Sunday, August 30, 2009

Riley at Lander University

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
It's been a wild ride getting Riley ready for school this past week. And none of it would have been possible without the help of our church and other friends.

Riley is part of Nate's group of friends. He has been living with a family on the other side of our neighborhood off and on for the past year. He's an unaccompanied youth...the official term.

This summer Riley came to me and asked for help getting everything squared around at Lander in Greenwood, SC. He'd been accepted quite late...July 27...and wasn't sure what to do because he had missed deadlines for orientation and housing applications, etc. He also did not have financial aid package.

And I noticed that he couldn't see. Glasses were broke, last contact ripped. No transportation...his friends drove him to work and back.

With the help of Dr. Long, O.D. we got him fixed up with glasses. Hope Carter, his financial aid officer at Lander, helped us with his financial aid. Chandler Darling, Asst Director of Housing at Lander, helped us with the housing waiting list. Belair United Methodist Church gave him $1666 to put on his tuition bill and cover textbooks for the next year. Many friends came forward with dorm room supplies.

Riley is now (unofficially) our third son. We'll be his permanent address and emergency contacts. He'll stay with us during breaks and visits back to Indian Land. Lander is about 30 minutes from Erskine so Nate will be his transportation and overall helpmate. We feel very fortunate to have Riley as part of our lives. He's a very nice, gentle young man with a soft voice and calm personality. He's quite independent, just needing a little assistance every once in while with complicated stuff. The boy owns his own pots and pans!

So. The wild ride part. Here's where the entry can get long.

On Tuesday or Wednesday Riley had been told that he didn't have a dorm room assignment. He was on a waiting list. He thought he was going to have to just stay home. He had no idea what to do next. So I called Gayle Summey, our pastor, who is also from the Greenwood area. She put me in touch with the director of the Wesley Foundation on Lander's campus. Within a couple of days we had the name and phone number of a family that would take Riley into their home for a few days and provide him transportation to and from campus.

So we decided we would take him Sunday night since freshman orientation is Monday. I also emailed Chandler Darling to ask her if anything could be done to help Riley, due to his status as an unaccompanied youth. It was funny how I picked her. I went to the Lander website and there was a photo of all the housing people. I just liked how she looked. And she wasn't the top gun...I never think it's really good to go straight to the top. She's second in command. So I emailed her and she emailed back that same night. She thanked me for bringing his status to her attention. She couldn't promise anything but they'd consider it.

Saturday morning I sat down at my computer at 6:30. At 6:52 an email came in from Lander. It was a copy of an email they'd just sent Riley telling him they had a dorm assignment! I was so excited I ran into Riley's room and jumped on him as he slept. So we scrambled around and got the van packed to move him. None of us, including Riley, had ever been to the campus and we had no idea what the dorms were like, so we packed everything as though he were moving into something similar to Nate's room at Erskine.

Nate, Riley, and their friend Mitchell followed in Nate's car and we made the trip. It's about 3 hours.

When we arrived we found that Riley had been assigned to an upperclassman apartment right across from the main complex of buildings. Each apartment has four students in it. There is a small living room, bath, and full kitchen with refrigerator, microwave and stove. We found one bedroom locked so we moved him into the other room.

Then we headed out for lunch. When we came back we found the occupant of the locked bedroom there. It turned out he's also a freshman...he's from Clinton, which is about 30 minutes from school. Riley's apartment key is supposed to open his bedroom door, so that's why that door was locked. Riley was supposed to share the left bedroom with Daniel and there will be two other students in the right bedroom. AHA!

So when we left Daniel and Riley were getting acquainted and Riley was going to see if he could get the key problem resolved. He'll move his stuff across the hall then.

I felt sad as we pulled away from Lander. I was a little sad when we took Nate to Erskine last year, but not quite as much as leaving Riley. I knew Nate had a car, needed to get away from Indian Land, and would call us anytime he needed help. But Riley doesn't have a car and he never asks for help. He also is new enough to living with us that I'm worried he may not call if he needs something. But by the same token, he's more independent than Nate. More of a problem solver. He'll be okay. I'll be okay.

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