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All The Things I Did: Hope Damato’s Senior Column

Well, where do I begin?

I was accepted by Penn State on December 20, 2017. On December 24, my family and I were sitting in our church pews for Christmas Eve mass when my dad got a call that my Pop Pop was having trouble breathing. My dad rushed to the hospital 30 minutes away to meet him. 

I never got to tell my Pop Pop in person that I was going to be a Nittany Lion, but my dad knew how important it was for me. In my Pop Pop’s final moments, my dad whispered to him, “Hope is going to Penn State. She’s continuing your legacy.” That’s how his story ended. 

Creamery ice cream is the best Christmas gift, to be honest.

My Pop Pop started our family’s Penn State legacy by graduating in 1946 with a degree in biology and being an active student here. I always knew I wanted to go to Penn State, but I never thought I would start my freshman year without the man who started it all. 

As I approached move-in day, I knew I wanted to be as involved as possible. I vividly remember sitting in my freshman dorm crying to my mom about how I didn’t know what organizations to join and how big this campus was. I called my friends at other schools to try to compare my choices to theirs.

I often reflect on how things would be different if I went on another path. What if I never went to Penn State? What if I didn’t live with three girls freshman year? What if I didn’t rush? What if I didn’t join Onward State? I’ve had many paths through my lifetime, even before college, and who knows where I would’ve ended up. 

Over winter break, I found a letter buried deep in my junk drawer. On the front of the envelope read “To future Hope, from past Hope.” I totally forgot I wrote this cheesy letter at the beginning of my freshman year of high school for an assignment.

The gist of the letter was telling myself I would be OK no matter what I did. At the very end it said, “I know you’re at Penn State right now figuring everything out. Worry about everything else later.”

I know deep down that everything happens for a reason, as cliché as it sounds. What if I didn’t move into a house with five other girls? What if I dropped my sorority? What if I ignored my gut feelings? Throughout all four years of college, I knew I was being looked down on by my Pop Pop. He knew right from wrong. He knew what was best for me. He knew how to care for me and make my day. Whatever I ended up doing, I clearly did something right. 

In my four years here, I did more than I ever imagined. I first joined this silly yet unbeatable blog and became a social media editor. I went on to rush my mom’s sorority, Delta Zeta, and become vice president. I also scored two different internships with Penn State. I know how smart, compassionate, and determined I am, but in the back of my head, I can’t help but wonder, “What if?”

I know this mindset will take me further in life and guide me to what I’m meant to do. I’ve considered switching majors, going to a different school, and even dropping out altogether. But at this point in time, as I’m writing my tell-all, I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be. 

None of this would have been possible without the people who have supported me and my journey. 

To my loving parents: Nothing would have been possible without you. From my late-night calls to asking for a little rent money, you raised me to be an amazing woman and I owe everything to you. I bet you’re excited to have me move back in!

To my sisters: I know I’m the oldest and like to tell you what to do, but neither of you needed my input. In fact, you both have been my rocks throughout college. I wouldn’t want to drunk call anyone else but my sister Grace after her basketball practices or Olivia, who will be a freshman here in the fall. I might give you both shit and unsolicited advice, but I hope you guys know how much you mean to me.

To my friends at Penn State: Wow. I don’t know how we lasted this long. I have too many to name, but I want you all to know how much you made my college experience. I can’t think of a single milestone that you aren’t a part of. From throwing pumpkins at 4 a.m. when I needed to get out of the house to closing out pretty much every bar, you were here for it all. If I didn’t do all these things, I would’ve never had these fond memories. And for that, I thank you all. 

My only question going into this column was, “What if?” Now, I’m ready to leave with, “What’s next?”

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About the Author

Hope Damato

Hope is a 2022 graduate who majored in broadcast journalism and was one of Onward State's social media editors. She resides in her parents house as she is still on the job hunt. Someone please hire her. Feel free to follow her on twitter @hopemarinaa to send her funny tweets or email her at [email protected] to yell.

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