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Environmental Studies & Anthropology, 2006
Saint Louis, Missouri
Lives of Commitment - Grace Trinity Tutoring Program
“I was all over the place.” That is how Sara Johnson sums up her first-year eagerness to explore Macalester’s spaces and people. Looking back, she notes her path through college and into her vocation may have seemed indirect, but she now sees the logic in it.
“Lilly’s Lives of Commitment helped ground me that first year,” she recalls from her position as Sustainable Business Accounts Manager of Blue Sky Guide, an annual publication that highlights green resources and sustainable businesses in the Twin Cities. “It continued to be my primary, active commitment and the most consistent part of my four years as a student. I tried out so many things that first year that I wore myself out. I found I needed to take a break from academics and from Macalester.”
"A path can take many turns. I've learned to listen to myself and to respect the fluidity and bumps." -Sara Johnson '06
Johnson took off the fall semester of her sophomore year to teach at an environmental sanctuary near San Francisco. She credits many Macalester staff and faculty for supporting the decision to explore her options with a break from the college. Ultimately, she felt a strong pull to return to Macalester. “I felt compelled to come back,” she says. Despite her good feelings, she admits she returned to school with more questions than answers. One result was that she coupled classes in environmental studies with her then-declared
major in English, and eventually completed a double major in Environmental Studies and Anthropology.
“Sara was a student who was not overly concerned with achievement, and instead attempted to live all experiences with incredible intentionality,” says Eily Marlow, Lilly Program Associate for Macalester. “This made for an authentic though seemingly discontinuous path that allowed for incredible inner development. I often invite her back to talk with students about increasing their self-awareness during college.”
“If I could do it over, I would have sustained my involvement in the community after I returned to Macalester,” Johnson says. “Lives of Commitment gave me consistency when I returned, but I wish I had found other work in the greater Twin Cities community similar to the work I so valued in my time away. After graduation I worked at two farms, traveled a bit, then returned and became the perpetual intern. I built a pretty good resume of experience developed from pro bono and volunteer work.” Those experiences postgraduation are what led directly to Johnson’s current work.
“The advantage of Macalester is that it allows students to be seekers,” Johnson says, “and that is particularly true within its community service opportunities. It can be an awakening—on so many levels—to be in the community. It’s such an advantage if students think outside the bubble of the campus and see how Macalester’s location allows them fulfilling experiences off campus. Get involved from day one! Doing so will help you discover what is sustaining and fulfilling beyond Macalester.”
Johnson also notes that a vocation dedicated to community issues brings with it the capacity to reflect in naturally beautiful spaces. “My reality is that I need to intentionally create spaces to reflect with others,” she says. “Lilly instilled a sense of community in me in that way. I find reflective spaces in nature and in organized spaces within my various communities. All of these spaces are crucial to listening to myself and the world around me.”