Timika Shafeek-Horton ’86 wasn’t thinking about attending a boarding school while growing up in Dayton, Ohio. It simply wasn’t on her radar as an eighth grade student. But after a teacher talked to her about attending boarding school, she and her mother decided to take a look at Culver Academies since it was close to home.
“The setting at Culver was completely different from where I went to school. The expansiveness of it all drew me in,” she said. While Shafeek-Horton was sold, she didn’t enroll immediately because of her hometown connections. She stayed in Dayton for her freshman year, then arrived at Culver as a sophomore.
“I’m glad I did,” she said of making the decision to come. “I have always been grateful for my experience at Culver.”
Three years later, she would enter the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as one of Culver’s 48 Morehead-Cain Scholars. On the advice of Culver track and field coach Mike Chastain, she walked on at the UNC team, running the 800 and 400 hurdles all four years.
Her biggest influence in the classroom was Dr. Charles Bayless, who taught her research skills, the importance of details, and, the value of writing well.
“I am a lawyer now,” she explained, “and writing is the primary way I communicate.”
Her dorm counselor at the time was Emily Ryman SS’70. Shafeek-Horton said Ryman taught her how to advocate for herself and others. “It is something I use every day,” she said. She learned that if “you want something, ask for it. Don’t assume people will know what you want. Asking for what you want is not being too forward, assertive, aggressive or conceited.
“In a way, it says I’m ready for this, I think I deserve this, or I’ve earned this. That’s something that Culver taught me.”
She also valued seeing adults in a different roles. “You see them in dorms, on the sports fields,” she explained. “They can be one way in the classroom, where the focus is on learning, and then you see them on the sports field and they are completely different.”
It’s important for teens to see the adults in their lives in more than one role, she said.
Culver didn’t shape her, Shafeek-Horton explained, “it contoured me.” It was one of her big building blocks.
“You don’t get to point D without point A or B. I think Culver is my point A or B. It verified the importance of taking advantage of all the opportunities. Not just the opportunities that you could avail for yourself, but those you use to benefit others. It is a lot of who I am.”
That’s why she has always been willing to give back to Culver. She has been a member of the Culver Legion Board; volunteered to assist Culver’s Morehead-Cain Scholars while they are at Chapel Hill; participates in the Culver Connections Weekend; and has attended several reunions.
“It’s an easy ask,” Shafeek-Horton said. “If Culver thought I could be helpful in some way, why wouldn’t I want to do it.”
For the past four years, she has had the opportunity to see Culver through her daughter Amina’s eyes. A senior, Amina is enjoying experiences that Shafeek-Horton didn’t have. There are more leadership opportunities within the CGA prefect system. Students can lead – or even start – a campus club. They also have added responsibilities while serving as a captain of an athletic team. In each case, the students are learning how to work together and collaborate in new and innovative ways.
Shafeek-Horton said Amina was sold on Culver as a fifth grader. When she came with her mother during a reunion weekend, she marveled at the variety of activities “in one place. This made it the ideal situation for her.”
With so many options available, Shafeek-Horton believes it is not a case of “What can I do here?” but rather a case of “What can’t I do?” This holistic view has further enhanced the student experience.
Shafeek-Horton also appreciates the openness that has developed on campus over the past 30 years. The teacher lecture format has given way to an open discussion among students whose perspectives are influenced by their country, culture, and socio-economic status. Sitting in on Amina’s classes during parents weekend, she has witnessed those discussions during the Humanities classes.
Still, Culver has not sacrificed the importance tradition plays in developing the students. Shafeek-Horton said the Veterans Day, Vespers, and the Gold Star ceremonies that were so important to her are largely unchanged. She appreciates how the history and tradition of the institution has been blended in with the refinements in the leadership opportunities and education.
“I couldn’t be happier to have my daughter here,” she said, “It’s a really great place for her.” Her husband, Arthur, who was reluctant to let Amina go so far from home at first is now one of Culver’s “biggest supporters,” she added.
Through Amina, who is a Batten Scholar, Timika has been able to watch Culver “live out its mission” in real time. And she sees the valuable connections Amina is developing. While touring colleges earlier this year, Amina was able to connect with Culver graduates at the schools and the family got a personalized tour of campus.
“It is such a great network,” Shafeek-Horton said. “Culver graduates are everywhere.”
Shafeek-Horton just wishes more people knew about Culver. Even in the Midwest, few people know that there is a boarding school located by a large lake in northern Indiana.
“It is hard to believe that there is this world-class boarding school here,” she said. “People have to visit. Talk to the students. I can’t imagine that they would find someplace better.”
And she encourages alumni to come back and spend time with the students and instructors. “Do a day in the life,” she said. They will walk away amazed.
“It’s so much more now than when I was here,” she said, “and it was pretty great then.”