The Graceland Experience is unique for everyone, but in the early 2000s, A GROUP OF 10 WOMEN found themselves in a friendship that would last a lifetime.
From house connections on Hanthorne and Leilani to participating in the Gadets to working together in classes, a true friendship was born between Brittany Hettrick ’07 Jensen, Chelsea Johnson ’06 McCormick, Christina Manuel ’05 Anderson, Janna Cash ’06 Gilner, Jennifer Hernandez ’05 White, Lindsay Garrett ’07 Tarwater, Lisa Ash ’09 Drackert, Meredith Hoffman ’06 Sturgis, Sara Churchman ‘06, and Sara Kendrick ’07 Glenn.
By chance, the group of Graceland women ended up in the surrounding Kansas City area after graduation. There, they nurtured this Graceland connection through dinners, a book club, and trips to the Ozarks. It was in this book club that the name The Girls of Lamoni was born after the group read “The Girls of Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship” by Jeffrey Zaslow.
“I am so grateful to Graceland for bringing us together and creating a culture and environment that fosters such meaningful relationships. I know my life is so much richer because of this group.”
LINDSAY GARRETT ’07 TARWATER
In the years to come, as they began to move away, they have stayed in touch through annual girls’ trips, video calls, and emails. “Through the book club and regular time together, our bond grew, and we became connected through supporting each other in marriage, divorce, babies, and loss. Once major life events happen, I think it is clear what and who is important, and we continued to choose to make time for each other,” said Jensen.
They even carried on Graceland traditions and held their own New Year in November celebration as a way to get together for the holidays. Even though many of the women have moved away from the Kansas City area, they have gotten creative with ways to stay in touch. “We are now spread across seven states and clearly have managed to keep in touch and remember the most important stuff. Between email, text, Marco Polo, Elfster, and Zoom, we really have to be grateful for the ways technology has helped us feel like we are much closer geographically than we truly are,” said Gilner.
As “The Girls of Lamoni” have grown up and had families of their own, there is a new generation of connections with their children which they fondly call “The Kids of Lamoni.” While subsets of this remarkable group get together more often, it is a magical moment when they can all be together. “I am so thankful to Graceland for bringing us together and creating a culture and environment that fosters such meaningful relationships. I know my life is so much richer because of this group. I think all of us would agree that we inspire and support each other to be the strongest, healthiest, most intelligent, and most thoughtful versions of ourselves,” said Tarwater.
Each spring, Graceland hosts this signature academic event for students from a variety of disciplines to present their work to fellow students, faculty, and visitors on the Lamoni campus, celebrating the University’s emerging scholars.
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