The heart of all things Madison

Being the Change

by Jan Gillis ('07)

Incoming freshmen and their families at send-off picnic

For the Milbert family, First-Year Send Offs and the Parents Council form connections that JMU parents and students need
By Jan Gillis ('07)

Fred and Lerita Milbert hosting JMU Freshmen Send Off Picnic

Going off to college-one of the most exciting times for students and their families-can also be challenging and downright anxiety-ridden.

Will my child's college experience be positive? Will college be too much of a financial burden for our family? What dining package will my student need? What if my student has problems with a roommate? How will we manage? The questions seem never ending, and the problems that might present loom large.

It would be nice to have the advice and reassurance from experienced parents and students who have made the transition.

That's where JMU's First-Year Send Off picnics come in. Held at various locations around the country, the events give new Dukes and their families a chance to get to know others from their locale, and pose any and all questions to current JMU parents and students, and staff members.

Hosting send off picnics is a way of life for Fred ('76) and Lerita Milbert. Even though their daughter Kallie ('11, '12M) is now officially a JMU alum, the Milberts are fifth-time hosts for this summer's event in Prince William County, Va.

"We feel we get people out of the dark and calm their fears, especially if they are sending off their first child," says Lerita.  That's what makes their role so enjoyable. "The best experience is seeing parents come in to a picnic really nervous as to what they are getting into and seeing them leave with a look of relief. They say, 'I feel like I'm connected now, like I belong,'" says Fred.

Connection, it turns out, is just as important for parents as it is for students. "Parents leave the picnics knowing that JMU is connecting to them," says Fred. "And where we see the biggest connection is student-to-student. Kallie met students at the picnic, then saw them on campus, and they stayed in touch."

And the Milberts have found that JMU's Parents Council is another vital resource for forging relationships.
"A co-worker of mine, Debbie Barnard ('77), encouraged us to join the Parents Council," says Fred. "Once we got involved, we were able to meet people and see the connections we could make with the university that were not just directly related to Kallie. We were able to meet good people, and create our own network with them. Being engaged with the university and the Parents Council helped us, even providing a social outlet. Kallie was our youngest, and we weren't empty-nested."

Parents Council membership was their counterpart to Kallie's well-rounded Madison education. "Being a member of the Parents Council broadens you personally, gives you an insight as to what is going on at the university, makes you feel involved," says Lerita. "It kept us well-rounded."

The Milberts agree that Kallie's Madison Experience was more than they hoped for. "Whenever we visited, even at 'off-times,' we always saw the same enthusiasm that we saw participating in Choices [the JMU Admissions program for admitted freshmen and their families]," says Lerita. "The most impressive thing about JMU is that there is something for everyone to be involved in, clubs, organizations, all kinds of resources," says Fred.

The family proves over and over that connection is at the heart of all things Madison. Kallie is beginning her teaching career at Yorkshire Elementary in Manassas in August. And she is one of three JMU graduates hired by the school-one more link in the chain of JMU connection.

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Published: Saturday, September 1, 2012

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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