Shelly Waggoner – Shelly has had a son and daughter work in the Southwestern Advantage summer program.
My parental reaction to the news of my son driving across 4 states with a “team” to “run his own business” was probably quite typical, “NO. WAY.” Up until this point, he drove home from college every weekend to have his laundry done. “How would he make it without me?” and dozens of other questions and scenarios filled my head.
Fast forward 4 months —
The young man that came home was not the same, “little boy” who left. I am not sure what impressed me the most, the solid self confidence, his super positive attitude, the goals he had set and achieved, the money he made, or the fact that he took the trash bag out, tied it up, took it out, AND put in a new bag, all without being asked, while discussing ROTH IRAs!! He looked for something to fix, solve, resolve, encourage or just to ignite a passion in. He was so full of life and new goals. How mature he had become, how responsible!
The awards banquet was wonderful. The stories from the book field were touching and funny. The bond between these “book kids” was amazing. The appreciation I felt as a parent from my son and Southwestern was overwhelming. After a 6 day stay at a Jamaican all-inclusive resort, compliments of Southwestern, my son was off to recruit other college kids and share the opportunity.
Fast forward 1 year —
My daughter had agreed to give it a try and at the last minute, backed out. The new team left bound for Nashville in 6 car convoy. They left without her. Now, I knew if she did this “book thing”, the things she gained would enrich her life for the rest of her life. After some persuasion, bribery, and literally putting her in the car at 4 a.m., she was off. She made it to sales school on time. It was a little harder because, she was my “little girl”, but I put her in God’s hands and got to work on the care packages.
Fast Forward 4 months —
Once again, I was astonished at the changes, the maturity, the readiness for adventure and challenge. They truly inspired me and others to dream big, achieve and just want to be better people. I felt I owed Southwestern Advantage a big thank you with flowers and candy! The intense camaraderie, competition, love, and silliness convinced me this “book thing” was bigger than anything I could have taught them at home or they could have learned in college or even on the job. They had endured long hours, miserable weather, regular rejection, parking tickets, flat tires, and they were feeling on top of the world. They learned just how strong they are and more about what they want to be. They met so many interesting people and travelled the world. They forged lifelong friendships with quality people who have the same zest for life they do. Not afraid of challenges, future leaders of our great country. They learned money management and other life skills only experience can teach. They learned the rewards of hard work and perseverance. How tough the world is and how much tougher they are.
I was comforted by the fact that my children had host parents, who like myself, missed having young people around. We hosted 2 students and thoroughly enjoyed having them. You can bet we did not go to sleep until both boys were home safe. I knew somewhere in Oklahoma and Texas were host parents making sure my children were home safe too. They check in every night with team leaders and after all, they are adults, I could relax.
Fast Forward 3 years —
I still consider myself a “book mom” and am very proud of them both. My only advice is, when that call comes with tears and frustration, STOP before you give them a way out and invitation back home. Listen, and then encourage them to get back out there, remind them of the obstacles they have already overcome. Reassure them that tomorrow is a new day. Whatever you have to say to help them finish out the summer with their best effort, say it. Helping them get what they came for is a gift you can give them that they will reap benefits from for the rest of their lives. I have met hundreds of book kids by this time and I can tell you, they are a special breed. They have something extra special about them and they know it too, so they become and do great things. As a parent, I am grateful for the opportunities my children have had with Southwestern, I am proud of their hard work and stamina. I think a summer on the book field should be the new senior project. It is invaluable. I thank God for Southwestern Advantage and for my children Jessica and John Carey.