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Ask A Mom: State College Moms Spread Kindness On Campus With Free Advice Stand

For students across campus, there’s nothing quite as calming as a call home to mom. But from distanced relationships to hectic schedules, this comfort is not so accessible to everyone.

Thanks to “Ask A Mom” creators Lori Rose and Sue Jackson, the care of home is now never farther than a short walk away. Bringing along Sue’s homemade cookies and Lori’s 9-year-old welsh springer spaniel, Ellie, the duo has created a free advice stand defined as all heart and ears for college students.

Allowing the community to walk up with any question, Rose and Jackson have created a unique outlet available to everyone, inspired by their personal values of faithful goodness put into practice for Penn State students.

“Our goal for ourselves is to love God and love our neighbors, to show kindness to others, and to provide an opportunity for students to talk to an older woman when their own mom isn’t readily available,” Rose said. “It’s also as simple as giving students the opportunity to pet a dog and have a cookie with no strings attached, just to brighten their day.”

Each week, the two State College moms set up shop at University Park, frequently located on the path to Pattee Mall, downtown adjacent on the edge of campus. Often sitting against the backdrop of Old Main, the two women laugh, chat, and listen, reaching out and providing support just when students need it most. 

“We have had so many discussions with students, staff, and faculty ranging from asking for a cookie or a cuddle with Ellie to some serious discussions about faith, anxiety, grief, or strained relationships,” Rose said. “To [give] advice on stain removal or how to get a roommate to do their share [of] the household chores.”

From just sitting alongside the two women for an afternoon, one can understand exactly why news of their efforts has rippled across campus in less than a single semester’s time.

Combining welcoming smiles and honorable advice, they represent a warmness often lacking in the hustle and bustle of college life, supplying endless empathy and steady guidance through step-in mentorship for so many.

“A good mother-child relationship is a blessing. We know that people are flawed and that not all relationships are good,” Rose said. “You can respect and appreciate your parents without always agreeing with them.”

Rose and Jackson serve as a neutral support system by gifting their time, energy, and experience to students in homemade parental roles, much like the baked goods crafted with kindness and given for free to students passing by.

From providing simple advice to lifelong lessons, Rose and Jackson began their generous endeavor in April 2022, which was right at the peak of the spring semester — the week before finals. But even at this difficult time, the duo had no idea just how much of an impact they would make. 

“We didn’t know if anyone would approach us at all, but so many people asked if they could pet Ellie. We would just ask ‘How’s your week going?’ and the students would start telling us how stressed or busy they were,” Rose said. “For us, it’s a small effort from us to brighten someone’s day. We’ll keep going as long as the weather and our schedules work out.”

Represented by an encouraging sign reading “Ask A Mom,” and their respected perspectives, the duo sits patiently for students, enjoying each day as an act of service as they give back to the next generation.

“We were looking for a way to connect with students because they are such a big part of what makes State College what it is,” Rose said. “I have been aware of young people who either have become estranged from or have lost their moms, and I have compassion for people who may just want to talk with an older woman for a different perspective.”

Residents of State College for nearly 30 years, both Jackson and Rose have a blue and white background. Since both women are real-life moms to current Penn State students and spouse-alumni of university staff, the task of stepping up as the moms of Penn State came naturally to the duo.

“Sue got the idea for ‘Ask A Mom’ from a campus ministry newsletter,” Rose said. “When we were discussing reaching out to our community, she mentioned the idea, and I told her if she did it, I would do it with her.”

As Jackson and Rose lead by example as a true representation of what it means to be kind, their love for the community has only grown into a commitment to connections on campus. In fact, the duo adores when students revisit their stand, fostering relationships as a mighty bright spot during some of the darker moments of college life. 

“It’s nice when people we’ve talked to before come back. We’re not always in the same place at the same time, so it can be surprising to see someone we talked to in a different spot on campus,” Rose said. “It’s been great to get to know some people by name, but I have to admit that name recollection is a particular weakness of mine, so if I forget you, please forgive me and just give me a reminder!”

Reflecting on the connections made and lives changed all by a simple act of generosity, Rose shared a humble, final perspective on the world of good done by the team of two. 

“We love listening to students and hearing about their lives. If you watch too much news, you would think people are hating each other and that divisiveness is all that exists,” Rose said. “Our experience is that people want a human connection and that kindness is sometimes a surprise and always welcome.”

Committed to kindness both on and off campus, Rose and Jackson plan to continue serving students for as long as possible. “Ask A Mom” can usually be found at a variety of campus corners weekly on Wednesdays, depending on schedule and weather conditions.

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About the Author

Lizzie Palmieri

Lizzie is a junior majoring in marketing and psychology from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Ask her about Disney World, Diet Pepsi, or dancing on the Jumbotron at Beaver Stadium. When not causing general trouble, Lizzie enjoys playing golf, performing in the theatre, and being the CEO of reorganizing the fridge. Her favorite thing to do is hang out with her sassy sidekick, 18-year-old Italian Greyhound, Macaroni. Follow her on Twitter @lizziepalmieri if your deepest desire is bestie vibes only.

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