Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Alana Graduated from College!

Alana Graduated from College!

My oldest child—and only daughter—Alana, graduated from Kent State University on Friday, May 12, 2023! This is an amazing milestone in her life.

Alana in her graduation gown with her honors chords, medalion, and sash, smiling, arms raised in a celebratory way, in front of the Kent State University arch.

First of all, it was not easy. She had to work her way through college, with a full course load. Andrea and I helped where we could.

Alana had quite the varied living experience while attending Kent State:

  • She commuted from North Canton for a year
  • She lived at the Honors College dorm for a semester
  • She telecommuted when the pandemic closed down the campus
  • And for two years she lived in an off-campus apartment.

She did not have a car, so she had to walk from her off-campus housing, to her classes on campus, and to her jobs. On an average day for her, she would walk tens of thousands of steps!

Early Alana

The cover of the book titled Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

When Andrea was still pregnant with Alana, I would read "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss to her usually once a day. Right after Alana was born (this was within the first few minutes of her birth), she was kind of fidgeting and looking around; I started quoting "Green Eggs and Ham" and she stopped and just looked right at me as though she figured out that it was me that was speaking those words for those many months.

I knew Alana was smart at an early age. She was walking by 7 months, and was talking well enough to carry on conversations when she was a toddler. She always loved when we would read to her, which we did every night. When we read stories to her, we would make our voices change for each character that is speaking, and give the proper emphasis on the words to convey the intended emotion. As she was learning to read we would have her read some of the simple Dr. Seuss, then harder things as time went on. To this day, she still loves reading. When I hear her reading to her younger brother I love to hear her make her voice change for each character that is speaking, and give the proper emphasis on the words to convey the intended emotion. She really makes a story come to life.

For the first two years of Alana's life she did not watch television. After she was 2 we let her start watching some television, she chose to watch shows like Rugrats, Sesame Street, Word World, Dora the Explorer, and Arthur.

One time, when she was 3 or 4, I took her out to the park across the street from our house. I was playing with her for a while, then she stopped and asked, "Why is the sky blue?" That is not a very unusual question for children to ask, but how she was just looking at me and taking in the entire explanation seemed unusual for someone her age.

Album cover for Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd that depicts a beam of light going through a prism and a spectrum of rainbow like light coming out of the other side of the prism

I explained how the sun gives off light that is white, and that white light actually has all of the colors that we can see in it. When the light goes through the atmosphere, part of the light gets scattered in a way that the blue portion of the light is made visible. At that point she still seemed enthralled with what I was saying so I went into a simple explanation of how a prism works (some of you might recall what the Pink Floyd "Dark Side of the Moon" album cover looked like), and how tiny water droplets do the same thing as a prism when they are up in the sky and the sun shines through them to make a rainbow.

All that time she was taking in every word, and working it out in her head … at the age of 3 or 4!

When Alana started school, she was always smart. Even so, I told her that if she did not understand something, that she should ask about it. I told her that nobody knows everything—that is why we go to school, to learn everything we can. I also told her that she is probably helping other students by asking her questions.

After she started reading books on her own, I would often find her reading at night—long after I tucked her in to bed.

Gifted and Talented

It was not long into her school career that she tested into the "Gifted and Talented" classes (I think that was in the second grade). One of the things she learned there was to never do the bare minimum in whatever is assigned to you, but to always go beyond what is required. She seems to apply that in many aspects of her life. I believe that her "Gifted and Talented" teacher—Mrs. Geckler—helped inspire Alana to keep learning as much as she could.


by Alana Lazarides (age 7)

Every once in a while,
Let out a little smile.
So when you're feeling blue,
Just remember you are you,
And give a little smile.

It may seem very small,
Maybe you think it doesn't matter at all.
If you do, you'd be very, very wrong,
And don't worry, it doesn't take long.
So smile a little smile.

Near the end of elementary school, a teacher—Mrs. Willoughby—told Alana that she would not always be getting A’s, and that she should accept that. When Alana told us about that conversation, the way that she described it to us, it sounded like the teacher might have been jealous, or angry, that Alana kept getting A’s. It seemed like a strange conversation for a teacher to have with a student, as though she was trying to crush Alana’s spirit. We told Alana that it may—or may not—turn out that way, and no matter what grade she brought home we will still be proud of her. Alana just kept doing what she was good at, bringing home A’s.

On her 8th Grade trip to Washington D.C., they made a special visit to the Library of Congress because one of the teachers knew how much reading, books, and libraries meant to Alana. So, the entire class got to go to the Library of Congress because one of the teachers knew that Alana would want to go there.

All through public school she was always in the most advanced classes that were available. In college she was in all of the Honors versions of the classes that were available. If there was ever an option to do any extra credit work, she would almost always do it also—even though she did not need to.

When teachers/professors would put her into groups of other students where they would have to work on a project together, and the group earned the grade as a whole. I imagine that the other kids must have loved to be in a group with Alana because she would not let them bring her grade down, she would end up re-doing most of the work that was supposed to be done by the other kids if it was not good, or not correct. She even did that in college. She always got A’s for herself and everyone in the groups she was part of.

It was during these years that she started to learn Critical Thinking—to be critical of what you are being told (do not always believe things at face value), and do some real research to make sure what you are being told is the actual truth.

In public school she was in Academic Challenge, in Mathletes, ran Cross Country, threw Shot Put, and was on the Bowling Team. She was also playing the Violin in the school Orchestra. Outside of school she taught herself how to play the Ukulele, Guitar and the Bass Guitar. In college she learned the Piano. She believes that learning music helps a person be smarter. Also in college she joined a Dungeons & Dragons club, and Writer's Bloc. She is happy, and proud, be called a Nerd—she never saw it as a derogatory term, but rather as a badge of honor.

Alana also took Spanish, American Sign Language, and Italian.


When she went to college, she got into the Kent State Honors College.

The Phi Beta Kappa Society, The nation's oldest Academic Honor Society, Founded December 5, 1776

PHI BETA KAPPAPhi Beta Kappa, the nation’s most prestigious honor society, was founded in 1776 by students at the College of William & Mary who recognized the importance of a liberal education as the foundation of participation in a democratic society. Phi Beta Kappa recognizes students who have achieved excellence in all aspects of their education, and who have a strong background in the liberal arts and sciences, mathematics and a foreign language. Fewer than 1% of students across the nation are elected to Phi Beta Kappa annually. The Kent State University chapter was established in 1976, and each year the Phi Beta Kappa faculty members elect juniors and seniors who have met the high standards of excellence of the society.

Phi Beta Kappa is an honor society, not a fraternity or sorority.

In her junior year Alana was invited to join Phi Beta Kappa. You can not ask to join them—they have to ask you, based on your ability to meet their standards.

In the summer between her junior and senior years of college she was in the Kent State Study Abroad program in Florence, Italy. This experience was a good one for her not only on an educational level, but also a personal level.

When on a field trip to Rome, the professor asked if anyone knew what all of the different types of columns were that they could see. One of the girls spoke up and said that Alana knew. The professor asked Alana if she knew, Alana said yes and went on to tell them what each type of column was. The professor seemed a bit surprised and told her that maybe she should be the one teaching everyone.

Alana has always been more mature than other people her age; she has said that she feels like she is the mother figure to some of her friends, teaching them things that their parents should have taught them.

In her senior year she started working at the Poetry Center, they chose her as one of their representatives for a conference in Seattle, Washington, and another conference in Washington D.C. She was also a camp counselor for the Poetry Center.

Part of Alana's duties at the Poetry Center involved Community Outreach, where she would go to public schools in the area to teach poetry, and encourage the kids to write poetry. That involved coordinating with the teachers, and created lesson plans that were engaging, inspirational, and motivating.

Even though her personal social media presence was minimal at the time, the Poetry Center put her in charge of their social media posts, which also involved her doing some graphic design.

During her time at the Poetry Center, Alana even had a few of her own poems published. I was only published once (in a computer industry magazine in December of 2000), Alana was published at least three times.

A couple of Alana's professors told their students that they never give out A's, yet Alana's work was always able to earn her A's even from them!

Alana posing by a large Kent State seal.

Cum Laude,
Magna Cum Laude,
and Summa Cum Laude

Cum Laude, Graduation With Honors. Honors are awarded to those students with an average of at least 3.500 to 3.699 on a 4.000 scale.

Magna Cum Laude, Graduation With High Honors. High honors are awarded to those students with an average of at least 3.700 to 3.899 on a 4.000 scale.

Summa Cum Laude, Graduation With Highest Honors, Highest honors are awarded to those students with an average of at least 3.900 on a 4.000 scale. An asterisk (*) next to a student's name in the Commencement Program indicates those students who have maintained a 4.000 grade point average.

The average covers all of the student’s grades through their entire time at college.

Alana in her graduation gown with her honors chords, medalion, and sash, posing in front of the Kent State University arch.

Alana accepting her diploma
Alana graduated Summa Cum Laude with an asterisk (*) next to her name (on page marked 15) in the Commencement Program (PDF) (which is page 22 of the PDF document), indicating that she had the highest possible grade point average of 4.000 over the four years that she went to Kent State.

Alana on stage receiving her diploma.

Alana with her graduation cap and in her graduation gown with her honors chords, medalion, and sash, posing by a Kent State water feature and a large Kent State seal.

So, Alana went through her entire school career—Kindergarten through 12th grade, and all four years of college—with straight A's!

Alana really put the in the work to earn those grades too, it was not unusual for her to be doing homework into the morning hours. Sometimes she would be fortunate to get a couple of hours of sleep before she had to go to school again.

Alana's work ethic is also like that outside of a school environment.

Both Andrea and myself are as proud of her as anyone could ever be of anything.

Alana's graduation cap that she decorated to say, Oh what is that beautiful thing that just happened?

When I look at her now, I sometimes think of the words that she decorated the top of her graduation cap with:
Oh what is that beautiful thing that just happened?
(from At Blackwater Pond by Mary Oliver)

At Blackwater Pond

by Mary Oliver

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?