I graduated from college last Sunday. The weekend leading up to graduation was filled with senior events celebrating and honoring our time at the university. My parents sat beside me as I was reminded at each event how privileged I was to be receiving a college degree.

I am privileged to receive a college degree. I believe I am even more privileged to receive a college degree from a small liberal arts institution because of the challenging and wholesome interdisciplinary education my university prides itself in. Student speakers reiterated the challenging theories, opinions, and circumstances they faced during their collegiate experience at each senior event. My peers spoke about core curriculum, studying abroad, and frolfing (frisbee golf) but none spoke about what I was most thankful for as I approached graduation: my parents.

My mother cried when each of her three children learned to read. She cried because she understood the importance of reading in becoming a lifelong learner. Both of my parents share a passion for education and supported me in my educational journey. They told me I could do well and supported me in my efforts which I believe to be an excellent formula for success.

Early on, my parents diligently taught and showed me the importance of learning. Many of my classmates didn’t care about class material because they didn’t think they would ever use the information out of the classroom. My parents made my world an educational experience where I could use my knowledge. I was asked to calculate percentages of sale items at the grocery store and explained to the science of why noodles needed to be cooked longer at higher altitudes. My parents connected school and everyday life which made me more passionate about learning.

My parents discussed the goals they thought I could achieve. Without setting unrealistic expectations, my parents inspired me to set higher goals than I had originally envisioned for myself. My mother and father were confident in my abilities which made me more confident in myself.

As I set out to achieve my goals, I received help and support from my parents. My father spent countless nights helping me with math and physics homework at the kitchen table and my mother spent countless hours reading and editing my essays. Whenever I needed help, I could count on my parents to be there. They were never too tired from work or too busy to help me succeed. And though  I received much help from my parents, I was pushed to advocate for myself and to not rely on my parents. My parents equipped me with the tools to complete work on my own so I would be prepared to be an independent adult.

Tough conversations accompanied my rigorous academic load. As I became more aware of controversial topics, my parents explained what different groups of people believed and why and explained how they came to their own personal conclusions. They showed me the value of critical thinking. I was taught to consider other opinions, ask questions, and be willing to change my answer based on what I found. I was assured that having different beliefs from my parents would not make them love me less.

My parents were teachers. They showed me how to learn for myself. The depths of their knowledge inspired me. Whenever I had questions about how or why something worked, one of my parents had an answer. My aspiration was to be as knowledgeable as my parents.

The separation of 360 miles did not stop my parents from supporting me in college. Weekly Sunday night conversations with my parents kept me grounded as due dates and daily events tried to suck me into a whirlwind of chaos. Unless my parents were out of cell service, I could catch them for at least a few minutes on the phone when I needed help or wanted to process my thoughts. At the mention of tonsillitis, my mother dropped her commitments and drove six hours to help me so I wouldn’t have to face hardship on my own. My parents have consistently been my rock throughout life.

I have never felt pressured to pursue any particular career or hobby by my parents. Instead, I was pushed to sharpen my talents and passions so they might become instruments for creating a better world. What a joy it has been to have parents who believe my options are as endless as I do.

As I end my formal educational career, I will continue to set high goals and continue to learn wherever I can. My schooling and my life have been enhanced by the guidance, instruction, and support of my parents. Thank you both for exemplifying excellent parenting, for showing me how to be a kind and caring individual and for helping me grow into my identity.

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