jonathan said. “They hold you to that much higher of a standard here than high school football. That’s where I’ve grown the most.”

Josiah has also grown with the help of his coaches at APU.

“For me, it’s been a mental growth,” he said. “The coaches have definitely challenged me and said things to make me go work on myself. I’m able to process and not get down on myself—[I’ve learned how] to conquer any situation.”

Although the coaches have helped the Thropay brothers throughout the last three years, there is one mentor that set the example for them long before they ended up at APU.

“The person I’ve looked up to most my whole life is my dad,” Jonathan said. 
“He’s the one who taught me my work ethic. He created that desire in us to be the best we could, be the strongest we could be.”

Their father, Reuben Thropay, was a walk-on for the UCLA football team in college, and worked hard to instill personal values and a love for sports in his sons.

“He put us in this thing called Care Youth League. That’s where we got introduced to football, basketball, baseball and soccer,” Josiah said. “Growing up, we fell in love with football.”

Reuben Thropay sang devotionals with his sons when they were young and ran with them before school started, four days a week.

“Everything I believe a man should embody, as far as characteristics, is what my dad is,” Josiah said. “He never let us quit something. He always said you’re gonna finish the season. It’s always played out for the better for us…He molded us into the people we are today.”

Josiah Thropay will graduate this year with a degree in accounting and plans to become a Certified Public Accountant.

Jonathan Thropay, a physics major, plans to get a job at his uncle’s business, a company that deals with medical physics. But before he does that, he plans to take a year to serve as a missionary in another country.

While it’s going to be hard losing the Thropay brothers, Santa Cruz is confident the team will continue to succeed.

“It’s always hard replacing players like that,” Santa Cruz said. “I think we will fare well because they are setting an example, a legacy that’s going to be passed on.”

Not only are the Thropays leaders on the team, but they also helped recruit the team’s starting runningback, Kurt Scoby.

“I’ve known the Thropays all my life. I went to church with them,” Scoby said. “I’m stoked that I transferred. They helped me out with this great decision.”

Scoby transferred from Fresno State University where he redshirted his freshmen year. Scoby led the team last year with 1,167 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. He was named first team all-GNAC in 2015 as a freshman.

“Jonathan told me that my mindset would be completely different than it used to be. I was starstruck,” Scoby said. “They’re great people. They love you and care about you, not just the football part of you. They always want the best for the person ahead of them, not just themselves.”

The Cougars are currently 5-0 this season for the first time since 2002, and for the fifth time in school program history. APU is currently ranked 10th in the AFCA Division II Top-25 coaches poll, which is a first in program history since entering NCAA Division II football. They will look to continue their success on the road on Oct. 8 against Colorado School of Mines.