IT’S COLD HERE IN PORTLAND, Oregon, as we recover from a rare snow. The roads are fine for my Minnesota-honed driving skills, but I call Brandon (name changed) anyway to make sure he feels safe making the icy trek to our meeting place. He’s says he’s good to go, and a short while later the wind blows me through the coffee-shop door into a wonderful warm world smelling of fresh coffee and pastries. I see a slightly nervous, well-dressed teenager sitting at the very first table. “Brandon?” He rises instantly to shake my hand and exchange pleasantries. His voice is soft and his eyes seem too big for his slender build. I get a cup of coffee and watch him out of the corner of my eye. He stares intently at his notebook, with the slouch of someone whose body has grown barely faster than his confidence.

“So,” I say, sliding into the chair across from him. “You’re applying to Macalester. Let’s start there! What about Mac is interesting to you?” And just like that, Brandon comes alive. He tells me about his dreams of international reconciliation and the work he’s done locally to start the process. He explains his many ideas for making the world more openminded and how much greater his impact would be with a Macalester education. He talks about global citizenship and the humanitarian work he wants to do with the U.N. His eyes grow even wider with awe when I mention hearing Kofi Annan speak when I was a student. I sense in him, as with a handful of others I’ve spoken with, a sincerity and sense of purpose I rarely see in my day-to-day life. Lots of people have dreams. A few work halfheartedly towards them. Students like Brandon scour the world for the resources needed to achieve them.

People talk about the harsh transition from school into the “real world.” My biggest challenge since graduating eight years ago has been adjusting to the apathy and inertia most people accept in their lives. At Mac I cut my teeth in a community of driven, interested movers and shakers, and I naively assumed I could find that tribe anywhere. To those of you who have managed to stay surrounded by Mac-type people, I salute you. For me, Brandon and the various other prospective students the Macalester admissions office sends me to interview are beautiful diamonds in the rough. These people—the girl with fire in her eyes as she talked about art history and global politics; the young man with rough beginnings who train-hopped to Portland and passionately believes fiction is a powerful force for change; the budding progressive journalist who sought out Trump supporters in an effort to understand
them—remind me why I studied at Mac in the first place. They renew my faith in the coming generations and help me navigate this fiery zeitgeist with a fierce belief that we many will still thrive.

As I write my report that afternoon recommending Brandon to the admissions office, I feel re-energized and ponder my own work with renewed passion and clarity. I don’t doubt that Brandon will be an agent of change, wherever he goes. I feel honored that I may impact his direction, and am certain he has no idea that he inspired me as well. I click “submit report,” already looking forward to the next email: “A student in your area has requested an interview…”

MORGAN ROE ’09 lives in Portland, Ore. She owns and operates Zeitgeist Academy, which brings music to life for adults.

August 1 2017

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