Mother’s Day Letter to Michelle Obama

pegjamieDear Michelle,

Earlier this week I was ecstatic to hear the news of Malia’s decision to take a gap year.  Despite the plethora of social media comments about deferring college enrollment for a full year; I want to share my experience as a mother who also encouraged the same for her son nine years ago.   

It’s hard to envision the circumstances of other people’s lives. Most high school seniors and their families move through the college process following friends and school advisors.  We plan endlessly for the future, as if our choices and decisions have to be like the rest.  We set out for college visits, assess the academic rigor, and we even measure success by the college acceptances for our child.

Meanwhile, we may be tempted to follow that conventional path or choose a less known one.

It was the fall of 2006, my son Jamie was a senior in high school.  Life’s adversity was real and raw.  He (and his parents) was still grieving the loss of his sister from the previous year.  Despite applying to colleges, Jamie and I began to explore a few gap year programs.  It wasn’t until spring when Jamie had returned home after visiting the University of Jacksonville with no desire to enroll; that the decision to take the year off was now a more viable choice.  

As mothers, we know our child.   

Going off to college later that fall was not what my son needed.  

Instead, I knew my son needed time for healing, discovery and growth.  Also to experience living away from home without academic stress and to set his own goals for the future.  

By late August, Jamie started Dynamy, a gap year program in Worcester, Massachusetts.  This program afforded my son opportunities from outdoor educational activities to three full time internships such as: sports marketing for a semi-professional football team, restaurant hospitality and radio broadcasting.  In addition to professional development classes, community service projects, college advising and much more.

Aside from the gap year’s curriculum, Jamie learned the real meaning of hard work, team building, the how to’s for working with others and living with your peers.  Plus managing your own money, preparing meals, laundry and responsibilities to self, community, work and family.  

There is no way to ever replicate nor replace Jamie’s gap year experience.   

Just like every child is unique and special — never replicable or replaceable.  

On this Mother’s Day Weekend I say, Michelle, job well done!   May Malia’s gap year give her the wings to soar!

Happy Mother’s Day!



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  • Rosalie Lisa / May 6, 2016 at 6:01 am

    Peg, what keen insight. There are many ways to navigate the journey to adulthood. It is wonderful that you supported your sons needs. You are a shining example of motherhood as is Michelle. I will miss her in the White House. Happy Mothers Day! Rosalie. P.S. I love the dress!

    • Peg Calvario / May 6, 2016 at 9:00 am

      Yes, there are many paths and I believe everyone of us must experience a gap year in our lifetime. So, there’s still time for us.

  • Kae Wagner / May 6, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Inspiring letter, Peg. Enjoyed reading about Jamie’s gap year experience and it sounds like a wonderful program. To be intentional about that year is a gift.

    • Peg Calvario / May 7, 2016 at 6:37 am

      Kae, I love your perspective “to be intentional.” Certainly the gap year was an intentional gift in many ways. Thank you for your comment and “Happy Mother’s Day.”

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