Open doors of discovery to your children

Each year, June and July are nostalgic times for me.

It is then the mail brings announcements from former students, some of whom are graduating from college, and others on the way. Their rite of passage is exciting and brings back memories of times we have spent together.

This year, the achievements of two particular students (symbolizing many others) brought tears to my eyes. It is with permission I share their formidable achievements.

Christie Lynne Williamson, of New Hope, is a goal-directed young lady. By pursing her artistic interests in music and photography, holding down a job and keeping her grades up throughout high school, she managed to maintain a sense of self and never succumbed to peer pressures during the difficult adolescent years.

Phoebe Anna Bull is dyslexic and struggled to learn how to read. With a strong encouraging family by her side, she grew up learning how to advocate for herself and received any academic support she needed to succeed.

As an experienced equestrian, she taught riding and became interested in the use of horses in therapy. Ambitious and curious about the world, she wants to make a contribution to the common good.

Village II is a planned townhouse community in New Hope. It was one of, if not the first, high-density developments in central Bucks County. Born over citizen protests and law cases that went to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1968, the development has gone through many stages.

Over the years its trees have matured, wobbly structures have been replaced, and the larger community has grown accustomed to the development on the hill.

I moved to a townhouse in Village II when looking for an animal-friendly place to live. Once ensconced in a cloistered townhouse facing a wooded area, I began to take my small black pug and Jack Russell terrier on walks around the common grounds.

It was on these walks I became familiar with children living in the complex. Early in the morning, they sat on benches, waiting for the school bus to arrive.

One girl stood out from the rest. Not that the others were undistinguished, it was rather she seemed apart, sitting there with a musical instrument, the specific of which I have long forgotten.

It was also as if her intellect was beyond the chatter and gossip, and she, although different and obviously sensitive, was secure in her own being.

Over time, we began to know each other, and I found out she loved dogs, but could not own one because her mother had allergies.

Our ritual began. The girl would pet the dogs, and they soon ran up to her for affection, knowing a loving hand waited. She would purchase little treats and these, so deftly given, further enhanced her status in the eyes of my canines.

Seeing how much she loved my dogs, I asked Christie to become my pet sitter and dog walker. She agreed to the task with the utmost seriousness. Totally conscientious and trustworthy, she remained on the job until it was time for her to leave for college about five years later.

Christie and I worked together on her college applications, and when it came time to write an essay she chose to write about her mother, Louise. They were and are best friends.

While her mother was completing her doctorate (as an adult student), Christie was accepted into the very competitive pharmacy program at Duquesne University.

Becoming a doctor of pharmacy is no small task; it requires dedication and approximately seven years of arduous study. But my reasons for admiring Christie go so much beyond her substantial academic achievements. Christie stands out in my mind as a sensitive young person who, in the struggle to find identity, looked toward her mother who, herself, struggled to balance her family, job and academic pursuits.

Louise encouraged her daughter in the belief rewards come by combining the hard work needed to succeed academically with practical work experience — and in always doing your best. What Christie learned from her mother was tenacity and the importance of working hard for one’s education.

This spring, when I received a card saying Christie had earned her degree, secured a position in global pharmaceutical research and was working in a pharmacy to pay back student loans, I was not surprised. Both mother and daughter can now put a Dr. before their names.

Kudos to Christie and her family, including local New Hope and Lambertville legend Fred Williamson, the stepfather whose name Christie has proudly taken.

Reading did not come easily to Phoebe Anna Bull. She struggled to make sense of the symbols she could not put together. With tenacity and parents who supported her, she grew up loving to read and write.

When I first met Phoebe as her college counselor, she feared schools would not look beyond her lower test scores to her more promising higher grades. This is often the case for students with a learning disability.

Phoebe was involved in many school activities and excelled as an accomplished equestrian. Her college essay was a thank you note to her parents, David and Dover Bull.

”My life would not be the same without you. As if giving me life was not enough, you both have shown me the best ways to live.

”It began early at home where I was showered with loving kindness. Later with your encouragement, I found my love for horses and began to ride first as a novice and then in competitions. Your encouragement and the discipline of riding taught me responsibility and fostered maturity at an early age.

”Riding horses, although wonderful, could not remediate my dyslexia. You sought out the best means for me to succeed. You understood how difficult it was/is to deal with being a dyslexic and shared stories about similar hardships, which helped me gain confidence and gave me the backbone to realize that it is OK to be different.”

Phoebe wanted the best possible education and applied to competitive schools that offered the comprehensive education she desired. When the big envelopes arrived, and she received many, Phoebe accepted a place at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. This outstanding all-female school, one of the Seven Sisters colleges, offers just the kind of education Phoebe aspired to.

Holyoke could not place her until the winter semester. Not to be deterred by the delay at the college of her choice, this young lady took transferable and cost-effective classes at Bucks County Community College.

Holyoke was a wonderful choice for Phoebe. She became confident, empowered and deeply involved in college affairs. She chose a major in English and a minor in education with a career in journalism or teaching in mind.

This spring, she graduated with wonderful lifelong memories. Not one to rest on her laurels, Phoebe has decided to become a high school English teacher and hopes to spend the next year or two teaching in Thailand or by joining the Peace Corps.

Self-actualization connects the stories of Christie and Phoebe. Parents who imbue in their children the wisdom and confidence to follow their dreams are on the right track. So much of parenting is stewarding children to what we, as parents want, rather than opening the doors of discovery for the child.

In saluting the achievements of Christie and Phoebe, many accolades to their parents and the many others who are experiencing their progeny leaving home well-prepared for what lies ahead.