“Mom, I’m living my best life now!”

By Frances George

Almost thirteen years ago, a beautiful young mother gave birth to her first child, three months prematurely in December 2005. John Clark, “JC”, weighed only two pounds and fought for his little life well into the spring of 2006. My daughter, a vivacious twelve year old who has always lived life to the full, walked into the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and saw her little cousin for the first time. She was silent as we walked back down the hall after seeing this little one in his tiny bed connected to all sorts of wires and tubes, little heart beating with all its might. Just before we walked through the doors back out into the non-NICU world, my daughter, Mary Scott, known to most now as MSG (Mary Scott George), looked up at me, her hand holding mine and said, “Mommy, when I’m grown up, I’m going to take care of those little babies.”

“Alright. That’s lovely,” I said, and didn’t give it much more thought. Fast forward to college searches. It was down to two schools, one close to home and one 1,200 miles away in Waco, Texas, both with outstanding nursing programs.

MSG chose Baylor and never looked back. Our daughter thrived at Baylor, though she knew not one soul on campus when she arrived. She joined the Freshman Council, was in the Homecoming Parade carrying a huge balloon rivaling what you see in the Macy’s Day Parade (Baylor’s homecoming parade is the largest continuously running Homecoming Parade in the nation, by the way… I’ve actually blogged about that as well!), pledged a sorority, held leadership positions in the sorority, excelled in all things academic (and social!) and loved football Saturdays! You could easily say that MSG embraced college life at Baylor!

Early on, however, MSG faced having to move to Dallas to Baylor Medical for the final two years of nursing. And so she decided that four years of college come only once in a lifetime and changed her major and stayed in Waco all four years, moving to Dallas upon receiving her first degree in 2016, working in marketing. But her heart was still in NICU with the little babies.

By the providence of God, our daughter shared an apartment in Dallas with a sorority sister who had completed the Baylor Louise Herrington School of Nursing FASTBACC program, which is a one year accelerated program for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She encouraged MSG to apply.

The spark was reignited and at Christmas of 2016, just six months after graduating from Baylor and gainfully employed in Dallas, our MSG announced she was returning to Baylor University for her second degree and for her first love: nursing. January through April 2017 were four months unlike any other in her life; while working 40 hour weeks in marketing, Mary Scott completed all of the undergraduate requirements and took the nursing school entrance exam, and on May 15, 2017, began a one year intensive program at Baylor’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Dallas at Baylor Medical for her BSN, to be completed in May 2018.

And here we are…

One year later, with two Baylor degrees in six years. At one point last fall, when Mary Scott was in the midst of pharmacology and hospital clinicals, I traveled to Texas to check on our girl. This was our conversation:

Mom: “Scottie, how are you doing? I know you are working so hard, have very little social life, very little life, actually, outside of the classroom and hospital. It is all really difficult. Are you okay? Are you glad you did this?”

MSG: “Mom, that’s all true. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And not to sound like a popular evangelist in Texas… but Mom, I’m living my best life now! I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.”

Writing this still brings tears to this old mom’s eyes. This is a parent’s dream, hearing their child, now an adult woman achieving her lifelong goal, doing it with excellence and never letting go no matter the cost. While others were “living large” in Dallas and traveling to weddings and weekends away with friends, Mary Scott focused on her goal and there was joy in the journey.

So, why do I write this to you? Why will the end of this blog encourage you to choose Baylor? There are multiple BSN degrees available around the country. True. But there is only one Baylor and the Baylor difference is real. On one of Mary Scott’s final rotations in the hospital, she was assigned to oncology and asked me to pray for her as it was hard on some days. “My patient may die today,” she would say. As I thought of how to answer Mary Scott, I thought of the difference her six years at Baylor has made. I told her, “Remember the Baylor difference honey as you walk the halls of the hospital and learn things taught only here at Baylor.” I encouraged Mary Scott to observe and learn all the technical and textbook skills she could but I also told her, “Observe and learn from your instructors on how to be a nurse when someone is dying. There is an eternal perspective that permeates all that Baylor is and it will be evidenced in the way a Baylor nurse walks with a patient as they die. It’s not in textbook but it is evidenced in the life of a Baylor nurse. It is a different perspective from the world and from what you will observe in most universities but this skill coupled with all the other things you have learned will ultimately be what sets you apart as an outstanding nurse, and as an outstanding person. This is why you chose Baylor as an 18 year old. And this is why you looked only to Baylor for your second degree. Baylor knows how to teach life with eternity fully in view.” Skills taught at Baylor? Outstanding. How to live well taught at Baylor? Yes! How to live with an eternal perspective? Well, it’s the Baylor difference.

I wrote early in Mary Scott’s time at Baylor about how a little two pound baby brought our family to Baylor. And six years later and now with MSG’s little sis about to begin her junior year at Baylor… it’s truer now than it was in 2012 when we first arrived on campus. Baylor is a place that grows young freshmen into lovely and strong and determined adult women who will do great things for our world. BAYLOR Nation impacts THE nation for good. Baylor has developed character in my daughters, taught them to not only reach for their dreams but to see them realized on a campus – in Waco and Dallas – where excellence among the student body is the norm, appreciation for the truth of God’s Word in action and deed is practiced every day from faculty members all the way down to freshmen, and where gaining an eternal perspective is encouraged. Mary Scott grew up at Baylor. Her little sister is as well. And I love what I see. Has it been without struggles? No, but what in life is struggle-free that is worthwhile? Has it all been worth it? Absolutely and without question.

MSG is a young woman of God who knows who she is and why she was created. When she said, “Mommy, when I’m grown up, I’m going to take care of those little babies” she knew her calling. Baylor helped her realize her dream of becoming a NICU nurse. And beginning this summer, MSG will do just that, when she begins caring for “those little babies” in NICU at a nationally ranked and highly respected children’s hospital. And on May 12 when Mary Scott walks across the platform one last time, her little two pound cousin John Clark will be there cheering her on, all grown up now at almost 13, with his own personal understanding and gratitude for what I always call “The Baylor Difference.”

Join us. And allow your child to experience the Baylor difference and live, like MSG, “their best life now!”

Campus Tours 101

By Bernadette Cooper

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Greetings prospective Baylor parents! I joyfully write this blog to assist you and your child in navigating college visits and campus tours. Below are some pieces of advice/insights/encouragement that I can recall from the 50+ campus visits that I’ve done with my daughter — the last being our trip to Baylor Nation in April 2016.

  • Seems quite obvious but a campus visit is a mandatory first step. It will be confirmed if this is the future home of your daughter/son. Believe that.
  • Plan ahead! We scheduled visits while my high schooler was on spring break and summer vacation (make sure the campus will be open and receiving visitors/conducting tours during this time). If time and money allow, visit a second time to discount any ‘honeymoon’ feelings during the first visit.
  • Attend the tour and stick around for the financial aid presentation. Most schools offer a walking tour followed by a Q&A portion that provides information on what the school is seeking in a prospective student, how to apply and get accepted, and financial/scholarship aid information.
  • Ask questions, lots of them, of everyone you meet. Many folks are willing to share their experiences. Ask the typical ones (# of tenured professors, class size, teacher/student ratio, campus safety) as well as the off-script ones (retention rate of the freshman class, diversity, graduates with employment offers). Chat with students, and not just those providing the tour. Politely ask the student sitting in the quad or in one of the buildings what his/her experience has been. More specifically, ask what brought them to that school in particular. And take notes — this will help down the road when all the schools begin to blend together. You’ll want to know what stood out about each one.
  • Visit the department(s) of your child’s intended major(s) — Talk with everyone you can, from the department chair to professors to students. Collect and read ALL THE LITERATURE you can on the school, the area, etc.
  • Attend a class as that will provide first-hand experience with regard to class size, curriculum and expectations.
  • Connect with at least one person on the staff (i.e., admissions counselor) and get their business card — they will serve as your liaison for any additional questions you may have post-visit.
  • Respect the dates!! This is not the time to procrastinate. There are tasks that must be completed by student and parents. Don’t delay when it comes to the deadlines.
  • Enjoy the experience. Can you envision your child thriving in this community, calling this campus/community home for four years while earning a degree and living on purpose, both academically and socially?

Where did summer go?! MOVE-IN DAY, Baylor style

Our Packed Car

By Bernadette Cooper

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”  1 Peter 5:7

The first day of college is but a week away. The epic trip to Waco to drop off my favorite college freshman, my bear cub as I’ve affectionately nicknamed her after she committed to Baylor in late April, is underway. In the blink of an eye, college went from being a few months away to next week.

Baylor had us biting our nails up to the last minute as we waited (not so patiently) for dorm assignments. Granted, Savannah committed to Baylor on the last day of the deadline, May 1st, but why weren’t they more prepared for the incoming freshman class? Each correspondence from housing was met with a sigh as she thought it would be the email stating the dorm and roommates she’d been waiting weeks and months for. But God. I encouraged Savannah to give her worries and cares about her dorm room to God in prayer. He cares about every aspect of you…including your room assignment in college. I knew with an assurance that God (and Baylor) would come through. And come through they did! God was all in it: she would land herself in a sweet dorm with two wonderful girls. East coast Savannah, Texas native and West Coast were represented. The girls touched base via texts prior to the start of the school year, making sure they had everything necessary for their triple room.

Trip number two to DFW airport felt much, much different. I travelled down with her, knowing that I would be travelling back home without her. I’ve never been away from her for more than two weeks.

Savannah and I arrived in Waco a full week before classes began. Two large suitcases filled with clothes and memories from home and high school were all she packed. We visited Walmart every day for the next 6 days loading up on personal hygiene items, blankets, munchies for the roommates and above all, cleaning supplies.

Move-in day for freshmen is unlike anything I’ve seen. I’d heard the stories but was a little skeptical. It rained each day that first week in Waco. Liquid sunshine, as my friend Fran likes to call it. It was all good.

The process of moving in was nothing short of engineering genius. Time slots for every freshman student in every dorm were issued. Countless fellow Bears and staff are on hand. We pulled up to her dorm…her new home for the next year. We’d visited the day before to get a sneak peek of what we were dealing with. We were pleasantly surprised at this triple room. It was clean and as spacious as a triple could be. Savannah stepped out the car to a cheering section welcoming her to Baylor and her dorm.

This place has class. The momma bear in me was so impressed and excited for the new adventures that awaited Savannah. In about two minutes, literally, the student helpers – dressed in matching shirts, some wearing hats or rain jackets to ward off that liquid sunshine – had emptied out all her belongings as they made their way to her room. Their attitudes were as bright as the sun hiding behind the clouds. I did a double-take because just like that, the car was indeed empty. I went to park the car and took the shuttle back to her dorm. By the time I reached her room, she was already unpacking the first of her boxes and luggage. We came, we cleaned, we conquered.

Roommate #1 showed up a short time later, by which time we were hanging clothes in the closet and chatting it up with the one young brother we’d met on one of our Walmart runs.  John, from Atlanta, was among the movers and shakers on move-in day. He not only remembered Savannah but came in, greeted us and gave us the run down as to what to expect in the coming days. He and Savannah talked church, upcoming “welcome week” events and freshman year. It did my heart good to see that. The CL (community leader – Baylor’s version of RA), Kathryn from Michigan, showed up with words of wisdom and just the warmest of welcomes. My bear cub was ready to ditch her mom and check things out on her own.

Once Roommate #2 showed up, the girls bonded quickly. They took pictures (at the insistence of the parents) and began to learn about one another. The parents swapped phone numbers and attended the parent-only events together. I relish in the diversity of Savannah’s new friends – Savannah is African-American, while one of the roommates is Asian and the other is Latina descent.

Baylor hosts an event for freshmen and their parents. The Thursday before classes is known as the Ice Cream Social on the Fountain. It is designed for the students to gather together to celebrate the upcoming school year and say farewell to their parents. Parents, in turn, are expected to say ‘so long’ for now. Savannah had jumped into dorm life and Baylor life with both feet. While that was a little sad, it was alright because I wanted her to be independent. I just don’t know that I was ready quite so soon. Between her NC Baylor sisters and several new friends, I saw less and less of her with each passing day. I’d transitioned from full-time parenting for 18 years to parenting long distance in the blink of an eye. Sigh.

I found solace in commiserating with other parents, some who were new at this like me and others who were on their 2nd or 3rd child. But again, thank you, Baylor for making this moment one she’ll never forget. The best is yet to come.