Midtown: Community

I survived my daughter’s first year away at college – Wiggins

Teeghan Wiggins won Miss Sophomore this year N.C. A&T State University.
Teeghan Wiggins won Miss Sophomore this year N.C. A&T State University. Courtesy of Lori Wiggins

And, just like that – they’re baaaaack!

It’s been nine months – I call it the second birth – since we, the parents of 2016 high school graduates, dropped our babies off at college. Nine months since we loosened our apron strings for their independence.

Well, pseudo-independence.

My praying knees are sore, my pocketbook is light, and my kitchen now has a sea of Mama Gourmet – that’s me! – to-go containers, packed with home-cooked vittles every time our daughter Teeghan made a trip home from N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro.

Overall, though, we’ve all adjusted nicely.

“It was very different from what I was used to,” said Kelsey Willard, Yvette Willard’s only child. She’s back home after her freshman year at Western Carolina, where she’s studying acting. “After the first month, it came naturally.”

She gave herself permission to go here or there, managed her money, worked as crew on three productions, and landed a role in the university’s upcoming, main stage season-opener, “Angels in America.”

Even so, the 19-year-old said, “I found myself worrying a lot about her, thinking how she’s all alone ... because my mom still is my best friend.”

Freedom, however, is friendly, too, Kelsey quipped.

Right, once bitten ...

By the end of the first semester, Teeghan had landed a spot in the Bluford Healthcare Leadership Institute, a perfect match for her medical school plans that include a two-week training in Kansas City, Missouri, this summer and a full, paid internship next summer.

Then, in March she ran for – and won – Miss Sophomore, a Student Government Association position.

It was only a slip of tongue, riding home for fall break, chatting, that she blurted “I loooove college!”

Her dad and I sighed relief with a shared glance. “Why have you been acting like it’s just so-so?” he asked.

Her answer: “I wanted to be sure y’all were OK without me, first.”

Aw, dear darlings, we’re fine.

“It went better than I thought it would, though it was rough at first,” Yvette Willard said. “But I fell into a routine, and it all got better.”

While Kelsey studied late-night, Willard ate late lunches, stopped cooking dinner and turned in extra early for bed.

“And I tried not to hover,” Willard said. “Now, I’m already thinking about the next phase, after college. They’ll be moving away and there won’t be a fall break or spring break or summer break.”

It’s already reality for Rhonda and Cedric Nelson, who were hit with a double-whammy when, at once, they sent both sons, Trevor and Cameron – they’re 15 months apart – to her N.C. A&T State University alma mater.

Trevor Nelson, a 2016 graduate of Wake Early College with an associate’s degree, will spend his summer as an intern with Ares Management, a private equity firm based in Los Angeles.

“But I’m doing the right things to get to my goals,” he said. “If you apply yourself, there are so many opportunities that you can’t do them all, and that’s where I want to be. That’s what college is for.”

Already, in addition to summer internship offers, he’s “led presentations with $600 million in net worth in the room,” been inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma, an international business honor society and gotten a scholarship through the National Association of Black Accountants. He also organized teams to compete against other co-eds from other colleges – and won.

Like us all, the Nelsons are excited their sons are being productive in college and are thrilled to watch maturity and all they’ve instilled take shape.

“What has hit me most is coming home to an empty house. They’re not here and there’s no noise,” Rhonda Nelson said of her sons who made home a haven for neighborhood kids. “I never really thought about when they left to go to college, it might be the last time they live at home – ever.

“But I still miss them.”