In her hometown of Boise, Idaho, Mara ran the One Stone Foundation, which aims to foster extraordinary change through leadership, compassion, and acts of service to foster extraordinary change. The projects that were fundamental in her understanding of service learning and community development included a student-led fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho that raises $100,000 annually, a book for teens with cancer, and one of the first alternative spring breaks for high school students in the country (Break Through).
Following Mara’s freshman year at Vanderbilt, she completed an Ingram Summer Project in Seattle, Washington with Gilda’s Club, a non-profit cancer support community for anyone suffering from or impacted by cancer. Mara planned Camp Sparkle, a weeklong day camp for children facing cancer. Mara also led weekly art-therapy classes at Gilda’s Club. Mara had the pleasure of returning to Camp Sparkle in 2011 to assist with the camp a year after her summer project in Seattle.
During Mara’s sophomore year, she began to narrow her service focus to the educational inequities that exist in Nashville. Mara worked with Maplewood High School in East Nashville in the Algebra department. However, Mara’s focus was on publishing a young adult novel she wrote entitled Fifteen Fragments: Service is a Learning Story. This novel looks at the ways everyone in the world is connected and how we can share our stories as an impetus for service learning. Additionally, all profits from Fifteen Fragments pay for creative writing education (The Edit), which is currently taught in Nashville. Fifteen Fragments is currently available on Amazon and more information about the book is available at www.fifteenfragments.org
Shortly after publishing Fifteen Fragments, Mara completed a second summer project with fellow Ingram Scholar Hanna Chapman in London, England. Mara worked with two homeless day centers in Central London (Baron’s Court Project & New Horizon Youth Center). Mara’s project focused on teaching creative writing as a marketable skill for employment and a mode of social justice.
Mara’s experience in London set the stage for the policy and research work she completed during her junior year. She began the year with an internship at the Tennessee Historical Society as a support system for the National History Day program. In the fall, Mara began researching creative writing teaching pedagogy and the policies that currently exist in the realm of arts education. This research carved out the time and space for Mara to work on fully developing the curriculum for The Edit, which is the creative writing program funded by Fifteen Fragments. In the spring, Mara began teaching a test model of the curriculum at LEAD Academy in Nashville.
During the summer after Mara’s junior year, she completed a Faculty Fellowship with Dr. Neely (Peabody College) in Nashville assessing the efficacy of creative writing education. Mara spent two weeks completing research in New York and Chicago and six weeks in Nashville teaching at Martha O’Bryan and conducting research.
Mara hopes to continue establishing writing workshops in Nashville during her senior year while assessing policies relating to arts education. Mara’s three years as an Ingram Scholar have forced her to constantly rethink the idea of a servant leader and how to weave service into the simple moments. Mara is eternally grateful to the Ingram family to be a cog in the wheel of the incredible Ingram Scholarship Program.