By Connie Williams (parent of Sarah Foote ’15)
It has been nearly four years since we helped her move into Centennial Halls. And, when I say the oft-repeated cliché “it seems like yesterday”…. well, it does.
Our daughter chose the University of Denver even though she really knew no one coming here from her high school in Connecticut. She was looking for a different kind of experience – academics and career preparation, yes, but also something that was distinctive — outdoorsy, friendly, adventurous, different. Doing something she hadn’t done before without the safety net of familiar peers. Yet when we left her at the residence hall with that doe-eyed look of ‘now what do I do?’, we weren’t so sure.
At orientation, we heard Helen Johnson, author of the parenting guidebook “Don’t Tell Me What To Do, Just Send Money” speak on the college transition with some fairly scary advice for parents: mostly let them guide themselves and be available as a mentor. Don’t try to solve their problems for them. This is a time for learning, encountering challenges and overcoming them. And if a little failure comes along with that, let it happen – because that is where wisdom and growth can emerge. That kind of parenting, after seeing them through the trials and tribulations of high school, can seem daunting and scary. “Are you sure that doesn’t qualify as child abandonment?” said the little voice in my head. But we tried our best to give her the gift of letting her work her way through the trials, knowing we were always a phone call (or more accurately a text) away.
Fast forward to today, we are making plans for graduation parties and get-togethers. Those awkward freshman uncertainties, roommate challenges and feelings of friend-less-ness are long gone. She found her place, her field of study and her group. Now, self directed, confident and responsible, she looks ready to take on the world!!
With the help of professors, advisors and staff, plus roommates and club sports teammates, these four years have brought forth a transformation. Career services helped point toward internships and summer job opportunities and the Study Abroad program was another high point. During this time, DU has made the transition to a new chancellor and celebrated a big anniversary. Yet the system provided consistency and continuity. As the last trimester winds down and the job search heats up, the students are almost too busy to reflect on the experience just yet. But as we wrote that last tuition check, we agree that, as parents, it has been a wonderful ride. DU has been a splendid place for her growth and development. And it really does seem like it was just yesterday that the journey began.