Meet Dena Hinkle

Dena Hinkle Liberty

Building Lives that Inspire

When Dena Hinkle joined the staff at Liberty Classical Academy, she did so with a passion to see young people pursue a better future. While she wasn’t exactly sure how her history would merge with the opportunity before her, she knew what she cared about. She has this notion that students are made in love and for a purpose, and before life happens and the "shoulds" of adulthood nag at them, they need to discover it.

So Dena decided to do something about it.

Introducing the Liberty Classical College Readiness Program

By helping students see the opportunities in front of them, Upper School students can begin to own their decisions. They can consider something bigger. And when that happens, decisions about the future are no longer centralized around mom and dad or family tradition or geography or fear. They’re not limited to just talking about schools or degree programs or financial aid options.

The Liberty Classical Academy’s College Readiness Program is not built from a desire to see students go to college and get good jobs…at least not only that desire. The program is about helping students understand themselves and the way they’re made. It’s about connecting the most compelling parts of a person’s unique, God-given design with the path that is best for them. It’s about opening eyes and sparking hope. Just like everything else at Liberty Classical, the desire is to see students find a world of greater possibilities…a world of Truth.

And it’s built so that students will discover that Truth gives them a blank check for the world around them. Truth gives them keys to a kingdom that few have the courage to explore. And Truth gives them eyes to see and ears to hear what seems impossible to most.

The “Readiness” Starts Early

The program that Dena has built for our Upper School students is both practical and aspirational. It gives them a tangible guide to the next steps of their lives and it gives them permission to dream of a life that could be. It involves students getting to know themselves as well as getting to know the world around them.

It starts by taking our 9th grade students through Strong’s Interest Inventory. Here, students begin to unpack their own interests, hobbies, and passions, and consider how each attribute and idiosyncrasy helps them understand their own wiring. Do they like working with kids? They should try volunteering at a day camp. Do they like working with their hands? They should connect with apprenticeship opportunities. These types of self-assessment tools give students practical exposure to their passions that will help them take strides in self-awareness. The exercise helps them “practice” their passions, to see if they are worth nurturing.

Each year that follows, the guidance and self-assessment continues. In their sophomore year they take the Myers Briggs, where they learn more of the “bones” of who they are and how they’re wired. In their junior year, it’s the StrengthsFinder assessment, where students work to discover their strengths and identify their weaknesses. The senior year is where our students synthesize all three of these assessments in one-on-one meetings with Dena. She helps them take the information they’ve discovered about their interests, their personalities, and their strengths so they can identify the types of majors, programs, and opportunities that best fit the way God made them. She helps them discover themselves, and then helps them find the path that will help them become their very best.

Exploring the World…Imagining the Future

For an Upper School student, a college visit isn’t just about finding exactly where he or she will go to school after Liberty. It’s more than finding an exact path; it’s gaining a grander view of the future. As part of the program, students have the opportunity to visit various colleges around the country with their classmates. This past year, they went to Washington D.C. Here they were able to marry the history of our nation with the potential in their own stories.

While the students who went on last Fall’s trip may not attend George Mason, George Washington, the U.S. Naval Academy, or Johns Hopkins, they need to know that these schools, and schools like them across the country and globe, are available to them. They can think bigger. They need to see that they don’t need to limit themselves or their potential based on their past or their assumptions.

The real beauty of what Liberty Classical is doing in our Upper School students through the College Readiness Program comes back to that notion of Truth. By connecting students with what is True (about themselves, about God, about how He made them, about why they’re here on earth, about the world around them, and about the opportunities available to them), this program is setting them free.

Imagining a Greater Future

Building a life that inspires isn’t about the college that someone goes to or the money someone makes. It’s not a job title or a GPA. It’s not measured with traditional metrics.

A life that inspires is something much more elusive…and much more exciting.

It’s boldness. It’s confidence in what is true and what matters. It’s courage to act. It’s trailblazing and it’s entrepreneurial. It’s examined living and calculated risk. A life that inspires is uninhibited by fear, because it understands that fear is nothing more than imagining a life without God, and a life that inspires knows that there is no such thing. A life that inspires is a life that is lived according to what is True.

Dena Hinkle has built something great for Liberty Classical’s Upper School students. It equips them with knowledge and gives them tools to make good choices. It gives them direction and wisdom while giving them someone to walk beside on the journey.

And the best part: it gives them the hope that they deserve to have for their futures.