Today, LEAP Center students hiked up to Devil’s Bridge in Sedona, Arizona. With narrow spaces and lots of steep “steps”, the hike up was slightly more challenging than our previous hike, but we knew the payoff would be worth it. The trail was steep but offered shady spots that we took advantage of when we would stop to admire the red rock of the canyon (and catch our breaths). The narrow path was lined with prickly pear cacti, tall century plants and hikers sitting to get some water and rest for a moment. Once we made it to the top of the bridge, we knew all the climbing had been worth it. The views from Devil’s Bridge were breathtaking.
Just as we began feeling brave, we met a man who asked us to take a photo of him doing a handstand on top of the narrow bridge, putting us all to shame.
While on the bridge, we made a small cairn, which, according to Professor Yawn, officially made us hikers.
After admiring the views from Devil’s Bridge, we began the trek down, but not without a few pitstops. We went down and caught a quick glimpse of the bridge from below.
The trip down seemed much easier as we were all still so amazed at what we had just experienced.
After a quick bite to eat at The Wildflower Bread Company in Flagstaff, Arizona, the LEAP center explored the town square. The square on Friday evenings is vibrant with people shopping and eating at the unique food joints.
We visited a cool little bookstore where there was a live performance from a local band while the small crowd sang along to a song about mermaids.
After our group slowly made our way around the store reading the back of books and discussing ones we’ve read, we headed to a local favorite co-op art gallery and window shopped. Unfortunately, the gallery was closed, but we were still able to admire the beautiful works of art within. Next, we headed to a mystical store called Crystal Magic, where we all shared a few laughs about the shops interesting perspective. We continued our way around the square admiring local cuisine and the different types of people around each corner. Finally, we made our way through their local mall, which offered fashion of all types and a fun candy shop. I had never tried chocolate covered orange peels and surprisingly liked them! One thing I thought was interesting about Flagstaff was how active the square was on a Friday night, there were people everywhere! It really added to the fun and easy-going vibe of the town. I thought it was neat how all the restaurants were locally owned, each offering their own unique menu. Flagstaff is a town I would enjoy visiting again and hopefully trying out a few of the favorite food joints.
Our first event of the 6-day forum was a workshop run by Dr. Teri Varner, Associate Professor at St. Edwards University. The workshop focused on making impactful introductions for speakers. I found it extremely helpful as a LEAP Ambassador because the steady stream of speakers and guests that we regularly bring to campus need introductions to the groups they’re brought in to speak to. This was our first workshop because of the fact that every forum participant was required to interview and then use that information to introduce at least one of the speakers during the week.
Then was the panel titled “Women in Politics.” The panelists were Dr. Susan Heinzelman, the Director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas, Maggie Buchanan, President of Maggie Jo Consulting, and Kimberly Inez McGuire, Senior Program Director at Conway Strategic. Also included in this panel was none other than Nancy Bocskor, the President of the Nancy Bocskor Company.
Nancy has been a guest speaker for the LEAP Center many times, and was a FIR (Faculty in Residence) for the Forum. The women in this panel focused on their experiences in politics, and the challenges and triumphs that came with those experiences.
DAY 2 – Friday
Our first event of the day was a panel titled “Why YOU Should Consider Running for Office,” and it featured Gina Hinojosa, a Texas State Representative, Delia Garza, an Austin City Council Member, and Sheryl Cole, a Texas State Representative Candidate. Also included in this panel was another one of the LEAP Center’s previous guest speakers, the Chairman of the Railroad Commission, Christi Craddick (who gave a wonderful talk to SHSU women in January!). The four women talked about their respective journeys before, during, and after getting elected to their respected offices. The panelists also shared many of the difficulties they faced in getting to where they are now.
The next workshop was titled “Networking and Making Connections,” and was led by Karen Landolt, a professor for the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.
Ms. Lundolt talked about the importance of using weak ties like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Weak ties are connections that you’re able to make over social media with people that you wouldn’t have been able to connect with otherwise, and they’re becoming increasingly important in the 21st century.
After lunch, we had a short walk across campus to the Texas Union through the hill country heat. We were headed to hear from the Forum’s keynote speaker, Representative Mary Gonzalez.
She shared with us her education, how she got her start in Texas politics, the daily problems that face her constituents and what she is doing to try and help them, and the different challenges that she faces as a woman in a field dominated by men. After the keynote address, we posed for a quick group photo with her…
…and then we were welcomed to a spread of fruit and sweets in the next room as a part of a reception that the Forum hosted for us and Representative Gonzalez.
Day 3, Saturday
Our third day began with a workshop that explored our different leadership styles. Susan Billmaier is a Program Officer at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and she specializes in workshops that support and encourage personal journeys, leadership styles, diversity and inclusion, and conflict resolution. By the end of the session we found ourselves divided into four different groups, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, and we all thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about each other in this type of setting.
After a small coffee break, the Community Advocate Panel began. This panel was geared towards getting young women to become more active on a local level. The three panelists were all active in the Austin area. The panel shifted towards the panelists giving advice to all the young women of the forum. The main message that all three panelists could agree on was to stay true to yourself and your cultural identity.
The next workshop was titled “Texas Civic Health Index Report and Civic Reflection.” The goal of this workshop was to get the students involved in interactive civics exercises. We took a quiz to determine our level of civic engagement and compared our responses with our peers. We then discussed the factors that may contribute to some of us being more civically engaged than others. We learned that education is one of the main factors that impacts civic engagement.
Our last workshop of day 3 focused on Unconscious Bias. The workshop was run by Yulanda McCarty-Harris, and it focused on recognizing unconscious bias, who has unconscious bias, and how to combat it. Ms. McCarty-Harris was incredibly animated and everyone was engaged and interested. The second part of the Unconscious Bias workshop was a panel that featured Courtney Chavez, Dr.Ted Gordon, and Lana Petru. They all gave their insights as to what our society can do to combat unconscious bias.
DAY 4 – Sunday
Our first session of the day was “Political Fundraising” by Nancy Bocskor.
She gave a rousing speech on her experiences as a democracy coach around the world. She shared with us the same fundraising principles that she’s taught to people in all 50 states and in 27 different countries across the world. We learned how to utilize any organizations that we may be involved in, and that people we know are twice as likely to donate to any cause that we ask them over strangers.
Our second session of the day was a panel titled “How Tech is Shaping Politics,” and it featured three panelists that were experts in the field of technology and politics. They talked about how they use technology in their careers, and the different ways that technology can help and hinder political action.
“Managing your Message” was a session led by Jenifer Sarver, a professor in the Moody College of Communications at The University of Texas. Her presentation focused on effective communication. We touched on how to present yourself, considering your audience rather than simply the message that you want to convey, and working to establish your credibility. She also stressed the importance of using visual aids when attempting to get your message across.
DAY 5 – Monday
Our fifth day began with us grabbing a quick breakfast and loading up on a charter bus to head to Austin City Hall for a tour. We learned about the building’s architecture and how it was created to have a low impact on the environment. We also observed all the art pieces inside the building and we learned that they were all done by local artists. At the end of the year, Austinites are able to cast a vote to pick their favorite piece, and the City of Austin purchases that piece and adds it to its collection. We paused for a group picture up on one of the terraces of the building before heading back inside for a panel titled “Women in City Leadership.” The panel consisted of women that work in various city government positions within the City of Austin. They gave us advice on finding mentors, balancing our families and careers, and finding our passions after graduating college. When the panel ended, we were presented with certificates of congratulations from the City of Austin for completing the NEW Leadership program.
After our time at Austin City Hall, we stopped by Scholz Garden for lunch.
It was a German Restaurant where we were served some delicious fajitas. A few of us finished early and went outside to pose for a few photos with our newfound friends while we waited for the charter bus to come pick us back up to head to the State Capitol Building.
When we arrived at the Capitol, it was many of the NEW Leadership participants’ first time there. We took a special tour that focused on the women that helped shape our state’s history. For instance, we learned about a woman named Obedience Fort Smith who followed her son to Texas and owned 3,368 acres in what is now of the City of Houston. Tranquility Park, a park commemorating the Apollo 11 moon landing is a part of the land that was presented to her in 1845.
We then heard from four different women involved in Texas Politics. We heard from Donna Howard, a Texas State Representative, and then Lauren Hadley who is the Director of Constituent Services for Representative Howard. Then we heard from Terri Williams, Vice-President of Government Relations for the American Heart Association, and Linda Battles, Deputy Commissioner for Agency Operations and Communications for the Texas Higher Education Board. They shared with us their struggles and triumphs they’ve experienced throughout their years in the political sphere.
After a group photo in the capital…
…we headed back to our dorm rooms on UT’s campus. We changed out of our business casual attire for once and were able to just comfortably lounge while we worked on our political action projects that were due to be presented the next day.
DAY 6 – Tuesday
In the morning we began our day by presenting our Political Action Project that we had been working on periodically throughout the week. The project was a mock hearing on House Bill 316 (a reformation on Texas’s Law of Parties). Some students played the role of representatives that were either for or against the bill, some students were reporters asking questions of the representatives about the bill, and some students played the role of family members and friends offering testimony about how Texas’s Law of Parties had impacted their lives. The mock bill passed, and those of us that had been in opposition good-naturedly recognized our defeat.
After presenting our political action project, we heard from Lizzie Robbins, the State Program Manager for IGNITE Texas. IGNITE is an organization designed to teach young women to be civically engaged and step into public service. She gave us information on how to start IGNITE chapters on our own college campuses. We also learned that online students still can be active in the organization by joining the chapter on the college campus that is closest to them.
After lunch and a debrief it was time for us all to head home. Some of us had much longer drives than others, and after hearing from 52 speakers and sitting for 35 different panels and sessions throughout the week, we were all a bit worn out. It was a bittersweet ending to the week. We were all going to miss each other and the supportive and positive environment we had all created, but we also all wanted to see our own friends, families, and beds. We all exchanged hugs and contact information and said our goodbyes. There was laughter and tears, but also the realization that many of us had created lifelong friends this week, and that NEW Leadership Texas really had opened doors for many of us.
On November 28, the LEAP Ambassadors participated in one of Sam Houston’s oldest traditions. Since 1921, students and faculty at SHSU have gathered to light the university Christmas tree. Emceed by SHSU’s 2017 homecoming king and queen, this year’s ceremony included a performance by Orange Pride and an SHSU musical group. As always, the LEAPsters had their decorated wreath prepared to hang on the tree and join the wreaths of other university organizations. After hanging our wreath on the tree and singing the last few lines of Jingle Bells the ceremony ended. From all the LEAPsters, we want to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
After two successful and fun sessions of heART of Huntsville, we were excited for the grand finale on our third session. We started off at the Huntsville Statue and Visitor Center, where we met Visitor Services Coordinator, Jamie Matthews.
She began by giving us an overview of the different attractions in Huntsville such as the “Big Sam” statue which has brought in numerous of tourists to the city. A map of the world was marked with pins showing the variety of countries that tourists come in from every continent (excluding Antartica).
A short video designed by the Animation Department at SHSU in partnership with the City of Huntsville explained the history behind General Sam Houston and the process its sculptor, David Adickes, implemented to build the statue. As the clip met its end we walked towards “Big Sam” and observed its beauty up close followed by a group picture at the base of the 67-foot statue!
Led by Huntsville expert Professor Yawn, we began our tour around town, seeing outdoor sculptures and attractions along the way.
Driving from the visitor center towards the city, Professor Yawn explained that the Goree Prison Unit had been a women’s unit and also talked about the issues of including inmates and students in Huntsville’s population.
Our first stop was “Made in the Shade” by John Stewart. As our bus driver skillfully maneuvered his way through Fire Station 1’s driveway, we admired the sculpture laying its stone body along Sam Houston Avenue. Stewart sculpted the piece to commemorate the deceased astronauts aboard the Challenger in 1986.
Our next stop was located on University Ave, where we saw a slew of older homes: the Ashford Home (once used a funeral parlor), the Rogers-Baird Home, and the old Smither Warehouse.
We then headed to Oakwood Cemetery. At the cemetery, we viewed the bronze replica of Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen’s “Christus,” popularly known as the “Comforting Christ.”
There are four copies of the sculpture in the United States (that we know of), one of which is rumored to be in a cemetery in San Antonio. The Oakwood Cemetery version was commissioned by the Powell family to honor their youngest son who died at age 5 during a tonsillectomy surgery. We are very thankful that Mark Burns provided copies of a black-and-white photograph of the sculpture for the heART of Huntsville group. It was a memorable experience to see one of the most famous sculptures of Christ dedicated to the youngest son in the Powell family and go home with a special photograph by Mr. Burns.
After the cemetery, it was time to meet for dinner at Carbonero’s a Salvadorian cuisine restaurant where we enjoyed delicious tacos, enchiladas, and pupusas.
As always, the food was phenomenal! But the treats were not only reserved for dinner.
After we finished off our plates, we headed to the David Adickes Foundation. The repurposed Huntsville High School walls and hallways were decorated with Adickes’ breath taking paintings.
Ms. Linda Wiley, the Adickes Foundation curator, welcomed us to the foundation and she and Mr. Adickes offered a brief introduction to the gallery.
With his well known charisma, Mr. Adickes told us tales of his art and his time in the military, a time that he described with “the war was over, it was king of boring.”
But as he told us, his travels to Europe where put to good use as he garnered a passion for painting.
Among the collections we noticed a peculiar photograph of Elvis Presley and his living room. What got our attention were a series of paintings hanging on the corner of the photographed wall. It turns out The King was a fan of Mr. Adickes and had purchased three of his paintings. After Elvis’ death, Mr. Adickes discovered the paintings and bought them back!
After enjoying Mr. Adickes’ adventure travel stories, he joined us in front of his favorite artwork to take a group selfie with the LEAP Ambassadors, former SHSU President Dr. James Gaertner, his wife Nancy Gaertner, and Ms. Wiley.
We were also very lucky to get individual pictures with Mr. Adickes in front of the ambassador’s favorite!
The Adickes Foundation tour was a great way to end our final session of heART of Huntsville. We were all happy to have gotten a chance to enjoy one of Huntsville’s best kept secrets!
“A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.” William Wordsworth may have never seen Caddo Lake, yet it is a perfect way to describe the effect of the lake’s beauty. On this second day at the lake we were now set out to capture this captivating grandeur through the lens of Mark Burns.
Daybreak Voyage, By Ryan Knesek
The LEAP Ambassadors met with photographer Mark Burns early in the morning to continue with our documentary process. As you may remember, Mr. Burns has been a part of the National Parks Project where he photographed all fifty-nine national parks in black and white.
On this expedition to Caddo Lake he focused mainly on the color scheme of the autumn cypress during the dawn hours while taking wildlife photos here and there.
LEAP Ambassadors were able to converse with the accomplished photographer and expand their knowledge of composition, lighting, and color scheme in photography.
Being amateur photographers, we benefit from the knowledge he provides–even if it isn’t evident in our own photos!
And as we saw the beautiful landscapes of the lake and the graceful wildlife, we set these newly learned skills into practice.
Starr Home, By Ryan Knesek
After meeting with Mark Burns in Uncertain, Texas, Leap Ambassadors found themselves in the city of Marshall. There, Ambassadors toured the historic Starr Family House, a Victorian-style home that was built with the money from the Starr’s land possessions.
Dr. James Harper Star was commissioned as president of the board of land commissioners and receiver of the land dues for Nacogdoches County by Sam Houston in 1837. The tour showcased refurbished wood flooring and antiques that were unique to the home. Art, woodworking, and portraits illustrated the family’s status when the Starrs had guests at home. Now, years after the owners’ lifetime, their elegant lifestyle is still admired.
Among the most interesting aspects of the home were all its artifacts. Ambassador Makayla and I were even allowed to use one of these artifacts, the stereograph. This contraption functioned as early 3-dimensional glasses for photography and was the first time that Makayla and I had used now.
As one would imagine, the home showed portals into the past through its architecture and artifacts.
One interesting aspect of history while touring the home was Dr. Starr’s relationship with Sam Houston. Apparently, Dr. Starr owned land close to land owned by Sam Houston in Nacogdoches. However, land disputes arose while they were neighbors and Dr. Starr tired to sue the celebrated revolutionary war hero. Although this part of the home’s history didn’t show the most amiable side of the family, through touring the home the LEAP Ambassadors were able to expand their knowledge of the town of Marshall and its connection to Sam Houston.
Lunch at R & R Bakery, by Christina Perez
After the LEAP Ambassadors finished their tour of the Starr Family Home tour, we headed to lunch. We arrived in historic downtown Marshall, Texas…
and pulled into R & R Bakery and Coffee Shop. As soon as we walked in we were greeted by friendly staff and sat down ready to enjoy our meal. As we waited on Sierra and Sarah to arrive we shared our favorite things about the sunrise tour. We discussed the birds, the colors of the trees, and our favorite part of the tour. Ryan got the South Western roast beef sandwich with jalapeño bread and a garden salad on the side and lets just say he enjoyed his meal, clearly evidenced by a clean plate a few minutes after his order arrived. After lunch we shared some desserts, apple cinnamon scones for some and choclate chip cookies for others. It was a sweet way to enjoy the afternoon.
Michelson Museum of Art, By Makayla Mason
With such a filling lunch, we decided to walk it off with a small shopping session through town. Our wallets turned to the various antique shops along N. Washington Ave. And even though we could have spent longer at the shops, we made our way to the Michelson Museum of Art.
Opened in May 1985, the museum houses hundreds of pieces of art by artist Leo Michelson. The museum was founded following a donation from Leo Michelson’s widow. The donation consisted of more than 1,000 of Michelson’s art pieces.
Today, the museum consists of Michelson’s work, as well as works from locally and nationally recognized artists. The traveling exhibit that was currently at the museum was of illustrator Marla Frazee.
Frazee has illustrated several well-known children’s books such as The Boss Baby, Clementine, Stars, A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever and even one of my favorite book series, The Borrowers.
The Ambassadors enjoyed looking through books they remembered reading when they were younger and appreciated the detailed illustrations.
The other exhibit at the museum was “Our Artists and their Selfies.”
This exhibit contained thirteen artists with pieces of their work paired with their self-portrait and a list of highly-recognized art museums that feature each artist.
One of the thirteen artists was Henri Matisse, a name familiar to the LEAP Ambassadors, so we decided to take a selfie!
But from indoor art…we went back to the natural art of Caddo Lake. Sunset and sunrise lighting conditions are far from the same. That is why it was important for Mark Burns to return to the lake during the late afternoon. Swaying in the tranquil waters of the lake, Mr. Burns continued to look for that perfect spot to photograph.
During his National Parks Project, he spent five years visiting and revisiting parks. This search, as you can tell, is continuous and ever changing. Even though we had been here over the summer, the lake is not under the same conditions as before.
“Water levels have fallen by three feet,” Wes, our captain and tour guide, told us.
This affects the composition of Mr. Burns’s photos since cypress roots are more visible. Of course the most prominent change is the fall colors in the foliage of the cypress trees. This is such an important trait of the lake since it changes the format in which Mr. Burns takes his photos.
Now that the fall colors are so rich, Burns sought the right light for the perfect color.
Tomorrow will be our last chance, for now, to get the last few shots of the lake. As we returned to Marshall for dinner we reminisced on the day’s success. We even got to see a few of the photos that Mr. Burns had taken through out the day. With excitement in our step and a show of confidence…
…we returned to the hotel welcoming tomorrow’s adventures.
Following a vigorous morning at the park, we headed to one of the more than 60 art galleries in the Houston area, the Moody Art Gallery, where a special tour waited for us. As we took our first step into the gallery, Betty Moody, the owner of the gallery, was quick to give us a warm welcome to her very special art venue.
As the tour began, we learned that approximately 42 years ago Ms. Moody and her husband, Bill Steffy, embarked on a journey when they decided to acquire a property and open their very own art gallery. Over the decades of dealing art for accomplished artists, she has built a good reputation and now deals artworks by Arthur Turner, Jim Love, Terry Allen, Mary McCleary, and Luis Jimenez, to name just a few.
Her knowledge and passion have led her to not choose art because of a simple trend, but to choose it because of the meaning and the story behind the piece.
Through viewing some of the most attention-grabbing art in her collection, we discovered that each person interpreted each piece differently and that, although dissimilar, they could all be representations intended by the artist.
One of the pieces that Ms. Moody focused on was Snow Vanitas, a mixed media collage by the local artist Mary McCleary. From a distance, it seemed like a simple piece, however, the illusions created by different elements including plastic, paint, wire, and wood, created a stunning result. Additionally, each of her three-dimensional collages have a story to tell and are created to leave an impact.
It was a learning experience in every way. We learned archiving methods…
…strategies for displaying art pieces…
…the stories behind unusual art…
…and even how to use a rolodex!
To continue with our learning adventure, Betty Moody gave us a tour of her own home, located a wall behind the art gallery.
There, she showed us some of her most precious and sentimental pieces she owns.
Decorated with Pre-Colombian art as well as modern pieces by Randy Twaddle, Robert Rauschenberg, Luis Jimenez, and the like, the room was a beautiful embodiment of art. Embedded in her book shelves were not only a trove of books, but also a Campbell’s Soup can signed by Andy Warhol!
We also had the chance to see a Picasso on her kitchen shelf!
Ms. Moody’s home could easily be used as an art museum.
Although we are certain that these were highly valuable to Ms. Moody, without a doubt her most treasured objects where Bill Steffy’s visually attractive works. As a sculptor and jeweler, he incorporated silver and materials like turquoise to give each piece a unique appearance. Surprisingly enough, what appeared to be a bird sculpture, was a jewelry box, which with the click of a button released a stunning pendant from its wing. It was one of our favorite pieces in the entire collection.
There is no doubt varied talents are well exhibited at the Moody Art Gallery. Betty Moody gave us an unforgettable tour that went beyond our expectations.
The LEAP Ambassadors will treasure this unprecedented experience.
Thanks to Ms. Moody’s intimate relationship with art and her generosity in sharing, we experienced a semester’s worth of art learning in one afternoon–while spending time with a delightful business owner and lady!
On our second day in Lexington, Kentucky for the Southern Legislative Conference we ventured out into the countryside. Amidst the green fields where Thoroughbreds grazed and galloped, there stood the Blue Grass Sportsmen’s League. Here, the LEAPsters were introduced to the unique sport of skeet shooting. Although most of us had already handled firearms before, never had we shot at moving clay targets shouldering a 20-gauge shotgun.
After a safety briefing on the proper way to handle a gun and other expectations while out at the range, we headed towards the fields, all geared up with eye and ear protection. As we neared our station, the firing instructor kindly greeted us and demonstrated our “duck’s” path of flight, to prepare us on how to direct the movement of our firearm. Positioning ourselves at the station’s front, facing the field, hovering a right index finger over the trigger, eyes sighting over the barrel, calming our breath, keeping our arms sturdy and relaxed, checking our positioning to hold the butt of the stock close to our shoulder, we stood ready to call the clay’s pull. (This is work.)
After giving the mark, the orange disk would take flight, hurrying through the field resembling an escaping bird. After hearing a bang and seeing a smoking barrel, our hopes were that the projectiles would meet the clay target. However, more often than not the disk would fly pristine of any shattering and would only break as it landed on a tree or onto the ground, never having been grazed by our ammunition.
As we attempted, failed, and triumphed at hitting our “sim” ducks, our instructor took note of our gun handling and offered much-needed advice on how to successfully fire the shotgun.
Moving through every station with clay disks flying from left to right, from bottom of the field into the sky (forcing us to point our firearm at a 60 degree angle), to rolling on the ground, the number one rule was to direct the barrel with our left hand while following the target’s path.
Doing this would enable us to keep a more stable firearm, ensure that we properly sight the barrel with the target, and keep a more relaxed posture, all major contributors to skeet shooting success.
After firing the various wooden stock, single-action pump shotguns; synthetic stock, semiautomatic shotguns; and the classic over-under, break-action shotguns at the range, we celebrated our marksmanship experiences over a lunch of fried chicken and bread pudding. With beaten shoulders bearing red marks and bruises, some more severe than others, we boarded the bus back to the Lexington Convention Center to prepare for our next treat – a picnic break with some special guests at nearby Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park in Jessamine County, Kentucky.
My Old Kentucky Road Trip–A Conversation With Cameron Ludwick and Blair Hess
In April we began reading My Old Kentucky Road Trip by Cameron M. Ludwick and Blair Thomas Hess to prepare for our own road trip to the Blue Grass State! From this book, we learned much about Kentucky, and we used the book as a guide to our time in The Bluegrass State. Amazingly, the authors agreed to meet with us while we were in Kentucky, and our meeting spot was historic Camp Nelson, a former trading post between the Confederates and the Union during the Civil War.
We were excited to meet the two young women who had helped guide us on our way through the state. We began our picnic-style rendezvous with the exchange of gifts – evidence that both parties were from the South. Coincidentally, we bought each other Kentucky-famous Bourbon chocolates…
…but they outdid us in also bringing Ale8, the official Kentucky soda. After a round of introductions, we proceeded to enjoy a fun afternoon filled with history, laughter, and most importantly, mentorship.
Did you know that Rabbit Hash, Kentucky (yes, that’s correct) has a dog for a mayor? Neither did we, at least not before reading about it in My Old Kentucky Road Trip.
Luckily, these Kentucky experts filled us in on fascinating facts that make Kentucky interesting and unique – and made us want to explore Kentucky even more.
One interesting place we discussed is in Louisville, the Waverly Hill Sanatorium. Waverly Hill is a former hospital for tuberculosis patients that was virtually a city unto itself, turned into a nursing home after the tuberculosis epidemic. Now, one can join a haunted historic tour (at night!). Testimonials have noted that it is the scariest yet most informative tour in the state.
The conversation throughout the afternoon was humorous and interesting. Blair and Cameron had a special way of telling stories. We clung to every word they said because they made us feel as if we had taken trips with them because of all the details they relayed in their book. We were thankful for the time they took to meet with us and share their experiences and encouragement.
A story can be a powerful tool. This pair has used their Kentucky road trip storytelling and insight to rebrand their beautiful state. We can hope – and practice – to write similarly: inspiring, and full of new experiences and opportunities.
Horsing Around in Kentucky
The last evening activity planned for this day (Sunday, July 10) was Family Night at the Kentucky Horse Park, “a working horse farm and an educational theme park.”
In true “Kentucky Derby” fashion, an enthusiastic trumpeter announced our arrival. We were directed immediately to the food, where we found authentic Kentucky fare like brisket, burgers and corn on the cob.
We were lucky to have enjoyed dinner at a table with Mrs. Leslie Hafner, currently Senior Advisor to the Governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, and her husband – who has a political science degree! We had a pleasant conversation and discussed many current issues in government. Mrs. Haslam described her various job duties as a senior advisor to the Governor of Tennessee. She noted the favorite part of her job is being able to not just hear constituent’s concerns but to truly find solutions to be able to assist them.
We also enjoyed telling the Hafners our favorite parts about our trip to SLC, some of which was directly through their home state, Tennessee, and we even shared some info about our organization, and our blogs, at which they insisted they look. (We were all excited about this since we put in quite a bit of effort!). After dinner with our pleasant company, we headed for the dessert table to sample ice cream and shaved ice. We all grabbed some dessert and began looking for the horse riding area. Sadly, when we arrived at the location of the horse rides it was too late to ride horses, so instead we took a few pictures and headed for the horse museum.
Located in the Kentucky Horse Park, the museum had various exhibits, including a timeline of the horse, breeds of the world, and horses in sports. Some of our favorite artifacts were the old carriages and the jockey memorabilia.
Bryan and Ryan even took the opportunity to continue playing the part they had started the previous night at Keeneland by dressing up in jockey gear.
We learned much about a variety of horse breeds from all over the world before running to catch the bus back to the hotel. Although our visit to the museum was short, we enjoyed learning more about Kentucky’s largest industry!
After an entire day spent out, we were all ready for some rest, but not before we had a small birthday surprise for Beatriz! She turned 19 today and we (thanks to Professor Yawn) had a surprise “party” for the birthday girl. We all gathered to eat cookies from a unique place called Insomnia Cookies that just happens to deliver freshly baked cookies until 3:00am! We enjoyed ice cream and cookies and looked at the photos from the prior day before calling it another great day and heading to bed.
The LEAP Ambassadors just finished a five-day trip to Arkansas, but they arrived home in time for LEAP Day. Not many organizations have a day named for them, but the LEAP Ambassadors treated it in appropriate fashion:
It was a picnic dinner at one of their favorite places: the Wynne Home. This also happens to be the workplace of Beatriz Martinez and the former workplace of Megan Chapa. Next door, the Smither Martin Law Firm (seen in the background) is the workplace of Kaitlyn Tyra.
With full employment, a grilled dinner by Austin Campbell, and a day named for them, they celebrated.
Of course, they can keep calm and carry on, when need be, and tomorrow they will return to their professional ways, with four of them working the elections and then gathering for a watch party.