One of the greatest parts of support groups is that while we offer support in the difficult moments, we also scream for joy in the proud ones...Two parents shared a couple of those moments this past week.
*And here's another*
From the mouth of a proud Mother...
Hello All. I've been sitting on this news for a couple of weeks now. I have hesitated to share it because it has taken me this long to fully grasp the situation in a rational way.
Back in late February, John was notified that he was selected to receive the Presidential Scholarship at VCU, which offers full tuition/room and board for 4 years. A few days later he received word that he had moved on in the competition and is now a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. About a week later, John received a phone call informing him that he has been chosen as a Park Scholar, which includes a full scholarship for four years to NCSU. The Park Scholarship is very competitive and candidates go through a rigorous process filled with interview panels, evaluated group activities, and interviews with the Director of the program and even the President of the university.
The Park Scholarship includes full tuition, room and board, books, fees, personal and travel expenses, a computer, and study abroad grants. More than the financial award, however, are the unique opportunities associated with it. There are retreats, internships, time spent with high ranking officials such as Supreme Court Justices, US Senators, State Attorney Generals, and opportunities to serve the community through the Park Scholar service initiative. I don't think any of us reasonably expected John to be selected for this amazing program. He honestly just thought, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." when he decided to apply.
I have to admit to you that this news brought out the most emotional response I've had in years. I'm talking body-wracking sobs, snot flowing freely down my face, uncontrollable tears. I am becoming emotional just writing about this. When I look at him, I still see that little boy who couldn't talk. I still hear the voices of all the people who told me he'd never talk, that he was mentally retarded and possibly autistic, that he should be placed at the State School for the Deaf where he could "be with his own kind", and that his dad and I were committing nothing less than child abuse by insisting he learn to speak and be able to have the same education as any other child within a mainstream classroom. And yet I also see the young man that he has become.
John did raise the issue of his deafness very briefly in one of his essays he included with his application. After that point, it never came up again. I wondered if he'd be asked about it during one of his interview panels. I wondered if the panels were informed of his situation and would treat him differently. He went through a round of interview by panel (visualize John sitting alone in a room facing 4 complete strangers firing off a series of questions at him that required him to think and respond very quickly) to get to the Finalist stage of the competition. It was obvious to him that he was experiencing the same situation that every other semifinalist was experiencing.
Then, the 100 finalists had to spend a weekend at NCSU, participating in one very long, nerve wracking, mind numbing day filled with more interview panels, a small-group problem solving activity, etc. He did all of this independently, relying on nothing more than his CI and his HA. Again, he was treated like any other finalist. He told me he suspected the people involved didn't even know of his situation. Which suited him just fine as he wanted to be accepted or rejected based on his own merits. That had been our goal all along, but I could never, in my wildest dreams, have expected all of this.
We are incredibly grateful for the opportunities he's been given. We are also incredibly amazed by him and how hard he has worked to get to this point. We are so grateful for all of the kindness and support we've received over the years to help him get here. Those of you most familiar with us know the trials and struggles we encountered as a family. And of course, the challenges John faced and overcame because of his determination, willingness to work hard, and positive spirit. God has blessed him indeed.
It has been very difficult to take all of this news in. In 10 days time he was offered two full academic scholarships and named a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. I will admit that I have had very irrational thoughts. It all seemed far too good to be true. At one point I quite literally thought that I was dreaming and when I woke up none of it would prove to be real. While I refused to listen to all the naysayers in his life, the mother in me always worried if the rest of the world would see him how we see him. I suppose some do.
John told me that he saw a t-shirt at a track meet recently that said, "You didn't prove all those who thought you couldn't Wrong. You proved all those who knew you could Right." And that's how he chooses to look at it.
Thanks for letting me share. image by www.ccb.vic.edu.au