More Than a Diploma by Sharon O’Donnell


This is my middle boy, David, after his graduation with a Masters of Accounting from NC State University this week. This is also my boy who had speech therapy starting at 3, reading comprehension issues in elementary school, an auditory learning disability, & severe anxiety beginning his junior year of high school. He was a good student throughout middle and high school and a very good baseball and basketball player, but he was able to do these things because of his determination and work/study ethic. I got a tutor to work with him, and I worked a lot with him one-on-one also. Athletics came easy to him, but academics didn’t. He was intelligent, but the issues he faced made it difficult. When school athletics ended after high school, he turned all  his focus on academics and — Wow!  He excelled in the classroom like never before, making Dean’s List every semester. His perseverance and drive were unbelievable; there were still some hard times here and there, but he came through them. He learned how to advocate for himself, and he learned how to better deal with his anxiety.

He still played intramural sports in college, and his basketball team even won the championship one year, thanks in part of his three point shot. But he did sports just for fun and didn’t have the pressures of high school sports.  Feeling mom guilt that maybe I should have kept him from doing sports in high school because perhaps it would have been easier on him had he just focused on academics, I asked him last year if he regretted playing sports on the competitive high school level and with American Legion baseball. He told me immediately, “No.” He said sports were what he needed then and he was glad he did them, despite the added pressures and stress and time management problems. And I was happy to hear that he had no regrets about it.

We had a wonderful time at his graduation ceremony, although our oldest son works in Washington, DC now and couldn’t get home on a Thursday for the event. Graduations are always reasons to celebrate, yet there is a twinge of bittersweet in there, too. My heart still aches when I think about some of the tough times he’s endured, and it also aches because I wonder where the time has slipped away. But my heart sings when I think about the person David has become and the goals he has achieved. He received a diploma the other day. But those words on a piece of parchment paper can never convey his true accomplishment.

Photo notes:  For some reason I can’t write captions under these photos or move them around to place them where I want them, so I will just say that the first picture is of youngest son, Jason; me; David; and David’s long-time girlfriend, Claire.  Second one is David and Claire, and bottom one is my husband, me, David, and Claire. Would have gotten one with all of is in same picture, but my boys are impatient when it comes to picture-taking.





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