Step Two: Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation may be easy to come by when you're athletically or academically gifted, or both. Many students look to community members, teachers or close and personal friends to write of their behalf. This area presented a unique challenge for us because we were looking for a handful of key people (no more than five) who knew Chloe for not only who she is but could also see the potential in both academics and athletics she really has. 

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HELLO,

SENIOR YEAR!

1st day of 12th grade...

#classof2017

I've written often that our IEP meetings at school were anything but cakewalks - well other than the VERY last one we had - so I can't say with great certainty that I believed all the teachers and administrators were on board with Chloe's college plans. And even if I did believe that, the question looming large was: did they actually think Chloe would succeed in college? I could tell that MAYBE a few did, but most - very, very sadly - did not. And furthermore it was OBVIOUS in the way they talked to her.  

Here's an example: During course selection we were adamant that Chloe meet with her academic adviser and pre-select her electives based on her interests and plans for the future. It was only after several follow up calls, multiple emails and three re-schedules that Chloe's session with her academic adviser happened. Candidly, I secretly wondered if they hoped she'd just forget about it - which she NEVER did. So, the meeting happened and Chloe, like her typical peers, made her course selections. Her selections were brought up in the IEP meeting and she was asked to justify each and every course she chose. Yes, I'm serious. And when they asked, "Chloe why would you like to take (name of course)," they looked at ME. Chloe never paid that any attention -- she just answered the question. So, no it never crossed my mind to ask any of those people to write a recommendation letter on Chloe's behalf. 

There are many other special moms I could've called and you know who you are: my fellow friends tasked with caring for, coordinating and battling days that are sometimes impossible, but end up just fine...those who wear capes no one sees and stand strong when they want to fall apart. So thank you because I know SO MANY of you would've written (or in some cases launched an entire hashtag campaign) to discuss why Chloe would be an asset to any school. I love your tenacity, cheerleading and willingness to support Chloe's dreams! 

I could've asked any one of her doctors that have over the years watched her learn and grow and become more than they honestly thought she could. Many personal friends and family would've gladly answered my call - thanks to each of you that would've happily completed this task. 

But, me being me I had to be unconventional. And in the end I asked my daughter what she thought. She suggested that one of her classmates write for her. So, we asked Chloe's oldest and best friend if she would discuss why Chloe would be a great candidate for post-secondary programming. she of course said yes and I believe also used this experience as a basis for writing her own application essay.

Yes, I knew this was a gamble, but if it was one Chloe was willing to take, why shouldn't I be comfortable with it? 

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Chloe & Hannah:

These girls met in middle school and became fast friends. They are BOTH social bugs, love sports and have BIG opinions about the perception of disability. They've been able to maintain a close friendship over the years and BOTH girls are now studying in their dream schools: Hannah @ Purdue & Chloe @ Vandy.

I can't wait to see the the impact these two have on the world and am looking forward to witnessing their contributions to society!

P.S. They both LOVED this cake!!!

Chloe also decided that one of her favorite teachers would be a great candidate to write a recommendation letter.  This was a teacher that openly advocated for Chloe during IEP meetings and always urged the team to act in Chloe's best interest no matter what else may be brought into a meeting. This teacher repeatedly went above and beyond and had a good handle on where Chloe was but could also see where she could progress. This person, whom I'm keeping anonymous on purpose, was easily my favorite teacher that Chloe's ever had. 

Many of you following along know that Chloe has been involved in many sports over the years and in high school  began concentrating on figure skating. She's already had a number of coaches and that's partially because well, I'm picky. I want individuals that see where she is but can envision what's next and that's not always easy to come by. When we found Chloe's match, it was amazing all the growth that followed! This key individual, whether she knows it or not, laid the foundation for Chloe's passion and confidence to grow. She pushed, inspired and challenged even on days when Chloe was scared - she coaxed her to move past it. While I do believe this person is amazing I also believe that her coaching methods and willingness to include Chloe in the rink, in skate school, in ice shows and even as a junior coach did and will always speak volumes about her character but her belief that we're all HUMAN first. Because she included and respected Chloe so did everyone else. She was a natural choice to write one of Chloe's recommendation letters also.

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CHLOE:

being the #glamfigureskater that she is!

I understand that you may not have a favorite teacher, a typical best friend or a private coach but I challenge and encourage you to look at and evaluate what you DO have. By the same token, I caution you to choose wisely! If you dig in and choose letters that come from people who believe in and KNOW the student it will give any prospective college a clearer picture of who the student is as well as what their potential(s) or untapped talent(s) may really be.  

So, who CAN you ask? 

  • Youth group leaders

  • Specialists  

  • Therapists  

  • Family Friends  

If you don't have a teacher - work on cultivating a relationship with one of your student's elective teachers. (Chloe had great rapport and support from teachers in science, dance, yoga and art, for example). 

Keep in mind that you usually don't get a copy of a recommendation letter so you're never sure exactly what's said - with that in mind I'll say it again -- choose wisely!