AHS alum takes year off from college to study in India

By Mercedes Binh Ly of Ashland Daily Tidings. (Original article can be found here.)
Briana Lescher

With the help of the local community, Briana Lescher will embark on a spiritual journey to India this fall.

The 18-year-old graduate of Ashland High School is seizing the opportunity to learn more about herself and her life’s purpose through a unique program call LEAPYear, based in San Francisco.

LEAPYear is a yearlong experiential college-alternative program designed to give young adults the experiences and tools to make the transition into adulthood. The program aims at helping students grow and discover themselves through physical, mental, social, spiritual and cultural challenges.

“The program is designed to focus on inner growth; finding your passion in life,” said Lescher. “It sets you up in a career track based on your interests.”

Lescher, who has deferred her academic studies from Northern Arizona University in international relations, will garner 24 semester college credits through the one-year program.

The program, slated to begin Aug. 30 and run through the first week of June 2006, will include eight weeks at the program’s retreat center in Northern California; 10 weeks study in India; a rite-of-passage ceremony after Christmas break; a three-month independent international internship; and one year of ongoing support and resources.

“I look at this as such an amazing opportunity,” Lescher said. “I think we live in a bubble in the U.S. I think it’s important to increase our knowledge of what the world has to offer and different ways of living.

“I’m really excited to see how I deal with certain unexpected challenges. I expect to gain more clarity about myself and the world around me,” she added.

Program participants will gain exposure to Indian spiritual traditions and practices, including Buddhism and Hinduism; learn Buddhist monk studies and meditation; work in an orphanage; study yoga at the foot of the Ganges; trek in the Himalayas; and learn the Hindi or Tibetan language.

According to Lescher, she was a “perfect fit” for the India program due to her deep interest in spirituality.

“I’m really curious about spirituality,” she said. “I think it’s a big chunk of who we are and how we relate to the world around us. It’s an important aspect of everyone and I would like to develop it in myself.”

Lescher says she hopes to raise $6,000 during a one-day silent auction and raffle fundraiser. The event is scheduled for 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Friday, at Hidden Springs Wellness Center located behind DJ’sVideo at 1651 Siskiyou Blvd. in Ashland.

The Ashland community has donated a variety of goods and services for the silent auction. Some of the gift prizes include pottery, jewelry, artwork, a piano, gift certificates for massages, tandem paragliding lessons and dinners for two, feng shui and chiropractic consultations, and a week stay in Hawaii donated by the Gift House Foundation on the island of Kauai.

The Adventure Center in Ashland sponsored the grand prize $270 rafting trip package for two in the upper Klamath River for the raffle fundraiser.

For more information or to make a donation, contact Briana Lescher at 482-4477. For more information about the LEAPYear Program, visit their Web site at www.leapnow.org/leapyear.

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