Semester 44: A Small, Intentional Community Where We Feel Comfortable Being Who We Are

Written by: Harry, Lucie, James L, Fritze, & Paige

This past weekend, HMI students took part in Leadville’s very own cross-country ski race, the Leadville Loppet! Students woke up at the normal time, enjoying a high protein breakfast before the big race. Students that were helping with the aid station, which was positioned around halfway through the ten-kilometer race, left at 8:15 AM. All of the racers prepared their skis, boots, poles, and costumes for the race. They left around 8:30 AM. After a very happy thirty-minute bus ride, with everyone buzzing with excitement, they pulled into Colorado Mountain College, where the race would take place. Students unpacked their equipment and suited up. After a very intense and loud stretching circle, students prepared for a little warm up on skis. Shortly after, the ten – kilometer race kicked off at 10 am. Before the 10k, the 44k and the 22k had already started. The course started off downhill, which was very exciting. Then a long continuous uphill for almost 2.5 miles! After that, apart from one steep downhill, the course was very mellow. At the finish line, the environment was amazing. Every HMI student, apprentice, and faculty were at the finish line, cheering each other on. Again, the atmosphere was amazing. After the race, there was a huge community lunch, with almost everyone who competed in the race there. It was served potluck style, where everyone in town brought in a different type of chili, desert, or drink! There was not a single frown in the room, everyone was pumped after the big race! 

Semester 44 students, since coming back from their first expedition, have been in full swing and getting into the campus life! The time here has been filled with many fun activities, meals, AMX (AM exercise), and school. At HMI, the days feel like weeks, and there is so much that is able to be packed into a given day. Normally, the students get up at around 6:15 AM, go on a run or do some other form of exercise, eat a delicious meal made by the cook crew that morning, enjoy a full day of classes, and then reconvene to eat dinner and have study hall. While the days are long, they are certainly eventful, and incredibly interesting. Community is a significant part of the residential life at HMI, a part that allows us to bond and form deep relationships in the four months that we are here. On Monday, we had our second community meeting, which was focused on gender and identity. We also have advisory lunches/meetings on some Wednesdays, which are a great time to get to know our small advisory families in a better way. Saturdays are a part of the week that every student looks forward to. During this time, students get the chance to explore the town of Leadville, and at night, participate in various activities.

At HMI, students participate in “AMX”, or AM Exercises, five out of seven days a week. Two of these days are runs, typically two to three miles, on the picturesque County Road 5A that connects HMI to the outside world. While the runs were initially tough, with the high altitude and cold temperatures taking their toll, students have persevered and adapted, growing to enjoy the stunning views and friendly conversation these runs bring. For two days of AMX, students will participate in an indoor strength or stretching workout. Previous iterations have included Just Dance routines to a variety of songs, Tae Bo workouts, and activities led by staff. For the final day of AMX, students have the opportunity to cross country ski in the place of the run, exploring the vast network of trails surrounding the campus on either a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday morning. These adventures allow students the chance to both bond with their peers and practice their skiing, a vital skill at 10,000 feet.

Semester 44 is busy with campus life, but at the end of each day we come together with our cabins. The cabins are heated by wood stoves, and each night a roaring fire is lit so that we stay warm all through the night and into the day. It has been especially cold—snowing multiple feet in the past week – so we have been happy to come back to the cabins at the end of each day with a warm fire. At 9:45, when everyone heads back to their cabins, usually we stay up and talk about our days or anything that is on our mind.  Our cabins have become a homey space, where most students have hung up pictures, posters or decorations. Every week, the cabins meet with their apprentices to discuss any logistical matters for the week, reflect on how they are doing, and share about themselves in circle. Circle is a time when a group of people come together and intentionally share about what makes each person who they are; questions range from what makes you passionate in life to having the ability to spray any 5 liquids from your fingers, what would they be. The apprentices for each cabin will typically spend one night a week sleeping in the cabins, to be there in case anything happens and for extra bonding time.  This past week each cabin elected a representative that will act as a go between for faculty and students. These representatives will also play a significant role in bringing student ideas for Semester 44 to meetings—weekend activities or policies like packages and technology. Similar to our responsibility to keep the cabins warm, we also have cabin inspection every week. This means that on Saturdays, usually at lunch time, Hayden (the judge) will check and grade each cabin on a number of chores like sweeping, shoveling the snow from our boardwalks, taking out the trash, tidying the wood stove and making our beds. Along with the grading scale, comes an opportunity to “bribe” Hayden. This means that you can earn extra points on cabin inspection by serenading her in Who’s hall or leaving drawings for her to enjoy. Overall, cabin life has been a highlight of our HMI experience thus far; it is the perfect example of the significance of a small, intentional community where we feel comfortable being who we are.  

When preparing for HMI, all of the emails and other prep materials from the faculty were full of warnings that the academics of HMI would be rigorous, and they weren’t kidding. Our days back on campus since the first expedition have been almost completely full of educational classes. Our typical weekday schedule includes classes from 9:00am until 5:30pm. The rumors were true, students also have classes on the first half of Saturdays. Weekend classes take place before hours of free time to hang out, do homework, nap or shower, and also before the students depart for town time: time for the students to separate into small groups or individuals to explore the streets and local shops of Leadville. To a typical high schooler, this weekly schedule full of classes sounds completely undesirable, but semester 44 students have given feedback about how enjoyable the classes are; specifically because all of the teachers are so engaging and truthfully make learning enjoyable. Many students have been reflecting on the rigor of the academic courses at HMI as well, stating that they have “never read this much poetry” or “have never intentionally annotated a text in this depth”. Still, students have found themselves excited for their next class, or continuing discussions from class at meals. With this being said, students have also been reflecting on the workload now built into their nightly routine. During study hall periods, which are 2 hours dedicated to getting schoolwork done, you can find students filling the main buildings. Who’s Hall (the dining hall on campus), Hope Library (HMI’s library), and The Classroom (a classroom on campus) are all spaces used for a coffee-house type feel, where students are free to chat and laugh alongside friends while engaging in the homework they have to complete for the next day. The East Building is used during study hall for students wishing for complete silence during their work time. Over the past few days as the academic workload has been building, more and more students have been found taking advantage of the silent rooms of the east building.