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Randolph alumna organizes letter-writing campaign to graduating seniors

Jackie Clark ’93

Jackie Clark ’93

Jackie Clark ’93 has many memories from her senior year at the College.

Hanging her graduation gown from her residence hall room door. The Pumpkin Parade and Daisy Chain ceremonies held alongside the sophomore class. Decorating her graduation stole with pins collected throughout the year.

“I still have all of them,” she said earlier this month. “They’re in a sacred box.”

Those memories hit home for her as she started thinking about the class of 2020 and all they’d be missing.

“Graduation and all that goes with it is such a huge part of the culture at Randolph,” she said.

“I can’t even imagine how these seniors must be feeling,” said Clark, who works at Washington’s St. Martin’s University, directing its M.Ed. program in higher education and student affairs. “Maybe they went home for spring break and didn’t even come back. It was a sort of instant, very abrupt cut-off from friends. I just thought, ‘What can we do for them?’”

After reaching out to the College and talking to several people, they landed on an idea: Ask alumnae and alumni to write letters to current seniors.

The response was swift, with more than 60 alums agreeing to participate.

Ashley Hale ’09 was among them.

“This is a season of collective loss,” Hale said last week. “We are all missing out on something, be it a wedding or a special trip. When I heard we could write a letter to graduating seniors I thought, ‘Yes! I have to write one.’”

“I realize it’s not much when you compare it to missing out on Daisy Chain or participating in graduation with your friends in the Dell, but it’s something,” she said. “I want the students to know we see their loss, and they have our unwavering support.”

Kathy Farris ’74, who also wrote a letter, said she could relate to how the students are feeling. More than 40 years ago, she also missed out on several of the activities surrounding Commencement when her father had a health scare.

“To say it was stressful is an understatement,” she said. “I missed everything except the Daisy Chain and the actual graduation ceremony, which I barely remember. But what I did not miss were the four wonderful years that preceded that weekend. Those years are what you remember. They are what count.”

For Rashan Colbert ’11, there was an added element. He remembered what it was like to graduate during uncertain economic times and wanted to be there for the current group of graduates.

“I was listening to something about macroeconomics recently, and they were saying within the modern era, people who graduated in 2010, 2011, 2012, probably had the worst economic prospects,” he said. “I graduated in 2011. It was a bad time to finish school.”

“I think they’re going to have a different struggle, but it’s going to definitely be a trying time,” he added. “So just having some sort of ability to reach out and let folks know there is community around them was something that was really exciting to do.”

In his letter, Colbert said he advised seniors to find time to reflect on all that they’ve accomplished.

“Just sort of mark that occasion,” he said. “When bad things happen, folks are very quick to say, ‘Oh don’t worry about it.’ But sometimes you just need someone to say, ‘This sucks.’”

But, he reminded them, “There are going to be other things to feel good about. And I put in my email address and told them if they wanted to talk, if they needed someone to talk to, or any sort of help, I’m happy to be of assistance.”

Clark hopes the letters foster long-lasting connections between the senders and recipients.

“I thought it would be fun if some of those relationships turned out to be people they continued to write,” she said. “That’s just another networking opportunity. We’ve got our network of folks all over the country.”

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