Christ-centered community, outdoor adventure, and time to ask life’s big questions – that’s what the Vanguard Gap Year is all about. Along the way, Vanguards travel, earn college credits, build work experience, and deepen their faith in Christ. Embrace the adventure, explore Vanguard!
The Vanguard Gap Year takes place at HoneyRock, the Outdoor Center for Leadership Development of Wheaton College. Located by the Nicolet National Forest in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, HoneyRock sits on 900 acres on a chain of 28 lakes. Since 1951, HoneyRock has provided college preparation, leadership development, and spiritual formation for youth and young adults. Continue reading to learn more about the Christian, liberal arts gap year of Wheaton College!
Christ-Centered Community: From family-style meals to bible studies to life on life interaction, Vanguards are encouraged, mentored, and discipled by our school year community. They join our school-year community of recent college grads, graduate students, professional staff (and their families!), and full-time volunteers. This diverse group represents over 30 college majors, 20+ colleges/universities, 15 states, and ranges in age from 2-72.
Outdoor Adventure: The year kicks off with a 6-day backpacking trip along the pristine Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. During the year, Vanguards participate in a wide variety of optional seasonal activities: rock climbing, kayaking, canoeing, water skiing, broomball, hockey, ice skating, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and more. While Vanguards need to like the outdoors, no previous outdoor experience is necessary to enjoy the year!
Cultural Exploration through Travel: Over the course of 9 months, Vanguards take three cultural immersion trips: 1) backpacking along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 2) Costa Rica with Students International 3) Lawndale Neighborhood of Chicago, IL. Between these 1-2-week experiences, Vanguards travel throughout the Northwoods and surrounding areas to learn about and participate in the unique offerings of our rural community.
Transferable College Credit: Instead of sitting on a computer or in a classroom to earn credits, Vanguards are taught 100% in person by Wheaton College staff, faculty, and guest professors in our dynamic environment. The outdoor activities, cultural immersion experiences, seminars, and community living are counted towards 8-12 transferable credits from Wheaton College.
Work Experience: Three days a week, Vanguards work alongside our professional staff in a number of operational areas of camp – guest services, barn, construction, kitchen, auto shop, grounds, and the office. In addition to learning practical life skills and developing a healthy work ethic, Vanguards are experiencing a wide variety of work environments that help discern their career path.
Vocational Discernment: Everything about the Vanguard Gap Year is geared towards vocational discernment – helping Vanguards build a compelling vision for their future that brings together their God-given strengths and passions.
Interested in learning how this all comes together in “a week in the life” of a Vanguard? Let’s connect at firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Participant ReviewWrite a Review
Vanguard was a great experience and came at the perfect time in my life. I came into the program with a variety of unrealistic expectations. I was envisioning an easy year to relax and take a break from school, but thankfully, this was not my Vanguard experience and also not what I needed most. God knew that I needed a year of growth, and I soon discovered that growth requires hard work. Vanguard was one of the most challenging, yet beneficial experiences I have ever had. I highly recommend this program.
"I’ve built meaningful relationships, broadened my global Christian perspective, learned more about relating to others, and formed a firm foundation in my faith – I have a wider sense of how God can work through me."
Our situation was unique in that Adam first went to college. While at college, he didn’t find a good fit and stepped back to re-evaluate. Vanguard was wonderful for Adam because it gave him time to grow; both in faith and in maturity. He enjoyed working, serving, and adventuring during his time in the Northwoods. He found a passion for sharing Christ, teaching people about God’s creation, and being present in relationships. We like to say he found both “a passion and a program” during Vanguard. Our son was provided space to discern what he wanted to study in college and apply to his career: Outdoor Leadership at John Brown University. A Christian gap year program like Vanguard helps young adults grow their faith, develop good habits, learn the importance of Christian community, and build relationships with role models who speak truth. If your student does not feel confident about going to college due to social, vocational, or motivational reasons, we recommend Vanguard!
In the end, what we loved most about the Vanguard experience is the way that it helped our daughter discern her calling. The Vanguard Gap Year’s international immersion trip to the Dominican Republic was truly life changing for Julianna. For years, she’d dreamt of becoming a missionary in a Spanish speaking country, and this trip was perfect for exploring that desire. The day after she returned, she Skyped us saying that although she loved every minute in the DR, she felt God showing her that He wanted her elsewhere. Julianna realized she wanted to teach in a Spanish speaking environment here in the United States, in an inner city or otherwise underprivileged area. She will graduate in 2020 from Hope College with a degree in Spanish education, and she could not be happier. When asked if the Vanguard Gap Year was worth it, our answer is a wholehearted “yes!” Julianna made lifelong friends. She had time and space to relax, reflect, pray, work, deepen her faith and think about her future—all away from the pressures of "regular" life. She learned new skills in cooking and carpentry. She studied her Bible every day alongside her friends. She shared life with a wonderful group of people, including her fellow Vanguards, their amazing counselors and all of the staff at HoneyRock.
My Vanguard experience thought me the importance of taking time to stop amidst the business of life and be present with the Lord and others around me. I have also learned to dwell where I am at, and not be enveloped in the worries of the present and the future. The intentionality of the program, with time for soloing, the emphasis placed on authentic community and applicable spiritual practices woven into the daily life as a Vanguard have brought to light the importance of sometimes taking life slowly and providing the perfect environment to do so in. This has been a lesson that has been hard to learn, but has produced so much fruit in my life and walk with the Lord.