Michelle Martin

To my graduate

June 17, 2012

I first started writing about Caroline when she was about 3 years old and asking endless questions about the world.

Now, at 14, she still has questions about the world and about her place in it, but they are more the kind of questions she will have to answer for herself.

This month, she graduated from eighthgrade after 11 years in Catholic preschool and elementary school. The journey has not always been easy — especially when her school closed and she had to move to a new one.

In many ways, this year has been among the hardest, as we all coped with the loss of her grandfather and the loss of a theater program that had become a place of refuge for her.

What has she done with the pain that inevitably accompanies growing up and understanding more of life and loss?

She has blossomed.

She has grown tall (or at least as tall as me) and strong. She has learned to express herself in writing, in conversation and in music and drama. She still has passion and fire, but it is tempered with compassion and self-control.

Most of the time. She is, after all, 14.

Catholic schools in the archdiocese are touting their “product” these days — that is, their students (see Sister Mary Paul McCaughey’s blog dated June 4 at www.archchicago. org/blog), and to me, Caroline is a fine example.

While I’d like to take all the credit for her doing so well so far, I have to share some with the teachers, friends and other parents who took time with her, who taught her and corrected her, who listened to her and let her know she was loved and appreciated.

One of her elementary school teachers told me that she could tell math would never be Caroline’s first love and it isn’t — but because of the groundwork that teacher did, she’s mastered eighth-grade algebra.

Her music teacher, who told her she could sing like an angel, helped her develop the confidence to walk up to a microphone on an empty stage and take over the room.

Her language arts teacher who called her out for taking it a little too easy, even though she was earning good grades, taught her that hard work is noticed.

Her first Catholic school principal (who happened to be her father’s fourth-grade teacher) once said that the reason Catholic schools get such good results with students is that they love them, and because they love them, they expect more and hold them to higher standards.

It has worked for Caroline, and seems to be working for Frank as well. Like any relationship, it hasn’t always been perfect, but nothing in life is. Above all else, Caroline has learned the importance of faith and of love, and I couldn’t be more proud.