by Erin Ulerich
The graduation invitation came in the mail, mixed with bills and sales papers, as if it were an ordinary piece of paper, as if it didn’t carry the weight of a decade. When I opened the envelope memories rushed in. The invitation was from a student that came to French Camp Academy our first year on staff.
We were new to French Camp, with an 18 month old and an infant. My husband, Stephen, was training to become the Plant and Property Manager and decided to sub for a Junior High boys’ dorm one night a week.
“Remember, you’re the adult. He’s the kid.” I would try to encourage Stephen when he called to let me know how the evening was going.
Over the years, the aggravating turned into friendly sparring and settled into friendship. This boy, now a young man, is graduating from college, with eyes toward graduate school.
Yes, the significance of that invitation stretches across the years.
Weeks later another invitation arrived. This one was a wedding invitation from a young lady that came to FCA during High School. I smiled, remembering her first year here. For a semester she and another student helped me each afternoon after school. At that point, I had a 2 year old, a 1 year old and a baby on the way. I remember listening to the girls talk one afternoon as they helped me chop carrots for baby food.
“I want kids one day, but I don’t really want a husband.”
“Yeah, I know.” The other student nodded. “I just want to give my attention to my kids and not have to worry about a man.”
As I got to know the girls, I learned that both of them were being raised by single moms and had no relationship with their dads. Any man that came into the picture was seen as a competitor, diverting their mom’s attention. This was their “normal.” They had never seen a marriage in action.
But this young lady stayed at French Camp throughout her high school years and got to know some of the families here and see husbands and wives working together as a team. And now, after graduating from college, she is enthusiastically choosing marriage.
These milestones remind me that students come to FCA and over the years, they really do grow up. While they are here they are surrounded by adults who sincerely want to see them succeed. The staff are here primarily because they want to point students to the hope of life found in Christ. A by-product of that is showing them how that hope transforms and guides all aspects of life. This can’t be done through programs or lectures. It is done through living side by side on our small campus, through seasons of both aggravation and relationship building.
It is an honor to celebrate these milestones, knowing that they represent years of choices these students made to change the “normal” of their life experiences. They are building a beautiful legacy for their future families and we are here to cheer them on.