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?I'm going to miss my mom ...'

By Trina Trice

In just a few days Shanika Wright will be kissing her mother goodbye amidst a sea of other young students.

Wright is embarking on her first year of college at Alabama A&M University.

The college was one of five she applied to. And while she is excited about her new venture, she has fond memories of high school.

"It was a great experience," Wright said. "I was in the top five percent of my class. I got to sit right up front (at graduation). It was great ?cause all my friends were up there with me and we got the chance to experience it together."

This year, though, Wright will be going it alone when she arrives on campus.

Armed with a mini-fridge and her clothes, Wright is excited about the different experiences she'll have, like living with a complete stranger in a dorm room. Plus, she has never spent more than a week away from home.

"I chose my school because it's a close school to home," Wright explained. "I was in marching band (in high school) and I enjoyed their band. The campus is very beautiful with clean air and a mountain backdrop. It's a wonderful atmosphere. But I have family in Alabama who I know will be checking up on me."

Wright's mother, Darcy Stevenson, is confident that her daughter has a strong enough character to fight any peer pressure and to take care of herself.

Wright does have concerns, though.

"You have to wash your own clothes, be on your own, provide for yourself," Wright said. "I won't have my mom there to take care of me. That's probably my biggest concern."

Soon-to-be Hampton University freshman Joel Loftis feels confident he'll be able to adapt to his new surroundings on campus.

"I'm ready for the whole college experience. I'll have a lot more freedom and a lot more responsibility. I don't want to get up there and get home sick," he said.

Loftis is sharing a room with a high school friend, and he joined the college marching band, something he knows will be a challenge.

"We're going to practice a lot longer and a lot more often," Loftis said. "We're going to be learning a lot of music and intricate routines. It'll raise the lever of difficulty really high."

He looks forward to a new social scene, but he won't be able to forget home.

"I'm going to miss my mom, but I know she's ready for me to go," he said.

Seeing children start out on their own is nothing new for Stevenson. Wright is her third child to go off to college.

"You're sad, but you're also happy because your children have to learn responsibility and get off on their own," she said. "The first time I drop them off and get them set up in the dorm room, I get a little melancholy. You always have concerns, but I have faith in God and I have faith in them also."

For parents who have never seen their children off to college, Stevenson offers a little advice.

"They might call once or twice and say, ?I want to go home', then after a while, they don't want to come home," she said laughing. "Once you get through the first couple of month, it'll be better. When they call, you have to be strong and tell them they just have to stick it out. I'll be crying when Shanika goes, but I'll get over it."