by Aliza Holzman-Cantu—

Today it finally hit me. Like a ton of bricks - that too-often used phrase that describes perfectly the weight of emotions that pummeled me on my drive to work.

It began with innocently looking at my Timehop app while drinking my coffee. This morning my memory of six years ago was, “With as many graduation special events Sophie has this month, one would think she was graduating from high school, not elementary school!” But now that memory is really about today. High school graduation is less than one month away. I am not ready.

As I smiled about the memory, I looked up to see Sophie (my high school senior) sitting in the living room playing with the puppy. She was dressed in her typical “uniform” (oversized T-shirt and Nike shorts) with no makeup on. She looked just like she did seven years ago as a fifth grader ready to take on middle school. How can college be just a few short months away?

It is not that I don’t think she is ready. She is. She had the benefit of wonderful educators to prepare her for university life. It is that I am still in disbelief that my first baby is truly a young adult, not a child.

All those vacations spent visiting campuses and U.S. regions to see where she would like to go to college have culminated in her finding the school that felt just right to her. The truth is, it is not a university that I would have chosen for myself, but it is a terrific place with so much to offer a young scholar and of course, I am not the one going. She has chosen to attend an SEC (Southeastern Conference) school, known for its school spirit, gorgeous campus, and friendly atmosphere. It is a school where she has found the majors and minors that she dreams of pursuing. AND, above all, it is a university that understands what the ton of bricks feels like to parents and makes my husband and me feel secure that my daughter’s best interests are theirs.

You, as Trinity parents, have probably felt these same emotions. And you, with college graduates, have certainly felt them more than once. Being a parent is certainly an emotional roller coaster, with hopefully more highs than lows. Trusting others to educate your “child” is not an easy decision. Working at Trinity has helped me to understand what I did not comprehend as an undergraduate here. It takes a community to provide an education. I am privileged to work with dedicated professionals throughout campus who ensure the full Trinity experience is accessible to all our students. It is this team of people, and the parents that I get to meet through my job, that are getting me ready for this next phase of life. Thank you. I am almost ready.

About Aliza

Aliza Holzman-Cantu ’92 ’94 is director of Parent Giving and Engagement and truly loves getting to know Trinity parents. She received both her BA in Communication and MA in Teaching from Trinity and is grateful for the opportunities both of those degrees have afforded her. She lives in San Antonio with her husband Willie (a TexasEx) and her two daughters, Sophie (12th grade) and Iliana (9th grade).


(Editor’s note: This Trinity mom reflects on her new grad’s college years.)

by Jennifer Mackender—

It seems like yesterday, my daughter, Ally, and her dad were sitting on the floor in our Colorado home looking up at the office walls admiring the bubble letter, colored marker, college hunt spreadsheets she had made. Each piece of typing paper, taped side by side in a perfect horizontal line, listed the name of the college and had bullet points showing the well-researched strengths and weaknesses of each school.

I remember on the weekends, as these lists would be created, edited, and sometimes torn from the wall and tossed in the trash, I would listen from another room as Ally and her dad would chat, laugh, and argue while discussing her college search. I was not necessarily drawn into their conversations, sometimes feeling left out and jealous of their commitment to the process. It wasn’t that they weren’t willing to include me – believe me they were! However, instead of joining the conversation, I tried to quietly walk past or find an errand to run so that I could remove myself from the activity.

I was at peace and I didn’t know why.

Why, at a time when I should have been hovering, talking more than listening, and giving my advice, had I become absent? After all, I am a stay-at-home mom. And like all stay-at-home moms, I was committed, I was sometimes annoying, and I was certainly the stereotypical helicopter parent. So why wasn’t I doing my job?

I had always been there to help Ally make those important life decisions. Which Build-a-Bear should I buy? Should I spend all my money on a Justin Bieber concert T-shirt? Am I a vegetarian or should I eat the burger? So why wasn’t I there now? How had I become quiet, peaceful, and confident at a time like this? Why was I confident in her ability to make this HUGE decision without me bothering her every step of the way?

As my daughter graduates from Trinity University, I now realize that the years of hovering, teaching, guiding, inspiring, modeling, and loving paid off. It led Ally to make the huge decision to attend Trinity, a school that has the same values that we instilled in her and our son, Ethan. It just felt right; she had found a university that mirrored everything we had been working so hard to impart on our children.

Trinity, like our home, provides love and support, but encourages her to take risks and face challenges.

Trinity, like our home, provides friends and professors that become family and provides her with connections to never feel alone.

Trinity, like our home, provides her with enrichment and the opportunity to nourish her talents.

Trinity University mom Jennifer Mackender and Allyson
Trinity mom Jennifer Mackender with daughter Allyson '17
Trinity, like our home, emphasizes the importance of embracing and accepting diversity and helping others.

So, prospective parents, as you watch your son or daughter make their huge college decision, be quiet as they process, be thoughtful as they share, and be confident as they waver. Most importantly, though, know that if they choose Trinity University, the students, faculty, and community will be there to pick up from where you left off. You’ve done well, mom and dad.

About Jennifer

Jennifer Mackender resides in Denver, Colorado. Her daughter, Allyson, graduated Saturday, May 13 with a bachelor’s degree in English. Her son, Ethan, is finishing his first year as a business student at Carthage College in Wisconsin. She is most proud of raising her two college-aged kids to be happy, healthy, and independent. She is a public health educator and enjoys spending time with her family, watching ’Husker football and breathing in the fresh air of the Rocky Mountains.
Trinity University student Brenna Hill, right, and her mom

(Editor’s note: In advance of Trinity’s Commencement on Saturday, May 13, this mom reflects on The Hunt for the right college and just how right Trinity was for her daughter.)

by Barrie Page Hill—

I knew we were in trouble when the plane made yet another merry-go-round swoop, circling the sprawling Atlanta area, waiting for clearance to land. Flight attendants buckled into jump seats; the red warning light kept crew and passengers tethered. The kind man in the aisle seat directed the overheat vents toward my daughter, who sat, motionless, ashen, gripping the armrests. The plane dipped and banked as the tiny houses below whirled in a colorful, patchwork kaleidoscope.

I rummaged in the seat pocket and ferreted out the crumpled white bag and thrust it into action just as my daughter lurched and wretched. The plane made a final swoop, straightened, and frazzled passengers exhaled a collective sigh when the wheels finally bumped the pavement.

After the plane rolled to the gate and passengers crowded the aisles, tugging open overhead bins, a flight attendant offered up a bottle of water and dampened paper towels. My flummoxed and abashed daughter sheepishly apologized for the disruption. The kind man in the aisle seat patted her arm, told her he had daughters of his own at home, hoped that she felt better and that her college visits would go well.

This was one of the first of many adventures my daughter and I shared when we started the exciting -- yet daunting -- challenge of narrowing down her long list of potential colleges. Our trip to Atlanta was flanked by visits to LA and Little Rock, Oklahoma and New Orleans.

For this mom, packing a suitcase and heading out to visit a campus was a perfect excuse for packing in another memorable trip with my soon-to-grad-high-school daughter. I was racking up mileage and memories while she earnestly tried to picture herself in the campuses’ hallowed halls.

We dusted ourselves with white powdered beignets and bustled through the bawdy crowds on Bourbon Street. We posed under the Hollywood sign and marveled at the hilltop view from a posh college in Malibu. We sampled street food and hailed yellow cabs in New York. We yelled “Boomer Sooner” and warbled “Oklahoma” as we crossed the Red River to visit my mom’s alma mater. At the campus bookstore, my daughter bought a coffee mug to cart home for her grandmother.

Together, my daughter and I trampled across the Lone Star State on long, lovely, weekend road trips. We’d pin on name badges and meet up with bouncy tour guides who rattled off college facts and pointed out campus amenities.

During The College Hunt, my daughter kept a huge whiteboard, using it to chart applications, essay deadlines, acceptance letters, and scheduled visits. She tallied tuition costs, national rankings and potential scholarship opportunities.

I was giddy to be part of The Hunt, thrilled that my serious, studious and pragmatic daughter was weighing the pros and cons of each school and not swayed by whether the football team made it to the Final 10 or if the party scene was adequate for a sheltered kid from the suburbs with strict parents who would soon dismiss curfews and make her own decisions.

I was honored to be part of The Hunt, humbled that my daughter wanted me to ride shotgun on visits as she narrowed the field. We visited small towns and big cities; Campuses touting co-ed dorms and religious classes. We visited party towns and sleepy hamlets. As the months went by and airline miles grew, more red Xs colored the board when potential destinations didn’t make the cut.

Trinity University student government presidents Nick Santulli and Brenna Hill
Brenna Hill, right, is a former SGA president who helped bring B-cycle service to Trinity. 
It was really no surprise when one university rose to the top of the list -- and after an impressive and impressionable campus visit -- my daughter was officially smitten with her No. 1 choice. I was secretly relieved that my daughter’s ultimate selection was not taking her out of state or across the country.

I had felt the same when we visited the campus -- some intrinsic feeling that this was my daughter’s place, that she belonged here, that this is the school I’d secretly hoped she would select. I kept my opinions to myself and carefully gauged my daughter’s reactions when we visited classrooms, dorms, Mabee Cafeteria. I was pleased when she met two other girls on the visit, the trio chatting like longtime chums.

Likewise, I met up with a wonderful and charming group of parents. Under colorful umbrellas on the meandering River Walk, we spent a pleasant evening dining and sipping margaritas while our kids were off learning more about their potential college. After our amazing weekend visit, my daughter was giddy and excited on the drive back.

I came home from work one day to find my daughter dragging the whiteboard down the hall to stow in the garage. She filled out her acceptance form and started calling herself a Trinity University Tiger. Soon high school T shirts were replaced by a TU jersey. When she posted about her decision on social media, it started to sink in; I started to believe it. The Hunt was over. My daughter had made one of the most important decisions of her life and a whole new adventure was about to begin.

I have not once regretted my daughter’s choice of schools. Trinity has been my student’s ideal match. As a mom, I am amazed and awed to have had the privilege of watching my daughter’s transformation from shy First Year to confident and capable Senior in the four years she has called Trinity and San Antonio home.

I think about to those early college visits when my smart, but very shy, daughter wouldn’t even consider a dorm stay to learn more about the school. I think about the lunches in crowded cafeterias, when my shy kiddo was hesitant to join a table of other parent-student teams. I think about that Atlanta flight, thinking then, that there was no way my daughter could leave home and travel across the country. She was too young. She’d never find her luggage at baggage claim. She’d lose her airline ticket. She’d get snatched while hailing a cab. She was my baby.

I think about that Atlanta flight and remember how worried I was -- not that my 17-year-old was sick from turbulence -- but that stern and severe gut punch every parent gets when they finally realize they’re about to have to let go and let their child figure out how to find the air sick sack on their own.

Unbelievably, I soon found us packing up the family sedan, buying dorm room essentials, and she was off. My little girl was about to grow up.

My daughter’s four years at Trinity have been, quite simply, amazing. Once she made up her mind, she set forth on her educational journey, seizing every opportunity, embracing her quest for knowledge in the classroom and through her associations with an amazing group of professors, administrators, friends and colleagues. She has experienced dorm life, sorority sisterhood, frat parties, afternoon teas, fine dining, nights of take-out pizza, her first crush, first apartment, grocery shopping, budgeting, and balancing the transition from student to soon-be-grad. She has learned the yin and yang of work and play, juggling and prioritizing and keeping it all in perspective; (something her driven, OCD-prone mom has yet to master.) I am in awe of my daughter’s drive, determination, and dedication.

Through Trinity, my daughter claims a close posse of smart and amazing friends who have become her second family. They are ambitious and humble, loyal and funny. After graduation, they will scatter like dandelion seeds on the wind, to do great and wonderful things. They will, no doubt, keep in touch. These friends will remain, lifelong and true. Likewise, my daughter has assembled an impressive team of mentors -- professors and staff and colleagues and associates from whom she has learned so much. It is to these amazing minds she will, no doubt, continue to turn for professional and personal advice in the years to come. She is a part of something special: A legacy of learning. A community of caring. Alumna of an amazing university that fosters the very best in its students.

Trinity student Brenna Hill with her mom in New York
Barrie and Brenna Hill in New York City.
My daughter is loyal, trustworthy and does what she says she will do. She thinks critically, analyzes aptly and has a world perspective that many my age will never possess. Through Trinity, my daughter has become an intrepid traveler, studying abroad in Germany and Spain. She wasn’t snatched while hailing a cab. She did, however, get stung by some strange insect while sunning in a Madrid park and her ankle swelled up like a tree stump. (No, this neurotic mom did not board a hastily booked flight, though it was tempting when I first saw the texted pictures of the swollen and misshapen ankle.) My daughter and her host family managed just fine without me, and she recovered to enjoy an incredible summer. She has hundreds of photos documenting her adventures. At the end of the trip, my traveler’s flight back was uneventful and non-turbulent. She never even needed the white bag.

For my daughter, Trinity has provided an incredible education; a place where she was encouraged to explore, experiment, learn, listen, engage, evolve -- and become herself.

In a few days, my husband and I will pack a suitcase. We’ll be making another road trip. This time, we’ll gather with other proud parents, watch through misty eyes as our little girl, our daughter, accepts her diploma. Four years of tests and teamwork, research papers and projects, exploration and adventure will be acknowledged. We are proud of our daughter’s scholarship. We are proud of her perseverance. Mostly, we are proud that she has become the person we always hoped she would be. She is capable and confident, able to take on life’s blessings and bounty and bumps in the road. She is Herself.

And this mom has absolutely no doubt my daughter will be able to find that little white bag should she ever need it.

Fly, my little bird, fly. You have wings and places to go.

About Barrie

Barrie Page Hill, proud mom of Brenna Hill (TU class of 2017), is a former broadcast and print reporter currently serving as an academic advisor at a large public university to students entering the field of communication. Barrie still accepts occasional freelance writing assignments and contributes randomly to her blog at https://barriepagehill.wordpress.com/author/barriepagehill/ where she chronicles experiences as primary caregiver for her mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Barrie and her family live in Arlington, Texas, with a menagerie of rescue pets.

Brenna will graduate with majors in urban studies and sociology and minors in political science and Spanish. At her next stop, she will be a development coordinator with the Make-A-Wish office for central and south Texas.