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Thanks, Mom And Dad: Mindy Szkaradnik’s Senior Column

As the band finished its set at the Phyrst last semester, “Build Me Up Buttercup” came on over the speakers. Most people continued with their conversations as usual, but I turned and glanced at the dance floor. There were my parents, dancing in each other’s arms to the song that they used to dance to years ago at the Gaff.

As I watched them, I got flashbacks to all the stories my parents told me about their Penn State years when I was growing up. I heard about them going to football games, pulling pranks with their friends, and going to their favorite bars. One particular story always stood out to me. On Homecoming weekend in 1983, my dad, a junior at the time, went to help guard the Lion Shrine. Back then, it wasn’t a planned event like it is now. It was just a bunch of students and fans gathering around to protect the statue.

Apparently, my dad thought it was a pretty boring event. To make it more exciting, he climbed on top of the Lion Shrine and started some “We Are” chants.

“Everyone was too quiet. They were just standing around,” he told the Collegian at the time.

I’ve always loved this story because it epitomizes everything my parents taught me to love about Penn State — celebrating traditions, having fun whenever possible, and most of all being a part of a family that’s greater than yourself. On my first day of class as a student, I sat in a classroom in the Thomas Building, saw the Penn State logo on the desk in the front of the room, and started tearing up. I was so excited and felt so privileged to finally be in a Penn State classroom.

Since then, I’ve confirmed what I knew my entire life — Penn State is the greatest school in the world. Penn State has taught me more than just the techniques for translating Spanish, how to write a great lede (thanks Lori), and how to design a newspaper page. This school has taught me what it means to be a good friend, how to deal with problems in the right way, how to be a leader, and how to be a good person overall.

I can’t believe my Penn State years have finally come to an end. This place has exceeded my expectations, which is an incredible feat because they were extremely high, and for that, I have to thank my parents.

Mom, Dad, I’m so lucky to have parents who taught me to love this school and encouraged me to do well so I go here one day just like you did. I’m so thankful you put me on the right track, from making sure I earned good grades when I was younger to encouraging me to do LEAP. Without your support, there’s no way my Penn State experience could have been as amazing as it was.

You shared your Penn State experience with me through stories and trips to State College my whole life, and these past four years I’m so glad I’ve been able to share mine with you. I’m so lucky to have parents who will drink a Natty with me in my friends’ apartments, dance on (and fall off) the tables at the Phyrst, and host the best tailgates (remember Ohio State?) for my friends and me all the time. These are some of my favorite college memories.

I hope that one day years from now, I can come back and dance at the Phyrst just like you.

I just wanted to say thank you for bringing me up in a Penn State family. Thank you for being such an important part of my four years here. Thank you for giving me (and Amber) the Penn State experience I’ve always dreamed of.

Most of all, thank you for teaching me what it means to be a Penn Stater.

About the Author

Mindy Szkaradnik

Mindy is a senior majoring in Print Journalism, Spanish, and Global and International Studies. She is the 12th member of her family to attend Penn State, she loves Bruce Springsteen, and her friends are always making fun of her for talking too much about study abroad. She can be reached on Twitter (@mszkarad) or via email ([email protected]).

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