Jan. 29, 2020
Sometimes life is full of surprises. A few weeks ago, I opened a package my sister had mailed me. There, in all its freshly laundered glory, was a part of my childhood I thought had been lost long ago. There was my Fonzie pillowcase, looking surprisingly crisp and in great shape. She happened across it in a bag of linens while going through more things at my dad’s house, washed it and sent it my way.
I had a tremendous childhood crush on Fonzie, played by Henry Winkler, and was obsessed with the show that launched his character, “Happy Days.” My 10th birthday party was ‘50s-themed and I’m pretty sure that’s when I got the pillowcase as a gift from my parents. And now, all these years later, I have it back. You would think that would be enough of a fun surprise, but no, there was more.
I took to Twitter to post a photo of it and how it had been returned to me. I even shamelessly shared the fun fact that I used to practice kissing with it. The next night, as I was getting ready for bed, I logged on to my account, and there it was.
I’m pretty sure that my 10-year-old self actually squealed with delight. I yelled for my husband that he wouldn’t believe it, but Henry Winkler himself had wished me good night. It was pretty hilarious and soon my friends were squealing along with me. All these years later and the child in me was enjoying a childhood dream realized.
A lot of childhood dreams are much more important than recognition from a celebrity crush. I was incredibly fortunate that my childhood was pretty easy. I had two wonderful parents, great siblings, food on the table, a roof over my head and a fantastic school district. I was way ahead of lots of kids simply by luck of the draw. I knew that dreams of a good education, college, family support and career were in the cards for me.
For many kids, realizing dreams is extraordinarily difficult. They’re fighting challenges many of us can’t imagine — poverty, tough home situations, illness, lack of support, fewer opportunities, etc. Those kids are the heroes — the ones who achieve success despite the hurdles placed in their way.
Nkrumah Grant is one of those “kids.” His childhood was less than ideal. He once threw his National Honor’s certificate in the river, believing that no one cared. That led to his dropping out of high school. Yet, he was far from giving up on his dreams. Today, he’s a doctoral candidate in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and researches bacteria to study evolution. Check out the moving MSUTODAY FEATURE: From GED to Ph.D., to hear in his own words how he fought to realize his dreams.
When Liany Mateo was a middle school student, she knew she wanted to play bass. Once a teacher introduced her to jazz, she knew playing the upright bass was her dream. Fast forward to today and she is a senior in the College of Music who will earn her bachelor’s degree in jazz studies this spring, majoring in bass performance. Just last week she was the only bassist recognized for Outstanding Bass at the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jack Rudin Jazz Championship, a competition in which MSU Jazz placed third nationally. Read her STUDENT VIEW: This is the place for me, to learn why she says, “At my school, I’ve always felt like I belong here. And I remember that every day.”
Jackie Smythe was barely out of childhood when she cofounded a company at just 18 years old. A sophomore in the Broad College of Business majoring in supply chain management, her company features sustainable, reversible apparel with a practical approach to design. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Changing career expectations, to learn how she chased her dream with support from the MSU Hatch.
Ann Austin, a professor of higher, adult and lifelong education, knows that having the right teacher can help any student realize their potential and find success. She studies higher education and the role of faculty saying that she sees “faculty as essential to the quality of the university.” She was recently named one of MSU’s University Distinguished Professors in 2019. Watch the short video in the FACULTY VOICE: Studying higher education, to learn more about her philosophy about the role of universities and the importance of good teachers.
We all have the ability to help others achieve their dreams. Maybe it’s as simple as a kind word in the way of a funny tweet. Or maybe it’s something bigger like encouraging a child who needs to hear they matter. Or showing a child something new that excites them. Perhaps you can inspire a young entrepreneur who is just starting out. Just as every Spartan has an incredible will to succeed, every Spartan also has the ability to reach down and pull someone else up. Use your skills to chase your own dreams, but also take the time to help others chase theirs. #SpartansWill.
Photo by Derrick L. Turner