Three years ago, my niece Kaity left for the University of Illinois. She had big dreams for her freshman year: Illini, ag education, 4-H House.
But it was hard — and not just the classes. It was hard to be away from home. From family and friends and the life she knew. She came home nearly every weekend, and frankly, I think she really wanted to stay there.
But Kaity’s parents wouldn’t let her give up. She persevered, even when she didn’t want to. Before long, she found her people: She made the university’s FFA Parliamentary Procedure team, she made really good ag ed friends, she was recruited to help recruit new ag ed students.
Fast-forward to today, her senior year.
Kaity made the University of Illinois Homecoming Court. She celebrated in a parade, on the field, and with family and friends who love her so much, we braved sleet blowing into our faces to be with her in her moment. With her face on a jumbotron, she waved to the entire Memorial Stadium cheering for her.
I cried real tears, and not just because the sleet hurt my face — but because this girl who was so close to giving up on her dream stuck it out. She found her people. She trusted God, and like her mama says, she’s come out the other side a conqueror (that’s Romans 8:37, if you want to look it up).
Our hearts are nearly bursting with joy and love for her. And for her perseverance, grit and fierce love for the people she’s found there.
I have to believe Kaity’s not alone. Maybe you know a young person who’s struggling, who sees the road to the dream as not what they thought it would be. College is hard. Work is hard. Transitions are hard.
But dreams are worth it.
When the days are hard, you dig deep, trust God, find your people, don’t give up.
And when you get to the other side? We’ll all be cheering for you.