Thursday, December 3, 2009

Last Day of Classes

     Classes are complete, coursework is done, campus is quiet, Christmas is coming....we did it! The first semester is over and we haven't missed a single class--not even the eight o'clock one (although it was a struggle on some mornings to get up, get dressed, and hit Highway Nine to Lancaster in time to beat the school buses)! All coursework has been turned in, the books for next semester have been purchased, and we still haven't gotten the swine flu. So far, so good.
     Sissey is going into finals with an A average in every class. Unless she decides not to show up for exams, the forecast is looking pretty good for a spot on the Dean's List! Today, she submitted her application to serve as an advisor in the P.A.L. program (Peer Advisors at Lancaster) and has an interview with the selection panel scheduled for next week. If selected, she will attend the Southern Region Orientation Workshop (a leadership training conference), assist in new student orientation and registration, help with various campus events, take a three credit leadership class during the spring semester, and will also receive a stipend.  She has also agreed to serve on the Accessibility Review Committee at USC in Columbia. There, she will join a panel of professors, students, and engineers that meet monthly to discuss accessibility issues arising during renovation or new construction projects on either the main campus or any regional campus.
     Last week, she was one of two students chosen to speak at the annual Scholarship Luncheon- a beautiful event to thank the donors, recognize the recipients, and feed the faculty. Prior to starting classes in the fall, Sissey had received the Dr. Edward William and Mary Sue Catalano Scholarship, named in honor of the parents of the current Dean of USC-L, Dr. John Catalano. In his opening remarks, Dean Catalano spoke of  his trip to Columbia the day before to visit his 93 year old father who was unable to attend the luncheon.  Dr. Catalano remarked that he was one of 12 children, there were 35 grandchildren in his family, and 11 great-grandchildren, but that when he arrived at his father's house, there was only ONE picture on his refrigerator--and it was none other than Mary Lapsley Daly!  His father had lost a leg during the war and understood the struggles of living life with a disability. It was a bittersweet irony for my physically challenged daughter to have received an academic scholarship from a physically-challenged veteran philanthropist. There were many layers of meaning in that message--a reward for hard work and dedication, a challenge to try your hardest and to never give up, a call to give back to the world no matter what circumstances you faced in life.
     As I watched her give her speech that morning, standing behind the lecturn in a poised and confident manner, addressing a crowd of over 500 attendees,  I couldn't help but think "Is this the same nervous Nelly I drove down to South Carolina back in the fall?"
     I think not!
     I vividly remember the night we arrived--moving in under the cover of darkness, loaded with boxes and bags, struggling with suitcases, carrying an even heavier load of apprehension and nervousness. We had no idea what to expect when we arrived on campus the following morning. Coming from a small school of no more than one hundred students, would she be overwhelmed by a campus of several thousand?  She had no more than five students per class at Northstar;  would large classes and even larger lectures be more than she could handle? She knew not a single soul in the entire county, would she feel isolated and lonely?
     I think not!
     I'll be heading home for the holidays with a more confident, more mature, and more educated young lady than the frightened little girl that made the 350 mile drive down  in August. We still have a long way to go and the journey will get harder each semester, but no matter what happens from this point on, no one will ever be able to take away the fact that Sissey did it-- she took that huge leap of faith after high school, jumped out into the big, unknown world, took her chance when she got it, and went off to college.  Not only did she go, she went with bells a-ringing and angels a-singing!
     And as we drive back to Richmond, I will be singing "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and this year he's bringing a whole sack of happiness and confidence,  love and joy!"
     Plus, I think Mom and Dad are going to be pretty happy when the grades come in!

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