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I don’t remember how I felt as I boarded the bus down the twisting road from my house and across the street from my high school, on my way to CU. I just remember lugging two lawn and leaf bags up the narrow steps and finding a seat that would accommodate the three of us.

I don’t remember getting off the bus or walking to the Cheyenne Arapahoe dorms, but I remember stepping into what would be my room for that freshman year, discovering it was already occupied by my roommate’s luggage, and immediately worrying about the discrepancies between styles.

Wendy was (and is) a brilliant woman, an avid runner, and a bright shiny penny of a person. Coming out from under the dark cloud of my household, I know I must have looked every bit of the confused mess I was on the inside. Combat boots, ripped shorts, a “Jesus Lives” T-shirt and a shaved head with a little pigtail topping the whole deal was surely not what she expected when she walked in with her mother and stacks of prepackaged mini hot dogs for our tiny shared fridge.

And yet, over the course of that first semester — in fact, within weeks — Wendy embraced me, introduced me to her friends from Columbine High School, shared the mini hot dogs and was never shy about inviting me to go do things with her.

I will forever be grateful to her for taking a chance on me, and I know without a doubt that I wouldn’t have pieced myself back together without her help.

As the dorms filled up again last week, I thought about Wendy, and I thought about all you newbies and all the different ways in which you arrived at school. Some of you got rides from your parents, some of you had help from friends, some of you arrived alone. Maybe one of you brought your clothes in lawn and leaf bags like I did. But all of you are going through a big change, a seismic shift from living under your parents’ roof to living under a roof with people your own age from all over the world.

It’s an opportunity you might not experience again in the whole of your lifetime.

I hope every one of you arrives safely and that somewhere in the group of people that comprise your new roommate, your new dormmates, your new classmates, that one of them is as kind to you as Wendy was to me. I hope you find your footing, that you find courage in the face of wholly understandable fears, and that you step into class today feeling full of potential, full of promise, full of hope.

Whatever came before, good or bad or both, that’s in the past and you are here, now, on campus, starting a new journey. It’s so exciting. I’m so excited for you. And I hope that, over the next several months, if you didn’t start out feeling like a bright shiny penny of a person, you end up feeling like one. It’s a fresh start, and I hope you can make the most of it.

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