Because I know she wouldn’t, I’m going to boast instead and tell an abbreviated story about the greatest human I know; my wife, Ariel – and her college experience. If posts boasting about a significant other annoy you, PLEASE feel free to move on (I get it… trust me). But for those that have a heart…

This past December, after 6 years of schooling, Ariel quietly graduated summa cum laude from Notre Dame of Maryland University – with 2 job offers in hand – one of which was a full-time teaching position starting the day after New Year’s.

A blessing. An answer to prayers for sure.

But not surprising. Because Ariel had worked extremely hard for many years to get to that point.

In 2009, at 16 years old, Ariel was accepted to Loyola University: Class of 2013. She registered, got her housing assignment, and started planning her dorm with her roommates-to-be in the Fall. Unfortunately that summer, finances didn’t come through, she revoked her acceptance, and went to work instead. Dreams deferred.

In 2011, Ariel started a new full-time job as a coordinator of a Marital Arts Studio – essentially managing the business. She also created and co-ran a brand new program for young girls with the goal “to motivate young women to live life inspired, to be strong and confident, to be empathetic and kind, and to be empowered.”

Because that’s Ariel.

In late 2011, Ariel began taking night classes at Anne Arundel Community College.

Ariel and I started dating in 2014.

In the Summer of 2014, Ariel applied, and was accepted, to Notre Dame of Maryland University for the Fall 2014 semester. She ended up deferring to the Spring 2015. It’s not Loyola University – but it’s literally right next door – they even share a library!

In January 2015, Ariel left her full-time job and began college full time – living on campus in a dorm. (Though she kept a few part time jobs!)

In May 2015, we got engaged and set a wedding date of that coming October. From May to our wedding, Ariel lived with my friend’s parents, taking classes over the summer and then back to full-time in September. She also planned a wedding – had a wedding – and the following Monday went right back to school.

Because that’s Ariel.

For the first 2 years of our marriage, Ariel focused full-time on getting through school – including classes during the Summer. It was a demanding coursework in itself – and exasperated by Ariel’s commitment to doing things incredibly well. Too well I’d sometimes say.

Because that’s Ariel.

I was routinely amazed at how dedicated Ariel was to her assignments. Ariel approached every assignment with the same intentionality and focus as if it were a final exam or project. She couldn’t bring herself to do “just enough to get by”. If her name was on it, it was being done well. That’s an incredible trait.

A’s in every single class. Her papers were used by Professors as examples. She was asked to pilot a new teaching certification program. She received Notre Dame’s “Educator of Promise” award. And so much more. She put herself fully into whatever was thrown her way.

Because that’s Ariel.

When one of Ariel’s internship teacher’s went on maternity leave, the school asked Ariel to long-term sub.

When one of the teacher’s at a school where Ariel was interning left within the first few months of school, Ariel was offered a full-time position to replace that teacher’s substitute. She hadn’t even graduated college yet.

Because that’s Ariel.

Ariel is focused. Dedicated. Extremely thoughtful. And especially caring. She’s only “officially” been teaching for 2 months (though she’s spent PLENTY of time in classrooms and teaching kids over the years) and she’s already making an impact in the school she’s at now. It is extremely evident how much she cares for “her” kids and desires to see them excel – especially considering Ariel is their 3rd teacher in 1 school year. She was thrust into a challenging first teaching experience – but has excelled at the challenge!

I graduated college, yes. But I did it the way the majority of people do it – just the next thing you do for the four years after high school. Ariel had a much more challenging path, committed herself to it, and excelled at every turn.

And during all of THAT – she was a new wife. We prepped and prayed and planned for our marriage… But as anyone who has been married for any length of time can attest; you don’t really know what you’re doing in the beginning. In the most straightforward relationship scenarios, the first couple years of marriage can be extremely challenging. Ours has had it’s moments… but those moments have been blanketed with an amazing amount of grace, love, joy in the present, and hope for the future. In the midst of the around-the-clock demands of school, Ariel was an incredible wife to a not-always-easy-to-live-with husband, for sure.

In one of her college essays (at 16, mind you) Ariel wrote: “I will suspect that maybe I won’t impact the world, but I will share my plans to affect this nation we love so much in a very positive way…. I will be securing a safe world to raise our children in.”

Ariel, you have impacted the world. You are impacting the world. You will continue to impact the world. You have touched dozens and dozens of children’s lives so far. You have, literally, changed my life. You will most assuredly leave a legacy of inspiration, empathy, and empowerment. And you’re only getting started! I am so incredibly proud of what you’ve been able to rise above, muscle through, have faith in, and accomplish thus far. Thank you for letting me see behind the curtain and be a part of it. You are an incredible woman.

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