It took me until the middle of the second semester of my first year of college to pick a major. I had sampled two majors before registering for The Survey of the Nature of Communication Disorders with Dr. Gary Jones. The course changed my life and put me on the path to my career as a speech-language pathologist. It also put me in the path of Kara, a fellow speech student who would become one of my closest friends.
Kara lived two floors above me on the fifth floor of the freshman dorm. We knew each other and occasionally sat together for lunch but it wasn’t until we sat next to each other in Phonetics with Sister Jean Francis Whalen that we became study buddies. Over the course of the next three years of undergraduate school and then a year of graduate school, Kara and I took all but 3 speech courses together.
I might have completed my degrees without Kara, but I know it would have been more difficult and certainly not as much fun. Kara and I learn differently. I love sitting in an interactive lecture, having discussions. Kara is more hands on and learns best by doing. As partners, we complimented each other. What came easily to one of us did not always come easily to the other. But together we kept each other grounded and encouraged each other not to give up when we were ready to quit.
One particularly challenging case study involved a boy I’ll call “Sean.” We were given a video of Sean completing a standardized articulation test. Our task was to analyze Sean’s speech and develop an appropriate treatment plan. We watched that tape so many times – I can still replicate his speech pattern twenty years later. While I loved the diagnostic process, Kara was quick to identify the appropriate treatment approaches.
We tackled many projects this way with me jumping on diagnostics and Kara determining a course of action. Our professors knew we worked well as a team and resigned themselves to the fact we would pair up secretly even when they tried to get us to work with different partners. Oh, we would complete the project with someone else but would be consulting with each other throughout anyway.
Kara worked on campus as a Resident Director during graduate school. As such, she received a number of dining points which could be used on campus at the cafe. Most days, we would rush back to campus from a clinical internship in time for night class but not in time for a real meal. Kara generously used her points to keep us stocked with coffee, Sour Patch Kids, peanut M&M’s and Swedish Fish each night we had classes. We should have gained twenty pounds each from all the junk food but instead we gained friends as we shared our stash with other students.
At the end of graduate school, all students were required to take the mandatory comprehensive examination. “Comps” raised our stress levels and caused great anxiety. I was finishing graduate school a semester before Kara so she witnessed my meltdowns without the burden of preparing for Comps herself. The night before the exam I called her in tears, questioning my ability to express everything I would need to write the next day, convinced I would be a failure. Kara calmly told me to be quiet and said she was on her way over. When she showed up, she held Rosie, her pet guinea pig, in her arms. “Here – you need therapy,” she said as she plopped Rosie on my lap. Of course, Kara was right. As I sat there petting Rosie’s soft fur with Kara’s arm around me stress magically melted away and confidence returned. When Rosie peed and pooped all over my leg, we laughed so hard we cried – happy tears from me this time.
Kara has always known what I and others need and gives it selflessly. Her infectious smile and warm heart make her a blessing to many. She loves all children and finds something to praise in each student on her caseload.
Thank you Kara for your many years of support and friendship. You made me a stronger clinician and you continue to make me strive to be a better student who is always seeking a deeper understanding of the wonders of human communication.