Clippings: A double shot of pride for parents

We buried my father more than two decades ago, and my memories of him are sadly growing more faint by the year. But I will always remember the emphasis he placed on getting a college degree — not only as a ticket to better employment, but also as a means by which to grow intellectually and socially before setting out into the world.
Needless to say, I wished my father (and mom, for that matter) were still with us as my wife and I spent a very busy two weekends in mid-May. On Saturday, May 10, our son Mark marched in the St. Michael’s College commencement ceremonies. Exactly one week later, our daughter Diane donned a cap and gown for graduation festivities at the University of Vermont.
Their respective roads to and through post-secondary education were marked with some of the customary detours, trepidations, highs and lows.
After briefly flirting with a plan to follow in her mom’s footsteps as a nurse, Diane decided to take a “gap year” after high school in order learn more about herself before committing to a career path. She experienced more in that gap year than some do in a lifetime. She did a lot of travelling, got married, returned to single life and got a healthy dose of independence while earning a living. Diane would learn a lot about herself and what she wanted to do, ultimately deciding to pursue a career in what has always been her strong suit — helping others confront and resolve their problems. She first took classes at the Community College of Vermont in Middlebury, and then enrolled in UVM’s Social Work program. Her college experience included many hours volunteering at the Lund Center, a comprehensive treatment and family support agency in Burlington.
She now knows what she wants to be — a social worker helping families in a hospital setting.
Mark took the more direct route from high school, but his road to professional self-discovery was somewhat circuitous.
Mark entered college with the goal of becoming a physician’s assistant. He liked the idea of working in a fast-paced environment, helping people, and finding a niche in a well-compensated profession.
His enthusiasm for the PA vocation waned, however, as his freshman year flew by. He was staring at three more years to earn his bachelor’s degree, and a couple more years after that to become a PA. Mark was itching to enter the workforce. In the meantime, he had joined the St. Mike’s Rescue Squad, ascending to the rank of lieutenant. Mark was responding to medical emergencies, at all hours of the day, in such communities as Colchester, Winooski and Hinesburg. He relished the adrenaline rush and the thrill of helping stabilize patients and getting them the medical help they needed.
The prospect of a few more years of the classroom couldn’t compete with being behind the wheel of an ambulance bearing a precious cargo scooting through rush hour traffic.
So Mark earned a bachelor’s in psychology that he will use as a stepping stone to an RN degree that will make him more versatile as an advanced EMT.
Mark is now taking a gap year — kind of like his sister, in reverse — during which he is driving an ambulance full-time for the UVM Medical Center and continuing to volunteer with the St. Mike’s squad.
Diane is also working two jobs — with UVM Medical Center and the Lund Center. She is looking to earn a master’s degree in social work.
With their goals so well-defined and their hard work coming to fruition, my wife Dottie and I were understandably proud parents as we watched our two young people receive their diplomas. I wore out my cell phone camera with various cap-and-gown shots (some of them actually in focus). We consider ourselves extra lucky that Mark and Diane have come to love Vermont and have found work here. That might change as they consider further studies and/or job opportunities, but we know they’re on their way and that they know how to get back home.
Thanks, Mark and Diane, for allowing us to share in your triumphs.
And thanks to you, Dad, for setting the example.

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