Celebrating a Mother, Grandmother, Student

Westmont senior Roslyn Smith ’19 took an unconventional road to college. She enrolled at North Carolina Central University in Durham, her hometown. “But the desire to travel would not go away,” she says.

She enlisted in the Air Force during the Cold War and planned to attend college at the same time. However, her duties kept her too busy to study. “I worked on high alert around the clock,” she says. “I did get some traveling out of the deal: 33 states.”

She left a career in the Air Force to raise her two children, returning to college briefly in 1980, 1997 and 2006. Then in 2015 she felt God calling her to complete what she had started more than 30 years ago. She earned an Associate of Arts degree at Allan Hancock College in December 2016. “Yet I felt I needed to challenge myself at a higher level of learning and living,” she says.

She was undecided about where to transfer, but she needed to commute from her home in Lompoc.

“One morning I was walking to the kitchen, and I heard the Lord say, ‘What about Westmont?’ I Googled it to find the location. Westmont was practically in my backyard! I went to the website. Wow! A Christian liberal arts college. I told my husband, ‘I am going to Westmont.’ Then I applied, and Westmont said ‘Yes!’”

So the mother of two children, four grandchildren, two step-children and four step-grandchildren earned her college degree this year. Her daughter, Daisy, 29, is a licensed vocation nurse and U.S. Navy reservist; her son, Aaron, 32, is a U.S. Army veteran.

“I have a student-to-student relationship with my Westmont classmates,” she says. “But, I am guilty of having the mom-loaded backpack, with packs of Kleenex, treats and extra supplies.”

She advises new mothers to remember that their children will leave home someday. “Practice letting go,” she says. “It’s never going to feel good or natural. Your role as mother will change, but it will never end. Let the years you have with them be filled with love and forgiveness.”

Roslyn worked hard to make holidays and special occasions into memorable family traditions for her children. “I would plan and prepare, decorate the house and cook huge meals,” she says.

But she learned an important lesson. “It turns out that my kids remember the things that weren’t eventful, like the time I made sandwiches and use sliced hotdogs instead of bologna,” she says. “I think kids love stretching their imagination to see something new and different. Lesson learned: Be flexible, avoid rigid traditions.”

Roslyn, who is majoring in English, has a summer internship with the Central Coast Literacy Council in Lompoc. “Graduating will open doors for me,” she says. “I want to work with undereducated adults. It would be great to be able to help remove barriers like illiteracy, which keep people at the minimal level of life.”