Tag Archives: Duke TIP

Ashley Grace’s Heroic Journey…

Thoughtful Thursday

Heroic journeys, myths that tell the story of heroes, played an important role in early culture by inspiring and unifying the people.  My favorite teenager was tasked with writing her own heroic journey story this summer as part of the Duke TIP program at Trinity University.

On this Thoughtful Thursday, I challenge each of you to think of your life as a heroic journey and find inspiration in your own perseverance…


The Story of Me

            December 9, 1999.  It is a cold, snowy day, or so I am told.  In Cozad, Nebraska, Anne and Matt Burkholder are waiting for the birth of their first child. The baby, who has already tried to enter the world a few months earlier, has the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck, and the doctors order a C-section. Three weeks early, I am born at about 5:30 P.M.

My life had begun.

            I was a bossy child. Being the oldest, I spent my first 2 ½ years in a household where I was the queen. My world was rocked when my parents brought home my sister; again the world shook 3 years later. Shortly after my youngest sister was born, my mom was diagnosed with Graves Disease, an autoimmune disorder that caused her thyroid to produce its hormones too fast. Six year old Ashley was suddenly thrust into a world of responsibility; a world where I was the one cleaning and taking care of the kids while my dad worked. All I remember from this period was the house always being dark so that my mom could rest.

            Once she recovered, my mom threw herself into making up for the lost time. I did every sports activity offered in town. I participated in Destination Imagination, a program where teams are given problems to solve and they make a skit to display the solutions. I did speech and essay competitions galore. We went to Kenya for Christmas one year, where I learned not to take my life for granted.

            In seventh grade, I was allowed to do school sports. I soon fell in love with Cross Country, and have learned so many life lessons pounding the pavement of Cozad. I participated in HAL mod, where we took the ACT, and did Quiz bowl and History Day. Last summer, I went to the UK with my grandma, which prepared me for spending long amounts of time away from home.

            In January, I got an envelope from Duke TIP inviting me to come to a summer camp. That was really my herald, bringing the possibility of an adventure. I was all for it, but my grandma and guidance counselor/cross country coach had to convince my mom first. She finally said yes, and six months later I walked through the doors of Prassel Castle, not knowing what to expect.

            My plane had been delayed, so I arrived late. Consequently, everyone was at Orientation and I sat alone in the back. Afterwards, I didn’t know anyone, so I went back to Prassel inconspicuously following a group of girls, but not quite walking with them. I felt so alone. Once I was introduced to my RC group, however, I rebounded quickly. My roommate, Leah, and my entire group have become good friends and allies.

            The first day of class, I was so nervous that I wasn’t going to be as smart as everyone else. I had been having nightmares that I would get sent home because of my inadequacy. Of course, I soon learned better, and began to really enjoy class. Miss Wiley has become a sort of mentor, because she made me realize how powerful I am and that I can change the world.

            Running consistently has been another struggle I have faced here. The morning runs didn’t start until four days after camp began, and I stressed about whether I would be able to achieve 200 miles this summer. I have also had trouble setting my alarm, so I have not been able to go to every run. This experience has certainly taught me to be more responsible!

            So far I have tried so many things I never thought I would get the chance to, including, but not limited to, authentic Mexican food, Ultimate Frisbee, yoga, and brick painting. I also have an awesome tutu to show for this summer, and I can’t wait for the TIP-Sync competition and Tiger Fest.

            I think that my shadows on this trip have been my own demons. It has been my own insecurity or self-doubt that have plagued me during this adventure. The threshold guardians have in some way, been my family. My youngest sister would not let go of me as I climbed into the car, and my mom’s teary eyes almost made me give up.

            In the future, I hope these trials will have made it possible for me to graduate high school, (valedictorian, please!) and go to a good college (possibly Stanford, or an Ivy). I want to work with underprivileged children as a teacher and friend, in this country or others. Hopefully, I will get married and have children, and be as good of a mother as mine was for me.

My story has just begun.


Filed under Ashley Grace's Corner and The Chick Project..., General, Thoughtful Thursday

Out Of the Mouths of Babes…

Thoughtful Thursday

My favorite farmer and I strive to raise our girls with a broad perspective of social and political knowledge.  Our family dinner conversations range from farming issues to World and American history and politics to random philosophical discussions.  The girls tend to groan when Matt or I take a comment that they make and turn it into an intellectual discussion, however, these cerebral sessions have become a family tradition 🙂

I think that it is important for young people to grow up with inquiring minds and a zest for learning.   Lengthy discussions and debates are a great way to foster this development, and also bring a new dimension to a family dinner.


As part of the Duke TIP program at Trinity University that my favorite teenager participated in this summer, she was required to write four papers — all of which revolved around the general subject of Myths and Legends.  For this week’s Thoughtful Thursday post, I would like to share Ashley Grace’s Cosmology Essay for the class.

She was charged with the task of creating a story that explained the origin, evolution, and fate of her home state of Nebraska.  I think that her story draws on a full litany of topics that have highlighted our family dinner table discussions over the years, and I found it both enlightening and entertaining…

The Creation Story of Nebraska

In the beginning, before humans and animals roamed the earth, there was darkness. There were fifty gods, Flat, the god of a land known as Nebraska, was one. Flat was a good god, and had visions of a place where peace and happiness wore scarlet and cream. But, as in all places, good could not exist without evil. Flat’s nemesis, the god of Colorado, wanted the land all to himself.

Using the cover of darkness, Colorado stole the southwest corner of Nebraska, creating the panhandle. Flat and Colorado met slightly north of there and a great battle ensued. To this day, the Sandhills exist as a tribute to the fierce battle.

Flat, horrified at the destruction of his land, threw off the cover of darkness so that all the gods could see Colorado’s treachery. In shame and fury, Colorado fled, keeping his corner, back to his state. Colorado cursed one of the rivers Flat had created. The Plate River, for this reason, was split into two channels and is a shallow, muddy mess.

Now that his borders were secure, Flat turned his attention to matters closer to home. He was in love with the beautiful Dakota, and in an attempt to impress her, created the rolling hills of northeastern Nebraska. Dakota was not impressed, and showed that much by making the Badlands on the South Dakota, Nebraska border.

Flat became depressed and created a burning hot sun, and its opposite, a moon, made of the cold rock that was now his heart. Flat also made other terrors during this time. He created a howling wind, snow, famine, bugs, and all bad weather. After being sad, for so long, Flat forgot was it was like to be happy, and became an angry god.

In his rage, Flat made humans, doomed to forever fight against the unwilling ground for all necessities. The first humans, a male and female, created at the same time from more of Flat’s rock hard heart, had the five senses and not much else. All humans are descended from these beings. Flat poured all of his angry feelings into these humans, so that they were mean creatures, incapable of love.

But Flat, was in essence, a peaceful god. He soon realized what he had done to his people, and gave them great gifts. He gave them love, kindness, generosity, and most importantly, perseverance and the stubborn toughness they would need to farm the earth. He gave them animals, for his people needed meat and labor. He created flowers and rainbows and smiles to help them through the hard times.

When the first corn crop matured, Flat threw a celebration for the couple and their children. Flat took the corn kernels and set them in the sky as stars to forever remember the crop. Peace was brought to the land.

Colorado was not happy to see Flat’s state prosper, so he flew over the land at night, scattering seeds. These seeds grew into trees of all kinds, which were an inconvenience to Nebraskans, as they had to work harder to pull them out. Flat took all of the trees brought in by Colorado and placed them by the rivers to provide shelter to animals. Thus, this was not seen as a success on Colorado’s part.

Meanwhile, South Dakota had established a government and was bragging about her state to all the gods. Flat, remembering her rejection, decided to one up her. So, the thinkers of Nebraska were born. These intelligent beings created a government with a balanced budget and a unicameral to function more efficiently. They founded a college, UNL, and made the mascot the Cornhuskers, because the athletes had the same determination as the first farmers. The teams still wear scarlet and cream to symbolize the farmers’ blood and tears those first years.  Nebraska had begun.


Chimney Rock

Now, in Nebraska, there is a peculiar rock formation near Scottsbluff. This state landmark was created when Flat rested for the first time in his tumultuous reign. After creating his state, Flat was exhausted. He laid down on his heavenly bed and fell into a deep sleep. His snores sent burst of air down to earth, weathering away stone to create Chimney Rock.

Can you find possible topics of discussion at the Feed Yard Foodie dinner table amidst her story?  Please share them in the comment section!

Can you find possible topics of discussion at the Feed Yard Foodie dinner table amidst her story? Please share them in the comment section!


Filed under Ashley Grace's Corner and The Chick Project..., General, Thoughtful Thursday