For parents, Move-In a mix of Lopes up, letting go

August 23, 2016 / by / 2 Comments

By Karen Fernau
GCU News Bureau

Maria McCulley is confident her freshman daughter, Hannah, will adjust quickly to her new life as a pre-med student at Grand Canyon University.

Maria McCulley says having her daughter Hannah away at college will be an adjustment.

Maria McCulley says having her daughter Hannah away at college will be an adjustment.

“My son is a senior here and it’s such a wonderful university. Hannah knows this, and she’s excited to be here,” McCulley said Tuesday as she watched cheering student volunteers move freshmen into Juniper Hall. “She’s ready to start her new life.”

The Scottsdale mom, however, is not so sure she’s ready to start her own “new” life as an empty nester.

“Hannah’s ready to fly, but I’m not as sure I’m ready. She’s my baby, and it will be difficult,” said McCulley, senior director for the non-profit Food for the Hungry.

McCulley is far from alone. While dropping a child off at college can be both rewarding and exciting, that doesn’t make it easy. It marks the beginning of letting go and, for many parents, that’s a tough assignment.

Flora Young admitted to crying as she moved her daughter Samantha into Ironwood Hall, and she expected the tears to continue during the six hours it takes to drive back to the empty house she shares with husband, Richard Young, in Redondo Beach, Calif.

“I don’t really know whether to laugh or cry, feel happy or sad,” she said.

Their daughter, a GCU nursing student, is the youngest of their three children and the last to leave home. Although the couple has been preparing themselves, they admit feeling off balance.

The Young family -- (from left) Richard, Samantha and Flora -- enjoy their time on campus.

The Young family — (from left) Richard, Samantha and Flora — enjoy their time on campus.

“It feels like it’s been 10 minutes from baby to college student,” said Richard Young, a contractor who plans to fill their newfound empty-nest phase ripping down and rebuilding their home. “It’s her time now.”

For many parents, GCU’s warm welcome on moving day and beyond makes saying goodbye easier. One such parent is Janet Gonzales of Ewa Beach, Hawaii. Her freshman, Brennan Gonzales, is the first in her family to go to college.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said, adding that it’s made easier by all the “Lopes Up” and the serenade of car horns.

“It’s our first child ever to go away to a new city. This is a first-time experience for us,” she said. “We know he’s meant to come to this college because we prayed about it. We also have family here, so I am at peace.”

Micah Panjada, a minister from Moberly, Mo., is another parent grateful for the red carpet welcome extended to his son, Josiah, shortly after an early morning rainstorm that left telltale puddles outside Juniper Hall.

“I’m excited for him because he’s in such a great place.  I had a blast in college and hope he does, too,” said Panjada, a graduate of Faith Bible College in Iowa.

Micah Pinjada hopes his son Josiah enjoys college as much as he did.

Micah Pinjada hopes his son Josiah enjoys college as much as he did.

Many parents understand that the initial gut-wrenching sadness will fade several months after the drop-off. There will be a few pluses — less laundry, fewer trips to the grocery store.

As Funke Ogundare, mother of freshman Dara Ogundare, said, “As a parent, your job never ends, but this is the end of one era and the beginning of the next.”

She and her husband, Yinka, plan on counteracting the loss of their only child.

“Everything in life has been leading up to this point. It’s very emotional, but we will make the best of it by being together more,” said Ogundare, a GCU development manager.

Christine Fleenor of Santa Maria, Calif., is not a mother of an incoming freshman, but she still brought one to campus Tuesday. She was filling the slot left empty by a dear friend who died six months ago from cancer.

“I’m not a mom, but I am crying like I am,” she said. “It’s very emotional. I promised her mom I would be here today. GCU is what she wanted for her daughter, and for that we are thankful.”

Contact Karen Fernau at (602) 639-8344 or [email protected].

Laurie Merrill contributed to this story.

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2 Responses
  1. Anne Wendt

    Nice job, Karen! You captured the experience from all angles. I was already a little misty-eyed, and then you really got me in the end! Great story! :-)

    Aug.23.2016 at 1:24 pm
  2. Mike Corsaut

    The second year was a lot easier than the first year. I was a mess all the way to the California border last year, but this year was so much easier. My son Luke has made so many really good friends, it was just easier knowing that he has a support system around him. Being a Life Leader this year will be helpful, too. He has found a great church to go as well. God is doing great things through GCU.

    Aug.23.2016 at 1:56 pm
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