Saturday, May 14, 2022

Happy graduation, Annie. You did it!

Annie Shay, happy graduate (LCCC photo)

Daughter Annie graduates from Laramie County Community College on Saturday.

We are so proud of her. It has been a long haul. She struggled with learning disabilities in elementary school. She was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was eight. During teen years, she struggled in school, the learning part and the socialization part. She began to depend on drugs and alcohol to get her through each day. She was bipolar and we sought help but nobody seemed to understand it. She spent months in treatment centers in Wyoming and Colorado. She was able to complete some of her school work but fell too far behind to graduate. She earned her G.E.D. and started school at LCCC. It was too soon. She decided to major in music and spent many hours rehearsing and singing with the school's choirs. She has a beautiful voice but is not so confident around colleagues and audiences. 

She dropped out and soon was off again to treatment centers, this time in California and Illinois and Utah and finally back to Colorado. The years passed. She was diagnosed with bipolar and personality disorder. Meds didn't seem to be the solution but she kept at it, finally underwent ECT at a hospital in Boulder. She improved and returned to Cheyenne to live with Chris and I and go back to school. 

Nevertheless, she persisted. 

That's one thing she always wanted -- an education. Through it all, she spoke of that often. She enrolled again at LCCC. She depended on the Help Center for guidance. She struggled at first. Nevertheless, she persisted. She passed her classes and discovered that she liked school, maybe for the first time. That's one thing that people don't always understand about community colleges. They allow all kinds of learners to get a second chance. May be you aren't ready at 18. Maybe you get married young and find out 20 years later that you want an education. Maybe you're a military veteran looking for new directions. 

I was a university dropout, a scholarship student at a big university who lost his way. I worked and traveled. Four years after graduating high school, I enrolled in the local community college and started in the fall of 1973. My classmates had already graduated from four-year universities and were negotiating adulthood. I felt a bit lost. But the classes I took were wonderful. Contemporary American Literature. Public Speaking. Art History. The teachers were terrific and somehow I was interested in each subject. At night, I worked as an orderly in the Substance Abuse Unit at the county hospital. The nurses locked me in with the alcoholics who had been scooped out of the gutters or arrested for raising a ruckus. This is where they came instead of jail. Many had been to jail. We played cards and smoked. They told tall tales, most of which were true, I suspect. I learned a lot. On quiet nights, I studied. On wild nights, we orderlies wrestled rowdy drunks. That was some year. By May, I had enough credits to graduate and returned to a four-year university where I graduated in two years. 

We all have our stories. Annie now has hers. She is very excited about graduating. So very excited. In mid-June, she moves to Laramie to start summer classes at UW.  She will be thirty-something by the time she graduates. She worries about that, wondering if she will fit in with younger students, make friends in the larger context of a university, be able to excel in upper division classes. Chris and I worry. Annie is an introvert with ongoing psychological issues. She likes her time alone but sometimes too much time alone is bad for her mental health. 

Nevertheless, she persisted. 

Happy graduation, Annie. Enjoy it all!

P.S.: Annie posted a blog today from her POV. Read "How I got here -- graduating from college class of 2022" at WyoGal. 


Ann McCutchan said...

Mike, thank you so much for sharing Annie's story. I am moved to tears. I read her blog entry as well -- beautiful. Brava to your extraordinary daughter, and congratulations to her parents.

I am so glad Annie will attend UW in the fall!

Warm wishes,
Ann (flying to Gainesville, as I type)

RobertP said...


Great story, very proud of Annie. And you and Chris. Let her know we are pulling for her.

I too took the JUCO route for my AA, first with Daley college in Chicago and then
finishing up at Santa Fe CC in Gainesville. Then my BA at UF. Enjoyed JUCO and happy I did it that way.


Michael Shay said...

I always like to bring up JuCos and CoCos and whatever else they've been because they are so important to my history and my kids' futures. In Florida, the CoCos are now colleges as in Daytona State College. It's great to add a four-year option as long as you keep the two-year degree and certificate programs. The phlebotomist who drew my blood yesterday got a four-year biology degree from CU and then got a certificate from a community college and now plans to go back to LCCC for the dental hygienist program. Gives her more options on the job scene. This English major thinks it's good to have options.