It has been over five years since I graduated from Inspire. Since graduating, I obtained both my bachelor’s in religious studies and my master’s in public affairs from Brown University. I’ve traveled to ten different countries on three different continents. I spent a year of undergrad studying abroad at Oxford where I spent countless hours studying monastic-like in library enclaves and exploring the alleyways that inspired C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Lewis Carroll. I’ve practiced Zen Buddhism in monasteries throughout Japan, marveled at giraffes and elephants as they stroll across the plains of Kenya, and worked in a skyscraper in Manhattan.
I am unbelievably blessed to have had all of these opportunities. Especially to have had them as a first-generation and low-income student. I credit Inspire for building in me the confidence that I can do the improbable, for teaching me that failure is only possible when one refuses to try again, and for showing me that a caring community is an important part of learning and growth.
In these exciting years of change and of travel, I have found myself missing Inspire. More particularly, the sense of community I felt while a student there. Inspire is undeniably special. I learned many things, both from my peers and my teachers, that I carry with me each day. While a student, I often found myself humbled by the sheer diversity of talent that surrounded me. I was also humbled by the fact that I owed much of my success and my inspiration to the community of friends––both peers and teachers––who supported, helped, and encouraged me as I struggled through APUSH, memorized derivatives for Calculus, sought to qualify as a mediocre ceramics student, and applied to colleges. Inspire, to me, is special because it constitutes a community whose ethos is one of mutual support, collaboration, and concern. Inspire is a place that encourages and embraces a diversity of expression: artistic, scientific, funky, fun, poetic, musical…the list could go on.
My experiences at Inspire have dictated how I have sought to build a sense of community while away from home and will dictate how I hope to build community in the future. Going to Inspire never felt like a chore nor a requirement, but, rather, a privilege and a joy.
Anna Lenaker has written a book titled "Able To Be Otherwise"