You can find me now at the following new address, https://lukeparrott.wordpress.com/
I feel decentered when I move into a place of vulnerability. Decenter me.
I feel decentered when I place myself willingly in a position to receive rather than to give. Decenter me.
I feel decentered when I move from my comfortable neighborhood to a foreign land. Decenter me.
I feel decentered when I join the oppressed in their struggle for liberation. Decenter me.
I feel decentered when I choose to build friendships with the unlikeliest of friends. Decenter me.
I feel decentered when I love my enemy. Decenter me.
I feel decentered when I side with the poor and marginalized. Decenter me.
I feel decentered when I am at the mercy of another. Decenter me.
I feel decentered when the marginal voice is the one to whom I choose to listen. Decenter me.
Displace me, so that you can be the center of me.
When grief struck me once, it shattered me from within. And no one on the outside could possibly understand what was happening to me internally. In its first strike, grief took me from dry land and pummeled me into the sea. I was tossed around by every wave. Every ocean current had its way with me. I tried to resist it, suppress it, swim against it, overcome it. But I couldn't. Grief is as powerful as the waves of the sea.
When grief struck me a second time, it numbed me. And it was almost impossible to even recognize what was happening inside my own self. I was still tossing and turning amidst the ocean's waves, but I didn't notice anymore. Whereas before, I fought grief and tried to swim ashore, now I simply let grief take me wherever it wanted. I knew the current was stronger than I was. Whereas before I was fearful of all the unknowns that come with grief, now I was numb to such acquaintances. Nothing surprised me. It just saddened me all the more.
In the first instance, I was constantly looking back to shore, wondering how to get back to that place of comfort, that place of peace, that dry land. In the second instance, I began constantly looking out to sea, wondering if I would ever see dry land again. Wondering if my place was permanently out at sea.
My family and I have been on a two and a half year journey deep in the throes of grief. Today marks the first year anniversary of losing my second niece, Dasah Brielle Dennis. She lived a bubbly 12 hours of life on November 13, 2014. I held her in my arms and was just as grateful to see my second beautiful niece awaken to this world as I was when I held my first niece, Sophia Kyla, for her 10 hours of life on September 1, 2013.
Our time with Dasah was precious in its own way. She was blowing bubbles the whole time she was with us. She was making cute crying noises that warmed all our hearts every time we heard them. She was born in the morning so we were able to spend the entire waking hours of the day with her. I got to take a picture holding her with her Mommy and Daddy by my side (see above).
This day was different from the day Sophie was born. This time, I knew what was to come and the fear of facing death was not foreign to me. I had been there before. I was not fearful of the unknown. I was really just fearful of what another loss, another wave of grief, would do to me and my family.
What was most devastating to me in the loss of Dasah was one word that, at the time, seemed forever buried in my layers of grief: hope. I couldn't see or grasp on to any hope. It was now a foreign word to me. Everything in life seemed to turn to gray. There was no color. I was afraid that hope was shattered inside me. That's when I knew I needed to get help. I started grief therapy because I knew I was swept out to sea and had no fight left in me.
And since that time, I have ever so slowly begun to recognize hope has not been lost. It has just been hidden. Dasah's life and story has paradoxically been one of hope. Even as I write these words, there is a bit of stinging resistance in me that begs to disagree. But I must press these points, if not solely for my own sake.
Where have I found hope hidden in Dasah's story?
In her name. Lindsey and Kevin chose to give their second born daughter the name Dasah Brielle. It is short for Hadassah which means myrtle tree. Isaiah 55:13 says "Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, and instead of the briar the myrtle will come up, and it will be a memorial to the Lord, for an everlasting sign which will not be cut off." Even in her name, there is a declaration of hope amidst the threat of despair.
In her birth. When Dasah was born, she cried a lot and blew bubbles as she showed off for her family. She was very active and entertaining. This was a special gift to us all as our experience with Sophie was much different. It was so fun to see the joy she brought to us all in those brief moments.
In the surrounding community. Once again, I saw friends of our family stand with us, grieve with us, celebrate with us, and simply be present in our pain. There is nothing that helps the healing process like someone who simply gives the gift of their presence--and also their tears. It is the smallest and most powerful reminder that you are not alone in your grief.
In my family. Grief can shatter families. Its waves can be so sudden and forceful that loved ones are separated from each other, unable to understand one another, caught up in their own misery. It has not been the case with our family. We have all chosen to be there. To be broken. To be hurting. To need help. Not to put on an act. Not to deny the reality. To look death in the face and still love. To let each other grieve in our own strange ways. To just let each other be.
In my own heart. I can only say that I am a different man than I once was two and a half years ago. As an uncle, watching two nieces pass away in their first hours of life has forever changed me. I see the world differently. I don't know how to put words to this part of me, but it is just a new way to look at the world, to look at life, to look at the one who suffers.
Towards those who suffer. I can now suffer with those who suffer. My job takes me to places and people who have felt the weight of oppression, who are bruised by constant stripes of injustice, whose voice cries out for justice only to fall on deaf ears, who carry their message to the masses only to be put back in their place. I am no longer numb to their cries. I can connect to their pain. I see how they suffer. I hear it in their voice. I see it in their eyes. And I know that those who suffer need someone to be with them. I want to be a man who always errors on the side of standing with those who suffer.
On this one year birthday of Dasah Brielle, I want to say to my second niece, thank you. Thank you for your 12 bubbly hours of life. Thank you for giving us hope amidst despair. Thank you for being so 'chatty' in your 12 hours of life. Thank you for your life. Today, my tears and the waves of grief that wash over me will not lead me to despair. I will let your message of hope stay in my heart. I love you.
"...hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts..."
This week, I've been trying to simplify things when it comes to faith.
There is a lot of commentary that comes with following Jesus. A lot of books, articles, and posts that seem to feel the need to elaborate on what Jesus says. As if Jesus needs some help explaining himself. As if I somehow understand him better than others. As if someone has a better handle on Jesus.
I've seen it so clearly this week with the arrival of the Pope to America. As Pope Francis interacts with the American people, there are endless commentaries trying to help us all understand what he is doing or what he means by what he says. What many are doing is simply co-opting his message--or misunderstanding him altogether! I'd rather silence the commentary and just listen and watch and see who he is drawn towards. How he loves. Who he cares for.
There is also something powerful and moving about letting Jesus' words and teachings stand alone. Jesus said, "Remain in me." Paul described the mysterious reality of "Christ in you." When Jesus is the center, the conversation changes. But when the commentary around Jesus is the center, I've found it to be true that the center is not really Jesus. We co-opt his message with our own interpretations and elaborations.
Jesus often drew from the metaphor of nature. "I am the vine, you are the branches." I've heard others use a wheel to describe Jesus as our hub. Whatever metaphor makes sense to you, our rootedness, our hub, our center is Jesus. The person. Nothing else. Paul said it is Jesus that lives in me. Not the commentary around Jesus, but Jesus himself. The person.
My day starts to make more sense when I start from this center. His stories and teachings start to instruct me. His greatest commandment (to Love God and love others as I love myself) comes more simply and clearly. With him at the center, it begins to make sense that all three aspects of God, others, and self must be cared for in their own way. They are not independent of one another. And none are prioritized over the other. With Jesus at the center, his greatest commandment becomes possible.
The Pope doesn't need my commentary about what he is doing here in America. Jesus also doesn't need me to add to his words. When I read the Gospels, I find it sufficient to watch, listen, and see towards whom he is drawn, how he loves, and who he cares for.
That is challenging enough for me.
As we dive into another year of taking students into communities around the world to listen, learn, and discover, I am reminded of how disorienting this experience of displacement and encounter is. But also how critical it is to growing towards a better understanding of oneself, others, and even God.
This year, we have students living in Denver, Philadelphia, and Washington DC during their first learning module focused on urban America. I always love hearing students first impressions of moving into new neighborhoods so different from where they came. One student will say, "This is a pretty sketchy place to settle into." By that, he simply means he isn't used to seeing a homeless person on the street corner near his new home. Another student might say, "I now live in the slums or the ghetto." By this she might mean to say, this place and space is foreign to me. There are lots of people with a different skin color than mine. I am uncomfortable here.
Discomfort is so important. Stepping outside of our comfort zone is an absolute necessity in order for us to grow towards understanding and loving both ourselves and our neighbor. We must learn to look at life from their lens. To hear their story. To let their life experiences be welcomed into our new framing of the world around us. The greatest surprise in this process is that it also involves an encounter with God.
I love this quote by Jean Vanier. "I have discovered the presence of God in my presence to the other."
I read a story of Jesus this morning that caught me off guard with its rich simplicity. Jesus was introduced for the first time to a young man named Simon to which the story says, "Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas' (which, when translated, is Peter)." In Jesus' encounter with this young man, he saw something no one else could see. Jesus looked at him. He made eye contact. He exchanged humanity. And in this moment, he saw Simon for who he really would become.
My hope for each gap year student in their first few weeks is that they might, in their encounters with others, extend dignity and humanity. That they might even see in the 'others' eyes who they are really becoming. But that they would also allow others to do the same for them. And when this mutual exchange is welcomed, they will find God in the middle of it all.
You can follow their stories/struggles/surprises as they reflect on their own blog sites. Just click here.
At Kivu, we talk a lot about learning to love the 'other'. It comes from the core teachings of Jesus who spoke of the two greatest commandments of the faith: to love God and love neighbor.
Sadly, for many this is much more SAID than actually ever DONE.
In reality, using the word 'other' is problematic in and of itself. It means we do not know someone. It means we have some sort of distancing between us. It may also mean that we think the 'others' difference is wrong. It can mean we find their 'otherness' to be distasteful or disgusting. In its most horrific form, it is a label we use to dehumanize, oppress, and dominate 'others'. The truth is that when you meet your 'other', they typically carry stories of having felt and experienced this 'othering' from you (either directly or indirectly) in its most horrific form. But Jesus did not practice 'othering'. He was not ethnocentric like us. He did not distance himself from those who were different from him. He practiced 'neighboring'. He modeled 'befriending'. He was 'loving'.
To ask the question "Who is my 'other'?" may be the equivalent of what a religious expert asked Jesus after hearing him share what he believed to be the two greatest commandments: to love God and love neighbor. The expert asked "Who is my neighbor?". In the context of the classic and ever popularized Good Samaritan story, Jesus answered the question by effectively saying, "HUMAN BEINGS (especially the ones you hate) are your neighbor. They are your 'other'."
Learning to love human beings is a pro-active step away from 'othering'. It is an act of humanization. It restores human interaction to a life giving place of mutual exchange. It is 'anti-othering'. But to ACTUALLY do this, one must begin a process of neighboring and befriending. In short, one must spend time together, get to know each other, share meals together, and do life with one another.
So what are our Kivu Gap Year students doing in the Middle East right now? It's actually quite simple. We are putting into practice the two greatest commandments. We are loving God and loving neighbor. It's not much more complicated than that. We are DOING what Jesus SAID to do.
It is a clear action of 'anti-othering'.
There is one shared experience of the entire human race that should unite us but deeply divides us all. It is a socio-emotional factor. It is the common experience of pain. Pain can be an invitation to embrace others but it is more commonly used as a way of distancing.
It wasn’t until I visited an orphanage in Guatemala, that I began to wrestle with the invitation to care for orphans in their distress.
It wasn’t until I visited Rwanda and built friendships with those who carried deep wounds from the past genocide, that I began to feel their pain and learn from their grief.
It wasn’t until I shadowed the work of dedicated field staff in poor villages of the Philippines, that I began to associate with the psychological and social wounds of those who live in desperate poverty.
It wasn’t until I sat with Palestinians in Amman, Jordan and in Bethlehem, that I began to feel the weight of their oppression. It wasn’t until I met Israeli Jews in their settlements and in Jerusalem, that I began to wrestle with their historical pain and perpetual fear of ethnic cleansing.
It wasn’t until I lived in the city and began to listen to the stories of the panhandlers on the streets, that I began to empathize with many of their present circumstances.
It wasn’t until I entered a black church and listened to countless stories of racial profiling and police brutality, that I felt the depth of their pain and suffering.
It wasn’t until I watched my own sister and brother-in-law walk through two terminal pregnancies in the last 20 months, that I have felt the anguish of pain, suffering, and death. I have held my only two nieces in my arms for only a few minutes each. I have only held them both two times. Once when they were full of life. Once when they had passed on to death.
In this grief of my own, I have become deeply sensitized to the grief of others. All pain and suffering is different for each human. We cannot really know what the other is experiencing. But our pain feels the same. Our grief rips us both apart inside. Our tears are the same.
Nothing is more painful for a grieving heart than to experience it alone. And nothing is more painful for a grieving heart than to see others distance themselves from your pain. What pain needs is very simple: presence. And that presence does not need any words. It just needs to share in the pain.
I didn’t understand this until I traveled to the Middle East last January for my very first trip to Jerusalem. Two men that I deeply respect traveled with me from Amman into Bethlehem. For what reason I cannot recall, the story of Jesus and Lazarus came into our conversation. We were talking about why Jesus wept when he entered the town and saw Mary. We talked about how Jesus knows pain, has felt it deeply himself, and that he too weeps with us--just as he did with Mary. While still in the middle of much pain and grief from my first nieces’ death, I began to picture a new way of looking at God and suffering. I realized that he too has wept with me over the loss of my first niece—and continues to share in my grief today.
While in Bethlehem, we spent an afternoon over in Jerusalem at my request to see the Old City for the very first time. It was a very non-conventional way of visiting the city as we were without a tour guide, without any real agenda, and without a heavy time constraint. As we entered the Old City through the Jaffa Gate, we made our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, stopping for fresh squeezed pomegranate juice along the way. We meandered through the crowds of pilgrims and took in the scene of thousands of people from around the world standing at the place where Jesus was said to have been crucified and buried. Then, we made our way outside the church and around the corner to come upon the Church of the Redeemer which had a narrow and tall bell tower. We paid our way to climb this 177 step ascent in order to look over all the city. As we came to the top, we saw a beautiful view open up before us. To my left was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. To my right the Jaffa Gate and David’s Tower. Straight ahead, I could see the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and just beyond that, the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane.
One of my friends gazed out toward the Garden of Gethsemane and began to talk about Jesus. His eyes began to well up with tears as he spoke of how lonely a place it must have been for Jesus in that garden. “The moment he needed his disciples the most, they were asleep. Deep in his own anguish, there was no one there to cry with him. He was alone. No one cried with Jesus.” And a few tears began to roll down his face. He was standing in that bell tower, gazing across the city, looking into the Garden of Gethsemane, and weeping with Jesus. In that moment, I, too, felt the pain of Jesus.
From the tower, we eventually made our way to the Garden only to reflect more upon the weeping Christ. I began to see that not only does Jesus weep with me, but he invites me to weep with him. Nothing could have been more powerful for me, than to see my friend weep with Jesus as he gazed from that tower into the garden.
Why am I sharing this story? Because it keeps coming back to my mind. I am still deep in grief. Only 4 weeks ago did I watch my second niece pass away. And now the pain of loss feels as though it has multiplied itself with the loss of two precious babies less than 15 months apart.
But, as I said before, I have become deeply sensitized to the grief and pain of others. I may not know what they are going through, but I feel the very same sting. Our pain is our commonality. And I know that nothing is more painful than to cry out and not be heard. To suffer and not feel one’s presence. To weep and be left alone just as Jesus was left alone in that garden while his disciples, those nearest to him, slept.
I have now learned that when I hear pain, I choose to listen. When I hear suffering, I want to be present. When I observe grief, I want to partake. Because that is what I have needed in my life during this season. I don't want to sleep through someone else's suffering. I want to be there with them. Fully present. Weeping as well.
Pain is a shared human experience. It is common to all humanity. Yet it is often the very emotion we attempt to avoid or the very emotion we use to distance ourselves from others.
Jesus weeps with us in our pain as he did with Mary. He invites us to weep with Him. And as we weep with Him, we realize we are weeping also with those who are in pain. Those who suffer. Those in grief. To follow Jesus is to enter suffering. It is to be present in pain. It is to stand in solidarity with the one who weeps. To 'weep with those who weep' is to weep with Jesus himself.
I am still in this season of grief. But because I am now learning to weep with others, I am starting to understand their pain a bit more. I can empathize a bit more with their oppression. I can stand with them in their suffering.
Perhaps it is this Christ like action that can expose to use all the 'god-complexes' we carry. If we would recognize our shared suffering and try to come together, united in the pain as common humanity, how would that begin a process of change for us all? It would at least give us a common ground from which to struggle together to break the chains of injustice before us.
I wonder if we can only find unity in our humanity if we are willing to weep together. To enter one another's pain. I think my country and our world needs this more than ever now. Do we have the courage and vulnerability to enter the pain of others (even if we don't understand it), grieve together, and allow that pain to be transformed into something new—for both of us?
Two days ago, I arrived to Camp Bahamas to join our Kivu Gap Year students on their final few days of their first trip international. Our students were hosted by amazing staff at the camp who have a powerful vision for impacting the youth on The Islands of the Bahamas.
Before you jump to conclusions about a mission trip in what sounds like a resort location, I want to tell you there are local Bohemian youth who are in need just as in the US. In 2003, Richard established the first and only camp on the island to minister to these youth. He was given a pristine beach to beach front property, but it was all undeveloped. He has since used local labor and foreign mission groups to clear land and clear space to invite Bohemian youth to a transformational experience. He has the only gym on the island and it is packed almost every day with Bohemian youth who are bused in from all corners of the island to play ball together and building relationships with the local Camp Bahamas staff. Our students had the chance to see a glimpse of this ministry as they did some grueling labor on the property to prepare them for their big winter retreat after Christmas.
On the last night, I gave our students a thorough briefing on the next 4 months ahead. After 3 months living in inner city Denver or Philadelphia, and 10 days with Camp Bahamas, I told them we're about to raise the stakes. I told them the next 4 months are going to be huge. I needed them to come fully prepared for the geo-political landscapes that are about to enter. I told them we're about to enter some significant stories that are a part of the perpetual pain, injustice, and brokenness in this world. I told them "I need you to arrive to Washington DC in January prepared to engage." Here's why:
1. When our students arrive to DC, they will have scheduled meetings on the Hill with their representatives. They will be telling them each why they are doing a gap year, how they as a Millenial generation want to see change, and how they want their government to function when it comes to issues of hunger around the world.
2. Our students will be going to Rwanda to learn from the local people how they have recovered from a devastating genocide in 1994 to become a leading developing country in sub-Saharan Africa.
3. Our students will enter the story of the most complex and heart wrenching conflict in the world in the Middle East. They will engage with Israelis and Palestinians face to face as they also walk as pilgrims along the footsteps of Jesus. They are going to be asking hard questions and listening to difficult responses. They are going to have to learn to love the other just as Jesus has told us.
4. They will be heading to the Philippines to see a highly sophisticated NGO address desperate levels of poverty with dedicated staff and a powerfully effective vision and mission.
5. They will be hiking to the rooftop of Africa as they see the beauty of God's creation on Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.
Our students are on a global journey to engage in real time with names, people, and places. They are experiencing education by getting their hands and feet dirty.
They have to come prepared. Because the world needs a new kind of young leader. One who sees his/her own brokenness, who accepts it, and then moves into other broken parts of the world to be present, to love, to listen, and to learn. They need to hear stories and build relationships before they go to college and go on to build their own business, law practice, non-profit, or start their own family.
We are raising the stakes for young North Americans who want to truly see change in our world and do it with the lens of loving God and loving others.
The students who arrive to DC in January will be learning all this to shape the future of our country and our world. That is what the Kivu Gap Year program is becoming for young high school graduates. A place to move into uncomfortable space for the purpose of seeking genuine change in our own hearts and also in those to whom we come in contact.
Although our students have been with us already for four months, their journey has just begun...
I still wake up from time to time in the middle of the night carrying heavy anxiety. And I often can't pinpoint its origins. But grief is like that for me. It hits me in waves. Sometimes those waves can gently roll over me or even go unnoticed. Other times they can crash in on top of me and knock me off my feet.
September 1st marks the first year anniversary of my families deep loss of Sophia Kyla Dennis. She will always be my very first niece, the beautiful daughter of my sister Lindsey and brother-in-law Kevin. We were given 10 precious life filled hours with Sophie just one year ago today.
I'll never forget holding her in my arms and feeling her breathe. We weren't promised anything from what we knew of her terminal condition so every minute was a true gift. It was as if a divine peace filled the entire hospital room and nestled itself deep into all of our hearts upon seeing Sophie born alive and breathing. She was so precious to hold. She had safely arrived to her Mommy and Daddy's arms. She was able to meet so many family members even in the brevity of her life. She was even given a birthday cake as we sang her the birthday song and welcomed her into the short time she would have on this earth. But the next time I held her, she was lifeless. And I said goodbye to the niece I was so eager and ready to love. Stopping that flow of love has been so painful to us all.
I believe one of the most painful things in life is when love is withheld from us. I so desperately wanted to give love to my first niece. Just in the same way that I have done so to my three nephews. I wanted to take her on cool evening walks with the whole family as we chat, laugh, and watch the sunset. I wanted to see her come out to Colorado and experience the mountains for the very first time. I wanted to see her in a cute summer dress with a bow in her hair. I wanted to hear her parents talk about her first crush on a boy. But Sophie's death stole all that away from me and it still hurts.
Yet in this pain I have learned so much. Sophie's death has taught me what I had not yet learned about life. First of all, I have learned I must weep. When pain comes my way, it is not only appropriate but necessary to weep because that is how I know I have loved. When Jesus wept in front of Mary and the entire town, he did it because he also felt pain for Lazarus whom be loved dearly.
Secondly, I have learned that this is how I desire others to respond to my situation. Not that they need to provide words or perspective on my grief, but that they need to just be present with me in my sadness. This act alone is enough for me as I believe it was enough for Mary when she saw Jesus share in her pain. I have realized that hopeful words or spiritual advice in these fragile moments have the opposite effect of what is intended. These seeming words of encouragement often deepen the pain because it feels as though the person is resisting the opportunity to enter into it with me. Jesus did not tell Mary to stop crying or to wipe away her tears because of what he was about to do. He just wept with her. And that is silently beautiful.
Thirdly, I've learned that Jesus also weeps with me. He weeps over Sophie's death. He grieves her loss. My God shares in my suffering. And that is all I need of Him in my deep grief. I simply need him to be present with me, sharing in my sadness, and validating my pain.
Sophie's death has taught me much about sorrow, suffering, and death. But her life has taught me just as much, if not more. Uncle Luke has begun to learn how to celebrate life even in the shadow of death. When life turns tragic, faith can still remain somewhere in the rubble. Pain can draw me deeper into the presence of God because He is so acquainted with suffering himself. Tragedy and death do not have to distance me from God. It can draw me deeper into himself even as I lay before him all my questions, doubts, and accusations. (I still have so many of them which will continue to go unanswered.)
Sophie's life has also taught me that even a baby who lives for ten hours can have a voice that reaches the masses. Her story has been told around the world. Through Kevin and Lindsey's blog, hundreds of thousands of people have been deeply moved and inspired and broken and hurt and hopeful and prayerful.
Sophie taught me that life is beautiful, especially when we live it in community with others. So many friends, family, and acquaintances celebrated Sophie's life while she was growing in her mothers womb. We have never been alone in our pain. But we have also never been alone in our moments of joy...all because of the willingness of others to join in our story.
Finally, Sophie has taught me (and I'm a long work in process on this one) that even when death has spoken, hope can somehow rise from the ashes. If I am honest, most days I have felt more hopeless than hopeful. But it is hard to kill love inside a human being. It always wants to fight its way back to the surface. Even as I continue to feel cold, numb, and lifeless in my grief, love has not been vanquished. It may lie dormant or be hidden from my own self, but it is not gone. How could I ever stop loving my first niece? The fact is I will always love her. And as that love continues to fight its way to the surface, hope seems to come with it. But I'm only now beginning to learn that even when love is withheld, it can find a new way.
Today I continue my search for that new way.
To my first niece, I am here to wish you a Happy Birthday! I love you Sophie! I miss you so much! And as another wave of grief rolls over me today, I want to say, although with tears in my eyes and pain in my heart, I am thankful for the beautiful ten hour life we were able to celebrate with you!
Love, Uncle Luke
You're the owner of a company looking to hire a few entry level positions.
A) Your first prospect is a 4.0 student who graduated high school, took the traditional route straight into college, and completed a undergraduate degree in 4 years. This candidate's resume is filled with accolades from high school and college, but there is not much you see that will guarantee you are hiring someone with soft skills and real world experience.
B) Your second prospect is a non traditional student. The candidate is a year or two older. He/she completed college in four years; however, you find in their resume that they spent a year between high school and college conducting internships in non-profit organizations both in country and abroad. The candidate gained unique experience in difficult and challenging circumstances. You see that this student is a bit more 'weathered' and has spent time out in the working world.
Who would you hire?
The most complaints we hear from companies today in America is not that they have uneducated employees. It's that their people lack the soft skills and emotional intelligence to get the job done. There are plenty of candidates walking around with college degrees and accolades to their name. But employers need people who can negotiate, collaborate, listen, take initiative, be proactive, problem solve, and navigate bumps in the road.
Put it this way. Students need to come out of college ready to "talk shop". To engage the work environment. To be a team player. To identify conflict and work effectively towards resolution. To do this independently without someone needing to hold their hand.
For these reasons, students graduating high school need to RETHINK what the next step for them might be. The tide is rising on college decision making for seniors. The current is gaining speed. Students want to be at a school where they can fulfill their dreams. Parents want their students to succeed and make the transition to college and future successful employment. But what is happening each year is that a culture of traditional ways of thinking towards education is getting lost in the undertow of reality.
1 in 3 students will transfer next fall, deeply unsatisfied with life and studies at the school of choice.
Only 56% of students will even complete their undergraduate degree in 5-6 years.
College graduates are not seeing a favorable job market and their competition is increasingly being measured on a global scale rather than being compared to fellow American students. Today's student needs to consider the realities of globalization and understand that traditional ways of graduating college and entering the job market are no longer a given.
Here at the KIVU Gap Year, we are swimming against the current to create a new culture in education. We are offering a new model that sends students away from college for one year IN ORDER to equip them for the realities of our changing world. We are on the front end of the making of a global student. We are fashioning a marketable graduate. We are giving students 900 hours of real world experience that spands across social, economic, and spiritual backgrounds. We are building soft skills before going to the university.
When seniors are considering what to do next year, I urge them not to get swept away in the under current of traditional education. Swim upstream with us and become a global student who is equipped to weather the storms of a changing world. The college campus awaits you. But you ought to know more about the world around you and within you before you go!
Who would you hire?