After a long day of driving across Texas, and with more than a dozen introductions to come, my parents and I inched up the gravel road leading to Snow Wolf Lodge. My mind raced through my expectations for the semester: the wooden lodge in the mountains, the enthusiastic staff members, and the brilliant scholars. On my computer screen, the lodge looked expansive, the staffers sounded friendly, and the scholars appeared…well…scholarly. Walking into the lodge, my expectations were greatly exceeded. I was instantly welcomed by smiling faces eager to help unload my car. Brooke, Natasha, and Lauryn, three of the mentors for Semester, helped heave three boxes of clothes up the stairs of Echo Canyon Lodge. From the stairs, I could see the common room. Little did I know the endless laughter, tears during movie nights, and distracted study sessions that would occur in the room below.
New faces flooded in. “Hey, my name is Hanna. I’m from Texas. Nice to meet you.” “Hello, my name is Hanna. I’m from Texas. No, I wasn’t homeschooled. I went to private school. Nice to meet you.” I was on repeat for the first few hours. Then, at dinner, something amazing happened. Eight students from across the country sat circled around the table trying to remember the name of the person sitting next to them. Chef Steven made lasagna for dinner. He claims the sauce took forty-eight hours to make. I’m not quite sure I believe him, but that’s because I’m from Texas. We don’t believe anything unless George Bush said it. Over the lasagna and homemade garlic bread, conversations came to life. In a matter of seconds, the dining hall was filled with laughter. The family-style meal created an atmosphere of exactly that: family. Everything about Summit seems to be about family, for which I am grateful, because boy do I miss my momma.
We eat meals like a family, gather for weekly family meetings, work alongside each other during work crews, and laugh until we cry together. In a matter of hours, strangers became friends, and friends became family.
On the second day, we had a family meeting to discuss the rules of Snow Wolf Lodge. I poured a cup of hot tea in anticipation for the two-hour run down of the rules. Surprisingly, Dustin, the Director of Semester, didn’t have a lecture prepared for us. He gave us three instructions: choose 3-5 virtues your class wants to emulate, design rules to achieve those virtues, and outline consequences if those rules are broken. Then… he and the rest of the staff left the room. I have attended enough summer camps to know that there is always a long list of do’s and don’ts. For the first time, I was given the chance to participate alongside my peers in designing a self-governing body. Allowing the students to create their own rules was effective in several ways. First, we didn’t have to sit and listen to a long list of regulations. Second, we had to utilize our sense of maturity and independence. Third, we had to decide how to keep ourselves and each other accountable to the rules. Additionally, this exercise cultivated the first discussion setting of the semester. We were challenged to voice our opinions, settle on compromises, and encourage the potential leadership of others. After two hours of discussion, three virtues had been selected: Respect, Selflessness, and Integrity. The rules had a loose framework, and the consequences differed in a “case by case” policy. Over the next twelve weeks, Summit Students will aspire to embody respect, selflessness, and integrity.
Experiences like Summit Semester with likeminded people are rare and precious. I am thankful to God for His grace in giving me an opportunity to live in a Christian community in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. The breathtaking nature, incredible friends, brilliant scholars, and delicious food create a community like nothing I have ever before experienced. I have so much to learn by being in a community focused on learning, cultivating, and growing together, and there is no other place I would rather be.
Hanna Brooks comes to Summit Semester with a passion for medicine. Hailing from the Lone Star State, Hanna plans to pursue her enthusiasm for medicine at Texas A&M University. As she continues to formulate her worldview, Hanna is grounding herself in strong virtues and values that have been influenced greatly by her high school’s honor code. Recently, while rereading The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, Hanna was challenged to recognize the value of slowing down and not just “looking at the pavement,” but seeing the larger picture of life. She does not want her own agenda to cause her to miss out on the little beauties in life. As a part of this mindset, Hanna loves exploring the great outdoors via hiking, swimming, camping, and rock climbing.