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I can tell you exactly what high school senior Emily Gritton will be eating tonight: a steak dinner with potatoes and a “Malone’s restaurant style” salad.
Emily’s mother, Crystal Gritton, said Monday that she makes her two daughters, Emily and Whitney, their favorite foods for dinner to celebrate the first day of school.
Emily will be in the kitchen do the same for her mom on Aug. 29, the first day of classes for Crystal at the University of Kentucky.
You may have seen Anderson County parents lead their child by the hand to kindergarten, or high schoolers hop off the bus.
Other students, like Lawrenceburg mom Crystal Gritton, have their own first days to celebrate.
Crystal is currently a junior at UK, a non-traditional student working on her bachelor’s degree in social work. She’ll be taking 21 credit hours this semester, including an independent study course.
Crystal said she just finished a summer session, and is happy for the brief break before sitting down for her first class in a few weeks: Intro to Crime Law and Deviance.
“Right now, I’m trying to rest back up. This isn’t easy to do when you’re 42,” Crystal laughed during a phone interview Monday.
Since her husband died after a battle with colon cancer in 2010, Crystal said she felt God was leading her to go back to school.
About a year later, she did. Crystal contacted BCTC campus director Rhonda Wheeler, who she knew through church, at Bluegrass Community and Technical College.
They met in Rhonda’s office, cried together and got Crystal signed up for classes.
The best part of Crystal’s college experience so far?
“Hands down, it’s going to school with students my children went to school with,” she said.
You see, if she had finished her studies at Berea College in 1989 (where Crystal met her husband), Crystal would have missed all the opportunities to minister to the kids that she’s in class with, she said.
“I could do that,” Crystal said when asked if she regretted abandoning her studies at Berea, “but I believe every opportunity in our life is an opportunity for God to use us and grow us.”
Crystal commiserates with her daughter Whitney, a junior at Western Kentucky University, via text over how to get a parking permit and how to navigate Blackboard, an online discussion forum.
Her daughters go to her for occasional editing help. Crystal goes to her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend for math.
“Stats, oh my goodness, it gave me gray hair,” Crystal said.
It’s a dynamic with her daughters most moms don’t get, Crystal said.
Crystal said she geeks out over books, even textbooks she gets in the mail.
And she worries over education finances like most parents who have one child in college, and another planning to attend college next fall.
Except for this full-time student and mom, Crystal has her own scholarships and GPA to worry about.
College is her full-time job, she said.
“Every time I have thought, ‘This is not going to work,’ [God] shows me that it does,” Crystal, who explained that she was awarded four scholarships recently that she didn’t expect to receive, said.
Crystal said she needs to maintain a 3.3 GPA, but has strived to keep a 4.0 GPA so that she can pay off her bachelor’s degree.
As a non-traditional student, she has to compete with thousands of younger undergrads for plum scholarship money. She has to stand out.
“I refuse to waste any of it,” Crystal said. “I refuse to let anyone down who believed in me.”
Out of curiosity, I asked her if she could tell me who the best student in the family was, and Crystal laughed.
“That’s not fair, my kids would kill me!” she said jokingly, adding that since she’s the mom, she has to be the wisest one.
But the wisdom she relies upon is not her own, especially when it comes to what aspect of social work she’d like to pursue for a future master’s degree.
“Sometimes all someone needs is someone to believe in them. I would love to be that person,” Crystal said, adding that she’s particularly interested in the juvenile justice system.
“I’ve really tried to be open minded and to be open to the fact of whatever God wants me to do.”
For now, Crystal said she’s going to enjoy embracing her daughter’s excitement about the first day of her senior year of high school.
And there’s Crystal’s own first day of school meal to look forward to: Cajun chicken pasta and salad.
Did you take a first day of school photo today, Aug. 14?
If so, we’d like to share them with our readers in next week’s paper and online.
Send high-resolution photos to me by Friday, Aug. 16 at email@example.com with the name, grade and school the student attends, and we’ll share your first day of school photos with fellow readers.