Today I celebrate my daughter, Summer. In April, she graduated from college with a degree in international affairs. Her academic accomplishments were many, as were her personal accomplishments. I’d like to share about both of these things as a testament to her hard work and resiliency, and with her permission, I share her story.
We moved to Florida after Summer’s first year in high school. She was excited and optimistic about the move, but the transition turned out to be much more difficult than she anticipated. While making friends came easy, finding close ones was a challenge. It wasn’t until late in her senior year that she found her best friends. School was easy, too easy; Summer felt academically unchallenged, especially during her first year in Florida. As a swimmer, she failed to find a connection with the coaches and teammates in Florida and began to hate the sport which she had previously loved and excelled. She was sick ALL THE TIME, and she was depressed. In February of her senior year, she lost her father, and shortly thereafter had a falling out with her friends. She then watched as her stepfather, Daniel, was diagnosed with cancer and had to suffer through treatments. She had no desire to participate in the traditional senior events, including homecoming and the prom.
Despite all that, Summer was an excellent student, earning all As, even with a course load of mostly AP classes. She was inducted into two honor societies, and her grades, SAT scores and volunteer experience qualified her for a Bright Future Scholarship, which essentially covered her tuition at a state university in Florida. She became politically active, volunteering to help with local and state level campaigns, and at the ACLU. She was not afraid to speak up for what she believed in, which led to trips to the Principal’s office a time or two. She worked year-round as a lifeguard, swim instructor and a juice bar. She also sought professional help for her depression.
Nonetheless, she enthusiastically embraced studying abroad her freshman year of college and travelled all over Europe. Of course, there were huge Covid setbacks. She was forced to leave her home in Europe abruptly as borders began to shut down, and lost the opportunity to finish her studies scheduled in Valencia, Spain and Panama City, Panama. A year later, Covid restrictions also cancelled her study abroad plans in Prague. Summer spent her second year in Tallahassee but did not have a single class in person, which made it challenging to connect with professors and classmates. She was conflicted between her desire to embrace and enjoy college life, and the guilt of not being home to spend more time with Daniel as he continued to decline. Still, she persevered; joining the FSU boxing team, became an English tutor for a Syrian refugee living in Turkey, and mentoring a young Spanish-speaking boy who had recently immigrated to the US, and she continued to work. Finally, in her third (and last year), she was able to attend classes in person on campus. She embraced the interaction with fellow students and professors. She became a Social Action Intern at Hillel and Repair the World and organized monthly events to educate and inspire women.
Summer is truly an inspiration. She sought out so many opportunities that filled her heart with purpose and passion, while overcoming endless obstacles. She developed and nurtured friendships with people all over the US and the world. She studied hard, earning her degree in three years with highest honors. She applied to graduate schools in the US and abroad; selecting the Brussels School of International Studies in Belgium for the Master’s Program in International Affairs.
As I think of how resilient she has been these last three years, I think of the white board that hung on the wall of her room with only the three words written in capital letters: IT WILL PASS. It served to remind her that she could get through even the most challenging times. She is wise beyond her years.
I AM SO IMMENSELY PROUD of her hard work, positive attitude, and tremendous success. My baby is going to change the world!