Tag Archives: graduation

A Proud Moment for Our Youngest Daughter Ruby

Every parent rightly feels great pride when their children reach milestones such as high school graduation. For our youngest child, Ruby, her June 7 graduation from Wisconsin Virtual Academy came with extra meaning.

A number of years ago, Ruby had to withdraw from our local public high school after being diagnosed at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin with a rare health issue. On many days, poor health kept her from being able to sit upright, much less be in a classroom environment. We remembered the online school system powered by K12, since her older brother Stevie attended online middle school. Using Wisconsin’s school choice program, we enrolled her at Wisconsin Virtual Academy, administered by the McFarland School District. It turned out to be a Godsend in so many ways.

Ruby Hanneman (center) with counselor Tanya Steger (left) and Wisconsin Virtual Academy high school administrator Cindy Worden. The photo was taken at the Kohl Educational Foundation banquet held at Middleton High School. 
The online school allowed Ruby the flexibility to do her schoolwork during times she was feeling good. She had great teachers and excellent support, provided using K12’s interactive internet-based school system. Online school requires strong discipline and organizational skills. It was at times a struggle, but Ruby thrived in the online learning environment. She had her own educational guardian angel named Tanya Steger, who watched over Ruby and kept her on track. Tanya used encouragement and positive reinforcement to help Ruby succeed in school. When rough patches came up, she steered Ruby to resources that helped her get caught up again. There was no scolding or shaming, but always cheerleading and positive solutions. WIVA should be proud to have such a caring, dedicated person like Tanya Steger on its staff. Ruby would not have made it without her.

Not only did Tanya help Ruby in school, but she nominated her for the Kohl Initiative Scholarship funded by the Kohl Educational Foundation. The foundation is run by former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, whose family founded Kohl’s food stores and Kohl’s department stores. Tanya wrote a very moving endorsement of Ruby’s work and the obstacles she overcame in completing high school. We were thrilled to later learn that Ruby was among the winners of the Kohl Initiative Scholarship. Tanya and WIVA administrator Cindy Worden drove to Middleton High School near Madison in late April for the scholarship banquet. It was announced at the banquet that Sen. Kohl was doubling the size of each scholarship from $5,000 to $10,000. What a blessing.

Sen. Kohl was very gracious and stayed for a long time after the banquet to pose for photos with award winners. When Ruby went on stage to get her photo taken, I showed the senator a snapshot taken in 2003 or 2004. He was pictured at the U.S. Capitol, standing next to Ruby’s grandfather, David D. Hanneman, then mayor of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. The senator said he remembers Dave, which of course made the day even more special to us.

At the graduation ceremony held at McFarland High School on June 7, Tanya stood before the graduates and family members and talked about Ruby and how she came to excel at school in spite of her health. Ruby had tears in her eyes as she came onstage to give Tanya a hug. When it was Ruby’s turn to get her diploma, we all had some extra tears. Mostly tears of joy, but also of nostalgia, since Ruby is the baby in the family.

Such challenges and success! Ruby worked so hard to achieve her diploma. WIVA, its teachers, administrators and counselors, along with Ruby’s mom, deserve great credit for helping her reach graduation. This fall, Ruby will join older sister Samantha in enrolling at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Life goes on. And one father is so very proud.

©2017 The Hanneman Archive


Firstborn Son Achieves a Major Milestone

As I found out today, the college graduation of our firstborn son brought out great parental pride but also just a tinge of sadness at the quick passage of time. As I watched my son, Stephen Patrick, stride across the stage at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside to receive his diploma, my mind wandered to times long ago.

As Stevie shook the hands of the chancellor, the dean and the provost, I could see him climbing over my back as a toddler, wearing a rugby shirt and little blue jeans. I saw him in his flannel shirt and baseball cap at the pumpkin farm, riding in a wheelbarrow full of carefully selected pumpkins. I saw him, the proud big brother, holding his newborn sister, Samantha. I could hear echoes of Christmas 1996, with a new baby in the house. “You know what my favorite Christmas present is, Dad?” he asked eagerly. “Samantha,” he replied, beaming at his new sister. I saw him a few years later, pick up his baby sister, Ruby, and help us give her a bath.

Stevie with his girlfriend, Maggie, after graduating with a degree in computer science.
Stevie with his girlfriend, Maggie, after graduating with a degree in computer science.

My mind wandered, but was brought back to the present for a moment. “Stephen Hanneman, bachelor of science,” professor Gregory Mayer called out over the public address system. Stevie, the young man, took his diploma cover from Chancellor Deborah Ford and strode back to his seat, the white tassel on his mortarboard dancing the whole way. How did this day arrive, watching my 24-year-old achieve one of the biggest of life’s milestones? How did he get here, one of 509 graduates in the Class of 2016? I realized that the golden-voiced soap-opera actor, Macdonald Carey, was right when he said: “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”

Reminiscing might be one sure sign of aging, but graduations are good times to indulge in memories. Stevie overcame huge obstacles in his life to reach this day. We watched him pull his high school career from the clutches and turn things around. He killed it on the American College Test (ACT) and suddenly, a great future opened up. He put himself through school with student loans, working various jobs, and the unwavering help of his dear girlfriend, Maggie. How I wished I’d been able to provide more help and be there more during those years. But at the same time, how proud I am that he made it happen for himself.

Standing at the graduation reception in Wyllie Hall, I gave Stevie a big hug of congratulations. I knew, like the pumpkin farm and the bicycle rides and soccer games, memories of this day would be etched forever in my mind. I realized anew that as a parent, you do your very best, pray a lot, and then let them go.

Happy graduation, son. Your Dad is so very proud of you.

©2016 The Hanneman Archive