Keep your eyes on the prize: finish the degree! 2

Dear Daughter,

You have delivered them to college (Morehouse and North Carolina A&T). What you’ve been grooming them for truly begins.  They and you will learn who they are, how they roll, and what they value,.  Are they ready? Do they have the grit to finish this enterprise they’ve started?  Will they finish without delay?

Dear Grand Children,


Graduating from high school and getting admitted to college tells nothing about how a student will handle college.  I certainly wasn’t prepared to go far away from my home to college.  And so, after a year and a half, I dropped out.  I was undisciplined.  I could not handle freedom. I discovered sex and lost my damn mind for a year or two.  I went back later in more difficult circumstances.  This is not what I want for my grandchildren.  (Both of my children have graduated from college – one taking the longer more difficult road, the other going straight through.  I am in awe of my brother, sister and niece who went straight through (my niece continued to her Master’s degree.  It is easier this way.)

This is my message to you, my darling grands that have just started college:

  • Enjoy college.  Enjoy everything about it and – keep your eye on the prize – finish.
  • Get every drop of learning you can from your professors – keep your eye on the prize – finish.
  • Get to know your campus – the registrar, the librarian, the culture, the guest speakers, etc., – keep your eye on the prize – graduate.
  • Take advantage of the study abroad option if you can – keep your eye on the prize – finish.
  • Use the Career Services office well.  Check out job openings, intern and apprentice opportunities, and other services frequently and – keep your eye on the prize – graduate.
  • Enjoy your peers –  keep your eye on the prize – finish.
  • Enjoy the parties – keep your eye on the prize – finish.
  • If you’re interested, become skilled at bid whist, spades, and other games but they are not a subject to major in – keep your eye on the prize – finish.
  • If it’s your thing, join a sorority or fraternity.  Make sure to keep your dignity and-  keep your eye on the prize which is the degree – and finish.
  • Do not drop out with loans but no degree.
  • Do not graduate not having made critical connections to others you encounter at college.
  • Do not move off campus for at least two years and when you do, choose your roommates carefully.
  • Do not have sex without condoms ever. Do not let an orgasm sidetrack your emotions, your time, your discipline and your pursuit of your degree.
  • Do not get separated from your companions especially when attending off-campus outings. Request an escort or leave with a companion or two for late-night on-campus excursions.
  • Do not drink and get high, this increases your vulnerability. This is unrealistic to many people but I know it can be done.) Never leave your drink unattended. (Keep your cell phone charged and carry that portable charger we gave you just in case.

Learn, advocate, find causes you believe in, and join the protests and other social action, but if you have to choose between attending a protest demonstration and taking an exam or getting that final paper in on time– skip the demonstration (there will be other opportunities) and do the work that you’re there to do to, i.e., get your degree, which is why you’re there.

My daughter and the two oldest grand-grads.

Enjoy your time in the college bubble.  It is special and like no other time in your life.   With your new freedom and “independence” come temptations and challenges from all sides.  You are going to attract the good, the kind, the special, the bad, the ugly, the weird, the unhinged, the dishonest, the envious, the privileged, and so much else.  You have to sort for the good and the kind and the honest and the special and the serious and the determined.

I want you to be determined to get to the finish line.  Know that you are not alone.  Your family still loves you and will share our love, advice and our resources as necessary. (Note – we do not have Oprah-level wealth so we can’t bail you out or support you as you figure it out.)  Don’t test us.  If you’re gonna be grown – be grown and gone. If you must come home, know that you will be expected to have a plan for your time and to contribute to the household.

I love you. We love you. I believe you are prepared.  You both have overcome circumstances beyond your control and graduated with honors from high school.  The college terrain is different.  There are no mother’s eyes noting your every move.  You hold the reins now. No one is going to make you do anything especially the things you should do.  It’s truly up to you.

I/we know you can do it.  Carry on. Love you the mostest. Grandi.


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About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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