Meet Brian Keller, Vanguard '19.
What brought you to Vanguard? How did you find out about it? Why did you end up doing the program?
I was applying to colleges and I thought about Wheaton because I wanted to go to a Christian school. I went on the website and found Vanguard and I was like, wow, that’s exactly what I want to do.
I needed a spiritual change in my life – like, completely. So I emailed Charlie, the Program Manager, in February of my senior year. He emailed me back and when I didn’t respond, kept emailing me every 2 weeks for a few months. Eventually, I talked with one of the program staff, but that wasn’t until summer. It wasn’t until the third week of August that I decided to do Vanguard.
Had you known what a gap year was?
My cousin did a gap year through Torchbearers so I was kind of familiar.
It seems like your family might have been supportive of a gap year – were they?
My dad was – he had gone to college, chose the wrong school, dropped out, moved to California…He understood needing to do something different. My mom was skeptical. I don’t think it was until Christmas break of my Vanguard year, when I came home, that she saw and understood.
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.— Brian Keller, Vanguard '19
Was Vanguard what you needed?
Yeah, 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
What you would say that Vanguard provided you with that you weren’t expecting?
I wasn’t expecting people to care about me in the way that they did.
How would you say God met you during Vanguard?
I shared my life with people and I hadn’t been doing that in so long. When I finally did, I began to understand God’s compassion, I guess. It actually made me care for God and the relationship I have with Him. I went from a place of apathy to someone who cares. I understand more now.
There was a huge growth in relational and spiritual maturity which helped me determine how I want to live my life…what drives me and what motivates me.— Brian Keller, Vanguard '19
How did you benefit from not going to school immediately after graduating?
I think if I went straight to school I would have continued to not care about my personal health and wellness. There was a huge growth in relational and spiritual maturity which helped me determine how I want to live my life…what drives me and what motivates me. I couldn’t have easily gone into college and done well, or if I did, it would have come at the cost of not continuing to live a healthy lifestyle, not being rested.
What would you say is special about HoneyRock, where Vanguard takes place?
The amount of training and the thought and the leadership development that goes into people here. I’ve been to Christian camps. I’ve never seen anything quite like HoneyRock.
What is something that someone wouldn’t know about Vanguard? Something that might surprise someone?
They would be surprised at how much fun it is to be bored. To just like, be with people. I think so often, when we’re bored, we distract ourselves with media. When it’s the middle of winter and it’s like, negative 10 degrees, you’d think there’s nothing to do. All you can do is be with people – and you learn how to care and enjoy just being with people.