Vivian Lamas emotions veered from the script during inauguration ceremonies two months ago for West Virginia University President Mike Garrisonand there wasnt a thing she could about it.
Blame it on that business aboutfamily,andcoming home.
Those two themes were integral to the event, and thats why Vivian, an engaging 22-year-old from Miami who will graduate this month with a criminology degree, was there on the rainy day in Woodburn Circle for the installation of WVU s 22nd president.
She was part of the program, and while she began with poise, it didnt take her long to unravel when those themes came up in her scripted lines. She choked up and had to take several seconds to gather herself as many in the audience dabbed at their own moist eyes in response. View Video
I did lose it for a minute,she said.I started thinking about my mom and my grandparents. I started thinking about what a great, welcoming place this university is. I started thinking about what this place has given my family.
What WVU gave the Lama family is this: an intellectual avenue that might not have been open to them back home in Florida. Which is why they made WVU , and West Virginia, their new home.
Since 2003, the Lamas have earnedthree degrees between them, withthree more on the wayand maybe another after that.
Vivians mother, Vivian Georgina, pulled down a Spanish degree and is now working on a masters in secondary education. Stepfather Marco Maurier is the proud possessor of a bachelor’sin computer science and is also pursuing a graduate degree in that field.
Two years from now, Vivians kid brother Gabriel Lama (hes 19) will have closed the books on a bachelors in geography to help him navigate his professional world.
And the siblings16-year-old sister, Rachael, is already casting aspirations on the flying W-V as she completes her public schooling at Morgantowns University High.
How they got here, all at once, had the makings of a cringe-inducing scenario worthy of a thousand reality shows on MTV : When Vivian went off to school everyone else did, too.
I tell people that Vivian was our ticket out of Miami,said Vivian Georgina, a tall woman with a quick laugh and a lilting accent that still carries the timbres of her girlhood in Venezuela.When she went, we went.
Goodbye, palm trees and Biscayne Boulevard. Hello, pepperoni rolls and Beechurst Avenue.
There was a reason for that.
It wasnt like it was �€~My Big Fat College Experience,or anything like that,Vivian said of her mothers decision.Its family. Were genuinely close. It was time to explore something different. And we were going to do it together.
Because while Miami is vibrant and cosmopolitan, Vivian Georgina said, it also has more than an abundance of urban angstfrom traffic congestion to crime.
Her kids, too, had never really been anywhere else.
The citys so self-contained,she said.You might go to Key West or Disney World. My children had very little contact outside the Hispanic community. Their world consisted of about five blocks, really.
That world got more broad, and hilly, when Vivian decided to come to school here.
We flew in to Pittsburgh and rented a car,Vivian said.Mom got us lost.
Vivian stayed by herself in Morgantown while the family settled up in Miami. Gabriel didnt want to stay, at first. But he got used to his new high school. And then WVU seemed like a logical progression.
I made friends,he said.I got into Mountaineer football. I didnt even understand the game when we moved here. In my neighborhood in Miami, you played baseball.
Thats what Im talking about,Vivian Georgina said. When she was 11, her parents, George and Fidias, left their native Venezuela for life in America. New York City, it was, in a timeless immigrantstale.
The first time I saw snow, it was late at night,Vivian Georgina said.We ran out of our building and made snow angels on the sidewalk.
WVU made just as indelible impression on the Lama family, especially when Vivian Georgina and Marco decided to go back to school as nontraditional students.
Student Support Services was there all the way,she said.Its a real resource. And the professors, and the classes. West Virginia University has been so good to us. We can really appreciate this place, because its making all the difference in the world to us. My dreams for my children are the dreams my parents had for me. Were succeeding, for our parents andour grandparents too. Because of WVU .
And besides, Vivian said with her mothers same quick laugh, its fun showing off the place when George and Fidias visit from Miami. Morgantowns 45-degree hills were a revelation.
My grandmother looked at those frat houses at the top of North High Street,Vivian said,and asked, �€~How do people ever get up there?