Meet Vanguards from the 2020-2021 Cohort
What is your favorite part about living in the Northwoods?
The nature and being able to live in this community! You’re always on the go, but in the end, it’s nice to always have someone that has your back.
Read the thoughts, ideas, and reflections on their year at HoneyRock from our Vanguards, below.
Lisa Heegaard, Vanguard '17, captured reflections and random moments from a few of our Vanguards as they reflected on their experience. Enjoy reading these interviews that share a peek into Vanguard!
Taking a break from school gave me the space I needed to decide to actually return to school when I didn’t think it was for me. I was able to take an intermission to just figure out if I wanted to go back and what I wanted to study. Since going back to college, I’ve discovered that once you know what you want to study, school becomes a lot easier and a lot more purposeful.
The program is very intentional. With everything they do here – like the solos I talked about before – those helped with reflecting on where I’m coming from and where I want to go. The small and intentional community helped keep me accountable.
The program is just really well-crafted so that you’re put in a lot of different experiences. I mean, of course, it’s all up to you whether you want to take that step and be willing to improve and change. But the program definitely provides chances for you to see, reflect, and grow.
What brought you to Vanguard?
...I had a really hard high school experience. Every week I went to youth group and was just like, I wish I could talk with someone about how I feel. For two years. I never felt like I was able to talk about it. So I thought, well, if I go and live in the woods for a year I’ll probably have to talk about it.
The idea of having a year that was focused on helping me understand what I was going through…it felt like it was all I wanted. It felt like a way to set myself up to work through a few things.
I wanted to know what I believe in. I grew up going to church and everything. But you know, in high school I was like, I don’t know what I really believe. I had a lot of doubts. I didn’t know if I wanted to continue my Christian faith outside of my routine at home. I knew that I wasn’t fully involved with it.
I knew that I didn’t really have a relationship with God. If I went to college and wasn’t 100% sure of my faith, I knew that I would just drop it. It was important for me to figure it out.
it was exactly what I needed. I think Vanguard taught me how to care. For myself and for others. I was at a point where I didn’t really care about myself anymore. But the way it’s designed…you learn to love people you might not like. For most of my life, I had avoided that. It was like, if I didn’t like someone I wasn’t going to spend time with them. Therefore, I never learned how to love people who weren’t similar to me. But Vanguard forces you to be in community and when you’re that close, you begin to change.
A Parent's Perspective on the Vanguard Gap Year
In the end, what we loved most about the Vanguard experience is the way that it helped our daughter discern her calling. The Vanguard Gap Year’s international immersion trip to the Dominican Republic was truly life changing for Julianna. For years, she’d dreamt of becoming a missionary in a Spanish speaking country, and this trip was perfect for exploring that desire. The day after she returned, she Skyped us saying that although she loved every minute in the DR, she felt God showing her that He wanted her elsewhere.
Julianna realized she wanted to teach in a Spanish speaking environment here in the United States, in an inner city or otherwise underprivileged area. She will graduate in 2020 from Hope College with a degree in Spanish education, and she could not be happier.
When asked if the Vanguard Gap Year was worth it, our answer is a wholehearted “yes!” Julianna made lifelong friends. She had time and space to relax, reflect, pray, work, deepen her faith and think about her future—all away from the pressures of "regular" life. She learned new skills in cooking and carpentry. She studied her Bible every day alongside her friends. She shared life with a wonderful group of people, including her fellow Vanguards, their amazing counselors and all of the staff at HoneyRock.
- Annette Burlet, mom of Julianna VG '15
Our situation was unique in that Adam first went to college. While at college, he didn’t find a good fit and stepped back to re-evaluate. Vanguard was wonderful for Adam because it gave him time to grow; both in faith and in maturity. He enjoyed working, serving, and adventuring during his time in the Northwoods. He found a passion for sharing Christ, teaching people about God’s creation, and being present in relationships.
We like to say he found both “a passion and a program” during Vanguard. Our son was provided space to discern what he wanted to study in college and apply to his career: Outdoor Leadership at John Brown University.
A Christian gap year program like Vanguard helps young adults grow their faith, develop good habits, learn the importance of Christian community, and build relationships with role models who speak truth. If your student does not feel confident about going to college due to social, vocational, or motivational reasons, we recommend Vanguard!
- Ann Kepke, mom of Adam VG '16
As much as my wife and I loved our daughter, she just wasn't going to get the message she needed by living with us any longer. Going to HoneyRock and having a trusted group of people that we could turn our daughter to for a year, under the Lord's care, was a great blessing to me as a parent and I am so thankful this option was available. I saw other kids who came in more solid in their faith, and I think in the Lord's sovereignty and providence, He met every one of them with just what they needed to mature through the year for the next phase of their life.
As far as the cost is concerned, for me, it saved my daughter's life. What price do I put on that? I have a debt I will never repay to the Vanguard program, and I will tell our daughter’s story for the rest of my life. For a kid fresh out of high school who isn't sure about a lot of things, Vanguard is just a phenomenal place to spend a year. If a student knows what they want to do in college, and has it all laid out, then that's fine, they can go ahead with that. But if a kid isn't sure about some things, wants to do something productive, wants to have some good fun and good learning, both contributing and growing themselves, I think this is a fantastic option.
- Vanguard Parent '16