Both of them are students at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., and although they're each 400 miles from their respective homes, they love life at their college.
Ashley Acken of Marietta, Pa., and Kyle Hendrick of Palatka, Fla., have more in common than the 400 miles between Catawba College and their hometowns. They both are student leaders on the picturesque campus of 1000 students, and there, they have begun to discover themselves and their full potential.
Both Ashley and Kyle are involved with Catawba's Lilly Center for Vocation and Values as Lilly Fellows. Lilly Fellows are students who believe that God is calling them to use their talents and abilities in service to others. Lilly Fellows have demonstrated potential for leadership and have strong academic records and through their selection, they are assured opportunities to further develop leadership skills as they are actively involved in developing programs for their fellow students. They also are coached on their vocational journeys as they explore just how they best can utilize their gifts in service to others, as they consider next steps in their education, and as they seek employment in their chosen areas.
Also through the Lilly Center, Ashley and Kyle are members of the Retreat Leadership Corps, a group of students who receive training in the planning and conducting of student retreats. They help freshmen get off to a good start with their college experience, provide leadership training for officers of campus clubs and organizations, and lead retreats that provide students an opportunity explore the role of faith in their lives.
"Being away from home has allowed me to establish my independence and kind of be my own person," Ashley explained. "I think I've matured a lot and that has a lot to do with me being so far away from home. I've definitely grown even further into becoming an adult.
"Being here has allowed me to really think about what I wanted to do. It helped me focus on my dreams and passions and work to make them come true."
The sophomore is president of the Helen Foil Beard Society on campus, a service organization for women. It was that organization, under Ashley's leadership, that recently helped chase the chill of a cold January night away by staging the annual Winterfest Ball at Catawba. The event was a chance for students to don formal wear, socialize and dance the evening away.
Ashley, the middle child of a Pennsylvania State trooper and a teacher, Brian and Lisa Acken, also sits on the Student Conduct Board at Catawba. It is a role that she applied for, and in it, she affirms the strong moral foundation that she arrived with at Catawba. "It's a little uncomfortable sometimes," Ashley explains, "you really see where people's moral sets are, but we all realize that in our role, we're helping students who come before us to grow as students and we're helping build the community at Catawba."
A psychology major, Ashley chose to attend Catawba because of the college's connection to the Lancaster Seminary, which is located near her home. Before Catawba, she was part of a program at the seminary called Leadership Now, also funded, like Catawba's Lilly Center, through grants from the Lilly Endowment. A friend of hers at the seminary told Ashley about Catawba and introduced her to Dr. Kenneth Clapp, the College chaplain and Director of the Lilly Center.
"I came for a visit the summer before I began my senior year," Ashley, a Donegal High School graduate, re membered. "I absolutely loved it -- the sense of community you could get just walking on campus. I came down one more time in October and that's when I decided this is where I was going to come."
Seminary is in her future, Ashley explained. "I want to go to seminary to do a chaplaincy program – part counseling and theology. I want to go into counseling, but I want to be able to bring God into the conversation."
Also a middle child, Kyle said he has relished his time as a student at Catawba. "I have enjoyed the freedom and the independence of being on my own and also just experiencing somewhere new. I love who I am, who I've become, and what I've learned here. The personal interaction with everybody – the community – I know that sounds so cliché, but it is true."
Now a junior at Catawba, Kyle is serving his second year as a resident assistant on campus. Last year, he was an R.A. in Woodson, a freshman residence hall, and this year, he's head R.A. at Heath Hill. In that role, he is often an authority figure to his peers. "It's difficult sometimes to hold your peers accountable," he explained. "You end up walking the line between being a friend and enforcing college policy for safety reasons."
Describing himself as "an easygoing person," Kyle noted that "It takes me a while to open up to people sometimes, but after a while I do, and I'm very comfortable in my own skin."
A religion and philosophy major, Kyle said that even coming out of Tavares High School "I thought I was going into ministry of some sort." At Catawba, he took some classes with Dr. Clapp, and opted to become a Lilly Fellow. In that role, he said, "It gives me more opportunities to explore career options."
And just how did Kyle end up at Catawba? His family often vacationed in North Carolina when he was growing up, and Kyle explained, "I just always knew I was going to end up in N.C., because I just love the land and the scenery."
Kyle broke a family mold by choosing Catawba as his college. "Most of my family all went to Carson-Newman," he commented. "My dad mentioned one day that Catawba was in the same athletic conference as Carson-Newman. I applied to come here, and was told that I was in the running for the First Family Scholarship, so I came up for that scholarship competition in the spring and I was awarded a First Family Scholarship." [First Family Scholarships are Catawba's most prestigious academic scholarships. Academically gifted students are invited to compete for these awards and competition involves a structured on-campus visit with much faculty interaction.]
The son of Carl Hendrick and Bethany Skipper and a member of the Philomatheons, a men's service organization on campus, Kyle said he plans to "do something in the nonprofit world" after graduation.
"I've done a lot of mission work with my church. I've been to Jamaica a couple of times, to Mexico, and on mission trips to places in Florida and Georgia. There's been various moments on these trips that have caught me off guard with how little the people had, but how happy and content they were with what they had."
About Catawba College [Quick Facts]
Founded in 1851, Catawba is located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina and is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. It is a four-year, private residential institution with a student body of approximately 1,000 students.
Catawba's mission is centered on giving students "an education rich in personal attention that blends the knowledge and competencies of liberal studies with career preparation." Catawba students receive an education that not only prepares them for their first job, but for the various jobs they will hold during their working lives.
Through the work of Catawba's Lilly Center and a strong experiential learning and internship program, students are encouraged to consider and explore various vocations. Catawba offers over 40 different academic fields of study in an atmosphere that is personal thanks to a 16-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.
The College fields 18 NCAA Division II athletic teams and offers plenty of opportunities for students to get involved on campus thanks to 40 clubs and organizations on campus.
For more information on Catawba, or to plan a visit to the campus, contact the Admissions office at 1-800-CATAWBA or through the website at www.catawba.edu.