Wednesday, April 01, 2015

College Letter to My Son Spencer Crawford

Yesterday the Ivy League schools announced their acceptances. Tens of thousands of students like my son anxiously awaited by their computers at the magic hour of 4 pm east coast time to log into their portals. I have dreamt my whole life of this moment.   I have worked hard, survived two divorces raising four kids, built a specialty law firm from the ground up expanding to two offices in two cities and three counties, spent countless of hours giving back to my industry and justice by unpaid volunteer work speaking and educating others across the country in my field, all while trying to balance being the best possible mom I could be. We all want the best for our kids. We all think that we are responsible for them, and then one day we wake up and realize we are wrong. We are privileged guests in witnessing the amazing life they create.

Spencer grew up in the midst of challenges. He has no memory of his father ever living with him as we were divorced when he was two. He embraced a stepfather, who after ten years, left in a text message never to return. As the youngest of three brothers, he learned to be tough. He had to be, as his oldest brother was an offensive lineman and currently a two time world champion UT quidditch player. He grew up nurturing a younger sister, watching over her like a protective brother would, whose father had left. He learned to be resourceful, as half the week was spent with his grandmother watching over him due to my work and living in two cities. He never cowered as his older brothers always attracted the spotlight due to their overriding achievements. Kiki, the oldest, was the high school drum major after playing football his freshman year and the valedictorian. Sparky, his middle brother, was the star varsity tennis player and the salutatorian. He is reminded of these facts every day of his high school career as he walks to class past the "Wall of Honor" with pictures of valedictorians and salutatorians since the schools' inception in the 1950s, to include mine as the salutatorian in 1987. No small feat for a large public high school of west Fort Worth with a present graduating class of near 400.  Of worthy mention, out of all my children, I have never seen him lose his temper once. Not even when Sparky broke his prized ping pong racket that was made  by a German ping pong champion. He curtly announced, "I'm going to spend the night at Coop's house" and returned the next day. This young boy grew up to be a champion, not only of character, but in every way.

His senior class voted him the highest honor, "Mr. Brewer High School". He was also voted Homecoming King. These past 4 years he has served in the student council. This year he was voted both Student Council and National Honor Society President. He was the JV football quarterback, and played varsity tennis (placing in several tournaments), as well as varsity basketball.  The Davey O' Brien Foundation honored him as one of the top 5 student/athletes in all of north Texas awarding him a $2500 finalist scholarship. For the White Settlement Independent School District (WSISD) kindness week, where each school selected its best representative of kindness and charity towards others, he was chosen
to represent the high school and was honored on the football field in a balloon releasing ceremony. True to his perfect 800 math SAT score, he has won several area math tournaments (his picture in the local Bomber News). On standardized testing, he is one point away from perfect on the ACT and superscored (best of all his scores) 30 points from perfect on his combined reading and math  SAT.

It's not just his outer accomplishments, which reads like a Bill Clinton (an idol of his)  high school resume, it is his character. Despite heavy courseloads of AP classes, he spends his precious spare time attending games and functions he is not a part of  like soccer, volleyball and baseball, to support the teams. But it's not just the traditional. Having a passion for basketball and being concerned with a public high school's limited budget, he envisioned a new basketball college-style locker room and made it happen. He raised over $5k alone, and arranged for further fundraisers and the coordination of professionals and suppliers to make it happen. Today, it exists as the finest high school basketball locker room in all of the metroplex. Growing up spending his summers at Camp Stewart for Boys, he spent 2 summers as an LT (counselor in training) and last summer gave back as a full fledged counselor.

As a mother, it is the stories of him giving up his special seats at a Dallas Mavericks game to someone who could not otherwise attend at a school function  that warm my heart. He is so open hearted that when this year's German foreign exchange student needed a home to live in because the host family did not work out, he volunteered ours and has been spending his senior year being a great host brother.

So this brings me to yesterday. He and I toured the Harvard campus twice. We also made a special visit to Stanford. In addition, we made special trips to New York City (Columbia) and Philadelphia (Penn). He cherished these experiences and the chance to broaden his outlook. Despite a recent Huffington Post article referring to the trend of ivy league schools focusing on students specialized in one area (a trapeze artist example was given) and the overwhelming advantage of being a female or  minority (40% of most ivy league schools' student body), we still held out hope that a Caucasian, well rounded leader who  met and exceeded all the academic thresholds still had a shot. Stanford and Harvard declined. Penn and Columbia waitlisted him. University of Texas accepted him months ago (the new Harvard of the South, only accepting the top 7%).

I was crushed when I saw his fingers on the mouse as he breathlessly awaited his last school portal: Columbia. With everyone checking at once from a pool of over thirty four thousand students, the server was overwhelmed. A screen flashed momentarily (in which he thought he read acceptance by mistake) only to have the wait list message appear.  I had prepared for this moment. No one school or a slew of ivy leagues was going to crush his spirit.  I told him there would be a surprise. I had arranged at 4:30 (once he got his results) for him to receive a flight lesson. We littered our yard with signs like "The Sky is the Limit"and drove him unknowingly to Meacham field. He was all smiles. The skies gave him a taste and reminder of always reaching high and that anything is possible.

                                       (Willy, our German exchange student and Spencer)

Spencer, this is my letter to you. I can't possibly be more proud of you.  There is not anything more you could have possibly done to increase your odds. You are an amazing leader, and much more importantly a fine young man of the most noble character.  No school, no one person, event or act can control your fate. These ivy league schools have a history and tradition that makes our country proud. I thank them with much respect for their consideration of you. As our country ages; however, we are proving by the numbers, that the highest levels of success are being obtained outside the ivy leagues. Out of the top Fortune 500 company CEOs, only one came from an ivy. I have found at the courthouse, it is the scrappers, much like in any business, that are making the most lasting impressions and contributions to society regardless of where they went to school. Embarassingly as a sidenote, it was Harvard's President Larry Summers who only a few years ago, declared that women and girls were not as good at math and science. The number of Rhodes Scholars from other (non ivy) universities is growing (28 alone from UT) and taking command.

Spencer, you already possess all the attributes that matter. Whatever school gets you will be blessed. Remember when you fell down and busted your chin at the State Fair (pic below) ? Do like you always do and pick yourself right back up, flash that million dollar smile, and forge ahead. Do the best you can wherever you go. And as a sidenote, just know that  Dallas-Fort Worth loves electing Longhorns to Congress if you find that in your path.  I love you so much. Mom

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