Friday, May 9, 2008

When my graduating students let it rip

Graduation Day. I love it. I think it's really special to me now because I really didn't get a chance to walk across the stage or anything when I graduated from college years ago. But, now that I am a professor, it's really something special.

I enjoy sitting on that stage, looking at each student, so proud as they walk up to the dean to shake his hand and get that diploma. Hundreds of students. It only takes about 10 seconds for each of them to walk across the stage, 2 1/2 seconds for each year they spent in college. During the ceremony and after the ceremony there were several perfect moments.

The first happened when they introduced the professors. They had us all stand one by one as they said our names. The first few professors got a smattering of applause, and all I was hoping was that I got a little applause as well when they said my name.

Finally they got to me, and the Dean said my name, I stood, and then my graduating students let it rip! They were so loud. I was by far the loudest cheer up to that point! I know, I know, that sounds a bit weird and competitive, but dammit, I liked it, and I was really proud.

We made it through the ceremony without me crying which I considered a major feat since I am somewhat of a whimp! Afterward we were outside for a little meet and greet, my chance to finally meet the parents. I love this time. It's my chance to really let these parents, grandparents and family friends know how special ...

their child is! I love it when their faces start to beam with each word of praise.

But there was one family in particular that touched me. Sarah was one of my production students, and she had worked her butt off this semester.

She was so proud as she introduced me to her family, especially her grandfather. I was telling them how much Sarah had improved over the semester, and telling them I just knew she would soon be working in the field. Her parents just beamed with pride, but then I noticed her grandfather. His eyes were welling up. I put my hand on his shoulder and asked what was wrong. He just said he wished Sarah's grandmother could be there to see this.

That she worked so hard to make sure Sarah got to college. At this point I almost started crying along with him. But I knew that that wasn't want he needed. I just squeezed his shoulder and said, "She's here, she's here watching." He just nodded, tried to smile, and that's when Sarah reached over and said, "Come on, Grandpa, let's
go get some spaghetti." That's when he really smiled and nodded. I don't know what
the spaghetti symbolized, but for him, the spaghetti definitely brought up memories
of happier times.

As I continued to work my way through the crowd, one of my students grabbed my arm
and pulled me aside. I loved this kid. We had had spent many hours talking shop, and
talking about life. We talked about challenges he would face as a reporter, we
talked about fears, and we talked about how to deal with trauma.

Many things he would face as he heads off to a life in the middle east, working as a reporter. Ian is one of those special kids, so intense, so naive and so pure. He talked about how he wanted to show some of the positive stories coming from this part of the world, the real stories that sometimes we don't have time to show. I told him to go for it, to help people understand that they have to find time. But on this night, he didn't want to talk about the job, or stories, or fears. He just wanted to tell me thanks.

He said, "Sue, I just wanted to let you know you are my favorite mentor. I always
knew I could come to you and you would tell me the truth, even if it wasn't what I
wanted to hear. Thank you."

Man it doesn't get much more perfect than that! This was an amazing night!

Sue, Tempe

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