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Go Ask Mom

Julia Sims: Lessons a boy learned from an 'imploding' women's college

Posted July 6, 2015
Updated July 8, 2015

Julia Sims with son Will

When my son found out my alma mater, Sweet Briar College, wasn't going to close after all, his first response was this: "Mama, YOU saved Sweet Briar?"

Not quite ... not even close! However, I'm sure thousands of Sweet Briar graduates across the country got the same question from their children.

Then, my seven-year-old dug a little deeper and asked what happened. Remember, this is the school that earned headlines around the country that constantly tagged it as the "imploding college." How on earth do you save an imploding college?

That's where the lessons came in for my little boy.

Fight ... and then, fight some more

When the interim president announced in March the school would close its doors in August, understandably, there was disbelief and disappointment. Then, alumnae quickly started mobilizing, pooling their resources and their talents. I explained to Will you always need to find your community and embrace it. Never forget there is strength in numbers. Never give up. Never give in.

Naysayers
The interim president and members of the now-defunct board insisted there was no place for Sweet Briar in today's world. They contended people don't want to go to a single sex liberal arts college. They said the college didn't have the financial wherewithal to make it. Really? I then proceeded to tell Will how alumnae raised $21 million in 100 days. That got his attention! His little boy eyes were as big as saucers as I told him about these women who networked day and night to get the job done. I told him that you never listen to the naysayers. They are often the ones who lack creativity, who fail to dream and forget to believe in something, really believe.

Always believe
Sometimes hope is all you have and that's better than nothing at all. I told Will if you believe enough in something, that's all the motivation you need. Will brought up that little engine that could. Yep, he got it.

Do your part
Not all of us can lead the charge. But, we can all lend a hand. That's what happened with the movement to save Sweet Briar. A few strong women took the lead, but it took thousands of others tweeting, donating their time and money to make sure the college didn't close. I told Will to always remember every little bit helps.

Girl power
This is something I bring up repeatedly with Will. Never doubt a girl. Ever. The women who really saved Sweet Briar are as tough as nails. The same can be said for any little girl sitting next to him in class or playing by his side on the soccer field.
I recently went to my college reunion and reconnected with some of my classmates. They are my community and I'm so proud to call them my friends.

Last week, the new president, Phillip Stone, took the reins of Sweet Briar College. In an email message, he closed by saying "At Sweet Briar College, the impossible is just another problem to solve." I think even my 7-year old little boy can appreciate that!

Julia is a reporter for WRAL-TV and the mother of a grade schooler. She writes monthly for Go Ask Mom.

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