January 18, 2018 Achievements

GEAR UP Coordinator Reflects on Letter to Herself from 10 Years Ago

Last May, Amber Kilburn received something completely unexpected in the mail.

The 33-year-old Sioux City woman opened an envelope containing a new letter from her former psychology professor, Jack Hill, as well as a letter written by herself, 10 years earlier.

In 2007, Hill, the longtime head of Morningside’s psychology department, began asking graduating students in his Psychology Capstone class to compose letters to their future selves.

Since then, he’s given the same assignment to students attending the class.

“It’s a pretty open-ended assignment,” he said. “They can write about anything they wanted to as long as they showed how psychology would impact their lives 10 years in the future.”

While Hill admitted some of the students didn’t take the assignment very seriously, others did.

Kilburn was one of the psychology students who fell into the latter category.

“At the time, I wanted (the assignment) to reflect my entire college experience. That’s why I also enclosed letters from my closest Morningside friends as well as a letter written to the fiancee (Eric Kilburn) I married after graduation,” the former Amber Clausen recalled.

Last spring, Hill began rereading the letters students had written a decade earlier.

“Professors seldom stay in contact with their students,” he said. “Students move away, start careers and begin the next stages of their lives.”

However, Hill still wanted to track down his students in order to distribute their 10-year-old class assignments.

“I imagined the letters would give students insight to their former selves,” he reasoned. “Obviously, a 22-year-old is not the same person he will be at 33.”

Kilburn said she barely remembered the letter she had written. Reading the unrealized dreams and ambitions of her 22-year-old self left her feeling conflicted.

“When I was younger, my dream was to become a lawyer,” she said. “I thought I’d be a natural for law school because I’m used to being in front of people, I like to argue, and I enjoy wearing suits.”

In the years following her graduation, Kilburn continued to work as her husband, Eric, now the principal at Sioux City’s Unity Elementary School, pursued his graduate degree.

Then, the couple began a family when son Brixton, now 7, and daughter Brynnley, now 5, were born.

“Nothing turned out like I thought it would be when I was 22 years old,” Kilburn acknowledged. “I had a lot of plans but sometimes life gets in the way.”

Did she have any regrets?

“Absolutely not,” Kilburn said. “I’m afraid I wanted to become a lawyer more for prestige than anything else. Plus, I found out wearing leggings were more comfortable than wearing suits.”

In addition, she finds working as a coordinator for the Sioux City Community School District’s Gear Up program very fulfilling.

“I help prepare students get ready for their post-secondary education,” Kilburn said. “I prepare them for their future.”

by Earl Horlyk