Kairos Graduating Seniors

Due to circumstances, we were unable to have our annual 2020 Spring banquet, where we honor and hear from our graduating seniors. Still, we wish to celebrate their accomplishments and graduation. So, please enjoy a few words from each of them!

Caitrin Anderson

Hello, fellow Kairans! Caitrin Anderson here.

Being in this group has been a pleasure from the start. From getting to know the fun, quirky personalities of the group members to taking classes with highly involved students and professors, Kairos has been a light and joy in my life well worth the late hours I spent trying to read books like Paradise Lost (I recommend starting sooner than the night before your 9:15 class!).

I want to thank the people who made the effort to know me, even though I am not an easy person to know! Thank you to Lizzy; you encouraged me to join even though I was a junior, and you were always a great friend (I miss you!).

To Audrey, for always being a gentle listening ear and for providing care and kindness no matter when or where we met, and for everyone in chapel band last semester for making such fun times worshiping together. To the amazing leadership team that welcomes everyone so warmly, thank you.

My thanks go to the teachers who invest in us; pushing us to stretch and grow to the best of our abilities. I will carry the knowledge you have shared, from literature to politics, as a help and enrichment in my life that I hope to share with others. My most sincere gratitude goes out to my teachers for being interested in me as an individual, and for inviting and engaging me in thought-provoking and fun conversations, whether about the inefficiency of bureaucracies or the origin of the tradition of vacations as a “get-away.”

 

As I go off to work with children in Sevierville for a gap year while deciding about graduate school, I hope to share some of the knowledge, friendship, and genuine kindness I have received from this group. Thank you.  

To Audrey, for always being a gentle listening ear and for providing care and kindness no matter when or where we met, and for everyone in chapel band last semester for making such fun times worshiping together. To the amazing leadership team that welcomes everyone so warmly, thank you.

My thanks go to the teachers who invest in us; pushing us to stretch and grow to the best of our abilities. I will carry the knowledge you have shared, from literature to politics, as a help and enrichment in my life that I hope to share with others. My most sincere gratitude goes out to my teachers for being interested in me as an individual, and for inviting and engaging me in thought-provoking and fun conversations, whether about the inefficiency of bureaucracies or the origin of the tradition of vacations as a “get-away.”

 

As I go off to work with children in Sevierville for a gap year while deciding about graduate school, I hope to share some of the knowledge, friendship, and genuine kindness I have received from this group. Thank you.  

Annabelle Jones

There were two things, or ideas of myself, that I was absolutely sure of when moving in August of 2016: I was supposed to be at Lee University, and I wanted to pursue becoming a teacher.

Then came the first Kairos Gateway. We crammed into that small Leonard Center classroom, and I was absolutely positive both I and the Kairos admissions team had made a mistake. In addition to the general anxieties and newness of college, I found the statement “you’ll be with these people all four years” to be more daunting than comforting.

 

In the first two months of college, I did not make an effort to make friends. I hid under my “I prefer to be by myself” mantra and used that part of my personality to mask my lack of belonging. I remember the Friday night, sitting in my dorm room alone while my roommate was with her friends, eating Chinese takeout, and watching John Mulaney standup like it was yesterday.

 

After accepting that not all of my “alone time” was really by my choice and instead my lack of effort to put myself out there, I decided to be a little more bold. For some reason, that meant playing sand volleyball with all older Kairos members that I had never met before, and Ashley Walker. As all good Lee freshmen girls do, we played volleyball, washed the sand off of our feet in the Eternal Flame fountain, and then proceeded to stand there and talk about life and boys for at least 45 minutes. I had no idea then how many more times I’d play volleyball, make post-game Sonic runs, spend time with older Kairos members, or that I had just made one of my best friends and roommates.

Roughly a month after this night, a small group of us were going to hang out when Elise Haynes found out that we had scheduled this independently of the whole group and didn’t directly invite her. Elise, dramatic proclaiming that she would not be excluded from any group activities, joined us and very quickly became another one of my closest friends. Then, as both Ashley and Elise will confirm, we spent the next 6 months trying to determine if Ben Kaercher actually even liked us or if he just completely hated us all. Fortunately, we finally worked through this fear (but I won’t say if that was after 6 months or 3 years…)

 

I say all of this and highlight these individuals for a very specific reason: I may have been sure of my decision to come to Lee and to pursue teaching, but I walked into Kairos unsure of everything else. My first semester was challenging, uncomfortable, and defining. These people, and countless others of the last 4 years, have been the foundation of Kairos for me. I loved the classes with the extra academic challenges and the incredible professors, but I could have never anticipated the friends I would make, the comfort of this community, or how much I would grow during my time in Kairos. I constantly doubted myself and questioned my worth to this program.. I crashed during my first semester; I gained all the unhealthy freshmen habits—physically and mentally. The next three years were a slow unwinding of building better relationships, reestablishing myself academically, and finding ways to invest in what I care about. This program and the people in it truly made my Lee and Kairos experience so worthwhile and I am forever grateful for that.

 

So, to anyone else reading this, get ready for the graduate cliches: do not take this time for granted as it goes by so much faster than you would ever expect. This picture from my very first Banquet (2017) feels like yesterday. Remember what and who is important to you and invest in that, wholeheartedly and consistently. The academic and social opportunities this program provides are ultimately determined by you, so make it count.

 

-Annabelle Jones

Michaiah Samples

Dear Kairos,

It hardly feels like any time has passed at all since my very first day of college when I sat down in what is now the language café in the Walker Memorial Building, waiting for Dr. Schrock to come start our ENGL-110 class.

 

I remember eating fro-yo with my mentor on a Greenway bench and meeting my grand-mentor in one of the Humanities bathrooms. I won’t ever forget the delight and devastation that came with reading The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears, the wonder of seeing a hellbender salamander for the first time, or the great fun I had while watching Macbeth at the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta. 

I remember our game nights and Random Acts of Kindness days. I even remember when we first met each other that hot day in August when Dr. Pope took us the Service Learning Center and had us play Two Rooms and a Bomb as an ice breaker and the next day when we all loaded onto buses to volunteer at nursing homes for Deke Day.

And now it’s time for us to graduate. We are no longer baby carrots. We are educated carrots now, and I think we’re pretty awesome. We persevered. We read the books. We passed the tests. We finished the race.

For those of us who are officially graduating tomorrow (and those of us officially graduating in the summer), I’ll see you in August.

 

Until then,

Michaiah Samples

Ashley Walker

It honestly doesn’t feel like the end of a semester without Kairos banquet and I miss getting to see everyone one last time. Kairos has been the community I’ve felt most grounded in at Lee and I’ve been really grateful for this program and everyone in it. When I first applied for Kairos, I did so begrudgingly, hesitant to commit to any group that would expect me to show up to events or participate or talk to people. Obviously, I’ve changed my mind since then.

The moment that changed my mind about Kairos wasn’t the Lee Day presentation or agonizing over the essay prompts for the application. It was my phone interview. I was so incredibly nervous about the whole thing that I sat down a full thirty minutes before I was supposed to get my phone call and just waited for my phone to ring.

When it finally did, instead of the formal greeting I was expecting, I got a very excited voice on the other end of the phone: “Hello! Is this Ashley?” And, because I was a knowledgeable 16-year-old who definitely knew how grown-ups were supposed to talk on the phone, I tentatively responded, “This is she.” You know you’re sure to make a good impression with the proper case of pronoun and everything. But the next response surprised me even more. “HEY, FAM!!! What’s up?!” And that’s how I met John Weeks.

With this unexpected greeting, I quickly realized that this interview was going to be nothing like I had expected. I remember John, who was the VP of Recruitment at the time and is an all-around wonderful person, asking what my major was going to be and telling me that he was a math major. I momentarily panicked, thinking that we wouldn’t have much in common to talk about. I liked math, but I really wanted to talk about books. But talk about books we did. John asked me about how I had decided to be an English major and what I was currently reading.

I was impressed by the fact that someone who could talk with such confidence about math theories that I had never even heard of could also be so enthusiastic about other subjects just because he loved learning. So, I joined Kairos with the hope that I would be joining a community of students who similarly enjoyed and valued learning—math majors who wanted to talk about Hemingway and English majors who liked calculus.

I’ve enjoyed finding this love for learning in the Kairians I’ve gotten to know over the past four years. Kairos people are delightfully weird and have ridiculously specific interests, but I also don’t know another group of people who are as likely to get excited about research they know nothing about or to ask questions so they can understand someone else’s interests. This genuine excitement has certainly been one of my favorite parts of this program. Both the students and the professors in Kairos are serious about learning, but the mix of serious conversation and light-hearted banter is what I’ve loved so much about Kairos classes and the people in them. My interview gave me a small glimpse of what Kairos might be and I’m very glad that Kairos has more than been the community of wonderful individuals that I’d hoped it would be.

After Kairos banquet my first year, some wonderful Kairos friends and I went to Denny’s for “Pancakes and Emotions,” a tradition that has continued every year since, where we celebrate the close of a year and friends who are graduating. “Pancakes and Emotions” has grown each year, including new friends, and I’m sad to miss the last iteration of that tradition this year. Sans pancakes but with all the same bittersweet emotions, I’m immensely grateful for the friends and memories that Kairos has given me over the last four years and I’ll miss being a part of this community next year.