They’re 2020 graduates and their ceremony was canceled or postponed, but rather than dwell on a missed rite of passage, these young men are making the way brighter for others.
Narrow Gate Foundation wants to find them and share their inspirational stories and they need your help. The faith-based nonprofit has launched a nationwide search, Inspire US 2020, to identify ten young men—five 2020 college graduates and five 2020 high school graduates—who are making a difference in extraordinary ways. The prize is any young man’s dream–a six-day Build-Your-Own Guitar Retreat at Narrow Gate Lodge, one hour southwest of Nashville, Tenn., near the Duck River in Williamsport.
Anyone (outside of Narrow Gate employees and their families) may submit a nomination at www.InspireUs2020.org in as little as five minutes. The deadline is May 31.
“It’s part of the American dream—graduating and preparing to make your mark on the world, whether that looks like pursuing more education or landing your first full-time job,” said Bill Spencer. Bill and his wife, Stacy, are founders and executive directors of Narrow Gate. “This year, for many young men, that dream has been crushed. High school graduations have been canceled or postponed. College graduations have gone online. First jobs have turned into layoffs and furloughs. But rather than giving up hope, young men across our nation are inspiring hope. And Narrow Gate is looking for them!
“We want to share the good they’re doing so that it spreads, becoming more contagious than the virus we’re warring against. And while we can’t replace the rite of passage that’s been taken from them, we can offer them a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says Spencer.
“Many schools are turning to virtual events and we want to provide a REAL event—real outdoors, real sawdust, real hands-on woodworking training, real relationships with peers. We realized that’s something we’re uniquely positioned to do, and we’re able to do that even while adhering to social distancing guidelines,” Stacy Spencer adds.
“Taking raw materials and transforming them into objects of beauty and usefulness—that’s what we do at Narrow Gate. Our Make-Your-Own-Guitar Workshop is one of our short-term opportunities, but we’re best known for the tuition-free, eight-month experience we offer for young men ages 18 – 25 who are searching for direction for their lives. Some have graduated and others are taking a gap year. During their stay, as they craft wood and leather into objects of beauty and usefulness, they recognize that it is an analogy of the transformation happening in their lives. Over the past 16 years, more than 450 young men have participated in this life-changing experience.
“As we asked ourselves how we could use what we’ve been given to encourage and inspire others during this challenging time of COVID-19 impact, we found the answer was right in front of us. We decided to create a milestone experience for ten young men, graduates of 2020, who are paying it forward rather than looking at what they’ve lost.
“We originally launched our high-end guitar-building workshops with Master Luthier Grant Batson, Narrow Gate’s director of artisan education and co-founder of Batson Guitars, to raise money and help keep Narrow Gate Lodge tuition-free. Inspire Us 2020 is a mashup of the guitar-building class and the eight-month experience,” Stacy Spencer says.
According to Spencer, Winners will be chosen from the candidates who best exemplify one or more of the core values of Narrow Gate: generosity, selflessness, devotion, community, growth and/or excellence.
Winners of Inspire Us 2020 will receive:
- Expert artisan instruction with Master Luthier Grant Batson and materials needed to build a world-class guitar
- Single-occupant lodging in a luxury treehouse (queen-sized bed, full private bath, coffee maker, mini-fridge, a/c)
- A sampling of the Narrow Gate Lodge experience
- Delicious meals
- Up to $250 to cover travel expenses. Dates are TBD for July or August 2020
Sam Etter just built a world-class guitar in one of Narrow Gate’s build-your-own retreats and says it sounds great and looks immaculate.
“Grant and Bill spent a lot of time with me helping me perfect it,” he said.
Sam is interning at Narrow Gate, after completing the eight-month experience last February. He came to Narrow Gate after earning his BS in Environmental Science from Abilene Christian University. Although he had a degree in hand, he didn’t feel like he was being productive. He went to work. He came home.
“I needed more,” he said. Today he’s interning at Narrow Gate and planning to go to seminary.
Josh Garvin is completing Narrow Gate’s eight-month experience. He is an Eagle Scout who came to Narrow Gate right after high school, searching for direction following his father’s untimely death.
“I realized I had relied on my dad to make my decisions. I couldn’t figure out what to do. At Narrow Gate, I’m coming to understand my identity and purpose. Now I know that whatever I chose to do, I’ll be doing for the right reasons.”
After he graduates from Narrow Gate this month, he plans to intern with the nonprofit. He says Narrow Gate is a great place to come after high school graduation because “There is nowhere else like this. You know it from the moment you arrive on the property. It’s inviting.”
Inspire US 2020 is sponsored by Narrow Gate Lodge, a Christian nonprofit that provides an environment for young men to discover their identity and purpose. The Build-Your-Own Guitar Retreat will offer a sampling of the nonprofit’s eight-month experience for young men ages 18 to 25.
To nominate a young man, go to InspireUS2020.com.
About Narrow Gate Lodge & Narrow Gate
Narrow Gate Lodge is an environment where young men, 18-25, discover a life that matters. The experience is open to young men who are high school or college graduates, students taking a gap year and college opt-outs. During their eight-month stay, they answer the questions, “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” Participants pursue outdoor adventures, artisan education and the ancient truths of the Bible. For more information about this transformative experience, visit www.nglodge.org. For more about faith-based nonprofit Narrow Gate, visit www.narrowgate.org.