Dear Parents of graduating seniors

Dear Parents of the Class of 2017,

One year ago, I stood where you stand in the count down to high school graduation. I teared up at key events, smiled through the rest with deeply exhaled sighs and nervously contemplated the college drop off day!

Those significant events of graduation, college preparation, packing & leaving my first-born son behind at college was agony at times.
How was I going to survive this next step? I worried my anxieties were going to spoil his summer and aggravate him to the point of causing him worries. Toss in my husband’s concerns, well, we were a pair of anxious parents.

Ladies and gentlemen! We did it. I did it! Kudos to me, my husband and our son! Believe it or not, YOU will do it too!

In a matter of days, my eldest child arrives home from completing his first three-quarters of his first year of college! 30 credits hours completed towards his degree and a paid Summer internship.

He went South just an hour away to attend college out-of-state but he did not make it a suitcase college!

He didn’t come home on the weekends. He didn’t remain in his room watching ESPN 24/7 & playing Clash of Clans on his computer!
Not that I thought he would, but….you could have knocked me over with a feather when he said, “Mom, I’m rushing fraternities!” Wait, WHAT?! My independent son, a friend in all circles but not adhered to any one particular group of friends was going to WHAT? Woah.

So, my child joined a fraternity, two chapter sub-committees, e.g. risk management and the scholarship committee, which he chairs, two professional fraternities, one leadership organization and one service organization. He participated in SGA and continued his love of working out at Lambright Wellness and aquatic center. He played tennis, football and baseball with friends and fraternity brothers while successfully balancing a full course load. He built a life away from home.

In his day job of academics, my son discovered Engineering wasn’t his life choice and switched into the college of Applied Sciences in the pre-med track with focus on the biology and chemistry. STEM is his thing.
My son sought advisors, friends, and department heads in different colleges to explore while weighing his options. Congratulations to him for puzzling through this conundrum to shape his future with a path suitable to his strengths and personality.

He survived and thrived through the “make or break it” classes at Louisiana Tech. Hence, the discovery that engineering is monotonous, boring and not his type of pursuit. Duly noted, STEM is his strength but the tedium of engineering was not. He survived the first quarter engineering classes with his normal take no prisoners attitude intact as he smoothly transitioned into his preferred degree with no detriment to his grades/GPA.

He managed a visit or two, appointments to the health center for minor sinus/chest colds, washed endless laundry, cleaned his apartment countless times, balanced his budget/checking account and he lived through many blurry eyed late night study sessions. As I’m sure his butt print, as many before him, is permanently imprinted in Tolliver from study sessions.

A 1:10 am phone call in the middle of a torrential rainstorm here and down there will invoke terror in your parental hearts but you will be amazed at the calm God gives you to listen and guide. God has your back. Our son suffered a minor fender bender, navigated the police report and insurance process with a forthright approach and calm.

Self assurance and confidence aided our son to adapt to his 3 randomly assigned roommates as they co-existed in their campus apartment without any skirmishes. He learned much about roommate personalities and common space cleanliness. He managed to eat meals and get himself to class. He formed study partners, gained friends, a lovely girlfriend, too. In all this transition, he discovered his next year’s campus apartment mates through those circles of friends. He managed his business.

At no point did we have passwords, or sign on information to any of his college accounts or grades, nor did we ask. We honored his privacy and new-found responsibilities.

Our son scheduled his courses, procured his housing and paid his bill without Mom and Dad holding his hand. This young man of ours managed his own college expenses through his first year with scholarships, monies supplemented from years of odd jobs diligently saved with no student loans and very minor parental supplement.

We savored his chats through texts, calls or visits to discuss or hash out his concerns. Our son included us as he felt inclined and he honestly answered questions we as posed them. He gained so much wisdom through soaring solo as needed. I am sure he felt secure knowing we stood ready to share a meal, give him a quiet place to rest, lend our ears to listen and guide when invited. We watched him continue to grow. He taught us much about himself, the man he’s becoming everyday at college and when he visits home.

So, will you survive this new phase in your child’s life? Yes. Just like those baby to toddler to teenage years. Yes. Only as much as you let go will you gain in return from the fruits of your efforts.

Your child will be fine. You will be fine.

Life continues on and it all works out. I promise this isn’t the end of your relationship, but the very beginning of the new improved chapter! Embrace the new chapter in your child’s life story. Those new discoveries are so very thrilling and thought-provoking, if you hang on loosely with respect.

Hang in there and call us seasoned veterans for sorting out the necessary from the junk. Like those parents before me, we have your back with ears and heart.

Much love and empathy,


Choices Matter.

Growing up, I would to worry about my eldest brother, when he deployed while in the Marines, first to Vietnam and many places further a field. When my brother’s sons aged into men, my concerns included his eldest son, who followed in his father’s foot steps and my second cousin, Vinnie Paul, also joining in the family legacy of Marines.

Everywhere, I looked and went time seemingly expanded to include my ever-growing and consuming concern for friends from ccollege. Men and women, who were serving their ROTC commitment from Penn State at a time which started this nightmare of aggression for my generation in mid 1990’s.

I remember being newly married, freshly relocated from Pennsylvania to North Western Indiana watching the first Gulf War, Desert Storm explode…I remember the troops who died in the terrorism barracks explosion. Those kids were from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania, one was an acquaintance/classmate from college.
I watched in horror as I realized my newly enlisted 18-year-old nephew was going to be part of this event. A job he loved as like his Dad.

Then the day before my child’s 3rd birthday, I was nearly 9 months pregnant watching those planes hit the towers, staring in horror as more terror unfolded on the news. Hearing another plane went done in Somerset, PA not far from my husband’s neck of the woods. Wondering where my eldest retired Marine brother now a government employee was in his flight intenary for travels at that moment in time. Frantic calls between sister to my sister-in-law.

I remember hearing within days my eldest nephew, that Marine mentioned, was deploying with the 26 MEU within days of 9/11 renewed start of terrorism.
I remember being stressed as those victims names were released from the multiple terrorism events of 9/11. Early labor was no longer able to be held off. Hello, Nathanael, welcome to this world.

I remember the world was never the same for my generation as like my Mother’s generation of WWll, or for my 4 eldest brothers’ generation of Vietnam. The Vietnam war affected most the eldest and second brothers who were in the Marines and Army respectively. The eldest made a career in the Marines, early career spent tours in Vietnam.
The second did not remain in the service and made a civilian life suited to him. We will just skip rehashing the demonstrations, protests, etc…the shame of Americans disrespecting servicemen and women from that event.

I remember telling my best friend, the reality tv trash out of Hollywood is undermining our culture. I remember thinking those who were valued were living lives of questionable action but were being held in high regard. Directing political consciousness, an irony to me as they made money from questionable films, sitcoms, etc.
Suddenly, media said, we couldn’t this or that in our homes with how we raised our children without facing shame and sanctions from Parenting magazines perpetuated by the development of those soon to become “the helicopter Moms” preaching a new kind of rearing.

Schools could no longer expect the parents to step up when Johnny and Suzy were brats, bullies or classroom terrors. Parent’s are raising feel good at all times, everyone’s a winner and gets a trophy kids; because goodness gracious, why should Johnny or Suzy feel disappointment and learn to adapt and adjust accordingly.
Suddenly, classroom time was being devoted to raising those kids, disciplining those kids or putting concessions in place to balance the scales so their behaviors were tolerated at the expense of curriculum.
Not surprisingly, Mrs Johnny’s mom doesn’t understand why her son isn’t making a certain grade…it must be that teacher’s fault. Oh, hello.

Hello, Helicopter parents. Hello discipline issues. Hello dumbing down a another generation because no one wants to step and stop the insanity.
So, I remember as a school volunteer wasting my time catching little Johnny’s on the playground and redirecting HIS bad behavior with no repercussions laid. All this and a recent few past generations of parents tied the hands of educators, police and I remember thinking: I am afraid for my sons’ future. Schools are getting soft on discipline because of stupid feel good laws and rules brought about by my generation’s of peer equal parents’ questionable ideals. (I am not the age of my typical peer parent. I am much older.)

I remember thinking this country is going backwards because those in this current generation, who they revere are those dictating political correctness. Masses of people are following those who have an agenda to look good for movies, plays, sports contracts, sitcoms and advertisers but they don’t live the life they preach?! Are they truly living a life of a hard, admirable work ethic with unimpeachable values? And those who do? They are being held in contemptuous scorn by trash digging media and society.  Media outlets seeking to undermine and discredit their values because it doesn’t fit the agenda of terror and civil unrest which is news worthy. It doesn’t fit in the platform for politicians to advance their agendas. Both of these perpetrators of “truth” have an agenda, funded by their supporters or advertisers with their agendas for financial gain.

A new domestic terror of our own making. I remember it spiraling out of control, spreading to our neighbors, schools, churches, social groups, just spreading like a disease. No one really gets how insidious it really has become and no one can tell you where it started and how?! Really?

I challenge you. Go backwards to your parents, or further to your grandparents, in my case, my mother is equal in age to my current parenting peers’ grandparents generation. Remember their values think about those rules, the freedom without media perpetuating fears, the constant stimulation from on demand information guiding your thoughts, controlling your reactions and changing your behaviors.

Think about the freedoms from worry, think about the accountability, think about the truth of where we are now in family relationships to where “we were” then. Think how far off course, we have become in this path we all walk now….think about those men and women who advocated change with dignity and respect. Many paid the price with their lives and the world was still a place of wrongs needing righted but the wrongs need accountability not mass hysteria.

Stop listening to media, movie stars, leaders of agendas INSTEAD listen to your church, the kind neighbor, the parents of children worth emulating, grandparents with lives of regard. Stop the segregationist in their agenda by separating us and them by color, religion, race, ethnicity or groups…it comes down to you to stop the insanity.

Everyone matters. CHOICE MATTERS in conscious decision-making, be the author of your own ideas, THINKING FOR YOURSELF MATTERS. Exercise respectful actions, CHOOSING to think, react, and execute actions for each and all is the only thing which MATTERS in stopping a runaway freight train of disregard.


Joanne Roth Marino

Reading is fundamental, please stop “dumbing down” your kids.

And so, it begins again, we are nearing the end of another school year and the parents are gathering arms over summer reading.

It astounds me when parents are flabbergasted and combative over book reading requirements. I cannot fathom why a parent would denounce reading enrichment. I can only surmise it interferes with something planned or as the parent, you don’t want to put forth any efforts at home. Always complaining, stirring trouble at Parent teacher conferences and ranting to any one who has an ear to bend. Teaching your child the bare minimums is acceptable and coasting through with the least efforts will produce results. Oh my.

This is not the case. Ask anyone, who had a head start in reading, they will extol the benefits reading has provided in giving them the leg up over their peers in school and in business. They will concur, reading is fundamental to those advantages presently and towards later achievements.

I grew up in Pennsylvania with a successful educational program entitled RIF, the acronym for reading is fundamental. This is currently, a successful 50-year-old program geared towards children living in poverty. The principles of RIF, believe bringing quality books to kids will enrich their world, enhancing their imagination towards unlocking their potential. Access to free books is essential to ending illiteracy in America by reaching children known to be at risk by the very nature of poverty preventing access.

My parents qualified for free books by the very nature of birthing and supporting six children with a stay-at-home Mom on my Father’s mechanic’s income. I never felt as if we were “poor” as we had the essentials for food, shelter and clothes.
Toys and books were a luxury but I never felt slighted. We shared our toys and the books among us.

I had access to books. I was blessed to have easy access to a  library within walking distance from my house and a free library card.
My entertainment opportunities were contained within the walls of the neighborhood branch of the Pittsburgh Carnegie Libraries but my world of possibilities was boundless. All because a book opened windows to my soul and sparked my imagination. Stirring a need to learn all I could image shelved and listed within that card catalog, if I so choose to explore.

So, I love to read. I advocate reading.
Early in my children’s lives, I brought the joy of words to my sons by reading every evening and making weekly trips to libraries. The wherewithal to purchase books as easily as buying groceries. There were constant gifts of books. I still buy books at every opportunity for them and me. I actively support those who teach reading and the requirement towards a successful education. It’s a “no brainer” for me when reading is part of a curriculum as important to educational advancement.

Our school district has the Bingo cards concept as part of the school year English curriculum. A reading bingo card filled with different reading genres in each square. The goal is to fill 4 squares of your choice along with the class novel in the center free space. It has a point value assigned with each passing Accelerated Reading book quiz to gain a completed square. A completed row is a required nine week grade, with assigned letter grades. The purpose of this program is to engage students in an exciting motivating way over the summer and through the year. Many teachers spend the first month of school re-teaching basic comprehensive skills needed to support children’s analytical and cognitive skills.

Reading is essential to the fundamental basics of everything students learn and how they learn. If children learn to read, they will begin to expand their horizons.

Reading empowers students to extract information; they learn to think rationally/logically/cognitively/analytically and abstractly. Developing and parlaying these skills into a very powerful writing ability. Once they link these skill sets together they will apply this knowledge across every subject.

Comprehensive reading enables students to extract equations from word problems, this is essential in basic math. A skill set which becomes the framework of advanced mathematics and sciences. For example, in science, they will read to extrapolate analytical data and apply it to a scientific method. By deriving words in mathematics to solve equations by following the logically framework contained within the word problem.

The applications of reading across all the educational subjects is vast and varied in it’s entirety, but remains the same, necessary and key to understanding the principles comes from literacy. It’s essential to develop and expand the biggest, best tool we all carry on the top of our shoulders, our brain. It’s purpose is for navigating life and maintaining good health.

The benefits derived from improved memory alone are astounding to good health and successful academics.
Each new bit of information forges new brain connections, ie..synapses. This improves and maintains existing areas of the brain, aiding in the betterment of short and long-term memory. You all know the phrase as we age: Use it or lose it.

Learning the essentials necessary to become articulate and well written is the formula to successful interactions and contributions on a daily basis in all avenues of our lives. Further developing these tools will enable a person to hold intelligent conversation with anyone, communicating with vendors, customers or management teams is an enormous boost to your self-esteem and adds to your credibility.

This dual combination of self-assurance and confidence will aid in furthering your career advancement. It is well documented, those who are well-read, well-spoken, and knowledgeable on a variety of topics tend to get promotions more quickly than persons whom are not well read on a multitude of subjects and hold lesser vocabularies in their conversational cache.

As an avid reader myself, time spent reading provides me ample stress reduction. It allows me to travel across the globe from my chair via my vivid imagination. A mini vacation all compliments of my local library or Kindle application library. I have all genres accessible for my education at any moment, anywhere I can open a book or reading app. Endless education readily available at my finger tips, all because I can and will read. Pleasure reading isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it’s a useful life skill in our daily living. I believe reading takes us further than any other skill acquired in life.

I wholeheartedly, believe my abilities aren’t limited because reading opens me to assorted opinions, ideas, ideals and cultures beyond my limited zip code. It empowers me. I can and will hold my own with anyone in conversation. All because reading has built within me the self-esteem from comprehending a broader horizon with an appreciation for new ideas. Boosting my confidence to discuss those differences in a tactful well spoken interchange of ideas or expressing dissent without loosing my self-respect.

Now back to the  local board of education requiring reading supplements in my local junior high school: every child was given the same advantages when they leave our local middle school regarding the assigned over summer reading bingo sheet.

Opportunity to attend the summer reading lab every Monday in June to bank up to 4 books in any genres. If utilizing the summer reading lab wasn’t convenient to the parents schedule that’s on them, there were other options. Those who complain because they have a mouth and a voice with no excuses, well….These ladies (teachers) were there EVERY MONDAY FROM 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on their own time for all students.

Those other options for students with limited transportation, they were given opportunities to sign out books over the summer on the last day of school in 6th grade through the 11th grade. EVERY STUDENT IS ASSIGNED A PREREQUISITE BOOK ASSIGNMENT. They are all handed school copies of the assigned book with worksheets due the first few days of the new school session.

My eldest son has been through this same reading system, he was given the very same foundations for his educational success. It served him very well. My eldest son is highly motivated to succeed in a very competitive Advanced Placement program as a result of his endeavors, he is a National Honor Society senior in high school. He is confident and assured in all his academics because, he knows he can puzzle out any situation through researching and reading the discovery.

Reading is essential in education. It is THE KEY to my eldest son’s success. I want that same foundation for my youngest son as well. It matters not how the school district packages the program, it matters the program underscores the value of reading and its essential place in education.

Yet, as we near end of the school year, parents become up in arms about the required summer reading assignment. Unhappy with the time commitment their child must devote to this project, when after all, school’s out of session. Infuriated, their kid must read on the beach, or surrender the gaming console for a few hours a day or limit how late they can sleep in on a summer morning.

Oh, Come on. Really?

Didn’t I see your Facebook post capturing your beach legs and lap holding a book while balancing a drink in your hand?

Did I see that? Yes. I. Did. So, what’s the problem with a bit of structured time?

I guarantee, the efforts your child puts forth now will pay off in school and later in life. Sleeping late over summer is not a resume enhancement, in fact, it will guarantee doubts to their reliability. A great vacation at the beach picture, a golden tan and gaming dexterity are not the first steps to success, at least not for the majority, who are not planning to model for Hawaiian Tropics tanning lotions or becoming the gaming YouTube sensation.

I’ll grant there may be the few, rare off-chance kids, who will need those skills, IF they are angling for those jobs. I still believe they will need to read and understand the wording in their contracts, understand their gaming channels blogs and read the manuals of their camera to be successful.

So, I ask parents to get with it and embrace the concepts. Otherwise, you are short-changing your children’s abilities to thrive in a competitive world and strive under pressure. Learning from their failures, discovering their strengths, so they may realize their talents and capabilities. Cementing their self-confidence and their determination to succeed; it will unlock doors and open possibilities. Reading is Fundamental, it is essential to their successful start and along the path through all aspects in their life.

Please stop complaining about education lacking in producing skillful and knowledgeable students, if you are going to throw up the roadblocks by “dumbing down” the kids through tying teacher’s hands and prompting young minds to rebel at hard work.

Give your child the golden key to success, teach them to read and you will open up their world.