Profiles

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Led By Example

Sophia Craig finds that honoring her parents and forging her own path go hand in hand.

Jeanne Nagle and Lee Hecimovich '81 | Profiles | January 2023

The song “Living Years,” by Mike + the Mechanics, begins by boldly stating, “Every generation blames the one before.” Obviously, that philosophy doesn’t tell the whole story. There are plenty of times when, rather than fling blame, members of younger generations show appreciation for their predecessors, even going so far as honoring their elders by following their example.

Such is the case with Alumni Generations Scholar Sophia Craig. Born in Wisconsin Rapids, Sophia lived in several states before she and her family landed in Texas, where she graduated from Marcus High School, outside Dallas, in 2022. When it came time to decide where she’d continue her education, she went back to her native roots and chose UWSP—making her a third-generation Pointer.

Sophia’s Point pedigree extends back to both her paternal and maternal grandmothers, as well as an uncle. Yet it is the example of her alumni parents, James ’00 and Casandra (Pelot) ’99 Craig, that she calls out in her Alumni Generations application essay.

Sophia claims that she learned the importance of following her passion by observing her mother’s years of dedication as a special education paraprofessional.

“Although she will never be wealthy from working in the school, she loves her job because she loves the children she works with,” the first-year student writes. “It’s because of her that I want to find a way to merge my love for math and science with the cause I am passionate about--protecting the environment.”

Sophia and her dad at the UWSP Paper Science Banquet

What Sophia has derived from her father’s experience was a lesson in the redemptive power of a good education. A disruptive home life when he was young had left James traveling down a troublesome path. “My dad made poor grades, got into fights,” she relates.

Enter Sophia’s grandfather Jerry, who is James’ stepfather. “Jerry worked in a papermill as a chemical engineer,” Sophia writes in her essay. “He was able to pull the family out of poverty and set my dad back on track.”

What followed was a case of intergenerational academic influence. Inspired by Jerry, James decided to pursue a degree in paper science, at UWSP. Likewise, Sophia intends to follow her father’s lead and major in paper science at his alma mater. She sees a correlation between the stability that Jerry, by his example, brought to James’ life and the way her father’s subsequent choice of both college and career has affected her nuclear family. “His [James’] degree from UWSP has allowed him to give my three siblings and myself great lives,” she states.

This past summer, while living with her grandparents in Wisconsin Rapids, Sophia got a taste of what she anticipates will be a shared career path by securing a full-time technical internship at ND Paper Mills in Biron; she downshifted to part time employment and moved into Pray-Sims before the fall semester began. She has also joined the student chapter of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry.

For now, Sophia isn’t sure if, given the opportunity, she would remain at ND Paper after graduation or pursue other opportunities within the industry. Neither can she tell if her own choice of school might influence her 14-year-old sister and twin 12-year-old brothers to also attend UWSP, thus furthering the family tradition on which her Alumni Generations scholarship is based. All she can say with any certainty is that following the path trod by her personal generations of Pointers—in particular, her mother and father—is worthy not only of her respect, but an appreciative shout-out as well:

“My parents’ endless support and unconditional love have given me the confidence to further my education at Stevens Point.”

 

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