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How To | 28 Minutes

Navigating College Entry from the Early Years

Marlin Detweiler Written by Marlin Detweiler
Navigating College Entry from the Early Years

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How early is too early to think about college, and what can you do to get started? What if you don’t know how to encourage your teen who has no idea what they want to do after high school? If your child's not going to college, why in the world do they need this rigorous education?

In this episode with Academic Advisor Susan Gimotty, we unpack all of these questions and more. You’ll walk away with practical steps you can take to help your student succeed after high school- however that looks for them!

Episode Transcription

Note: This transcription may vary from the words used in the original episode.

Laurie Detweiler:

Good morning and welcome to Veritas Vox, the voice of classical Christian education. Today we have a really- what I think you're going to find to be very helpful podcast for you. Joining me today is Lexi Detweiler, who has done a number of podcasts with me, and Susan Gimmotty. And she is somebody that I've known for many years now, came to know Veritas when she first enrolled children, her own children, into Veritas Academy online. And then she came on as an advisor some years later. Susan, give us a little introduction about yourself and what you do for Veritas and a little bit about your family.

Susan Gimmotty:

Yeah, thank you, Laurie. I'm Susan Gimmotty, and I actually live in Kansas City. And a little bit about me is I'm a teacher by trade. I have a bachelor's in education and a master's in administration. And I taught at super fancy prep schools on the East Coast for about ten years. All the while trying to start a family. After a long road of infertility, the Lord finally blessed us with four kids in six years. So I knew I wanted to homeschool them for a variety of reasons. And we started in kindergarten, homeschooling my oldest, and finally, when he was about in sixth grade, I had a sixth grader, fourth grader, second grader, and kindergartner, and I made the startling conclusion I needed some help.

So at that time, I had a friend who taught at Veritas, and she thought it would be a good fit for our family. We had not classically educated our kids at that time, and I was pretty unfamiliar with that. But what drew me to Veritas was the rigor. I knew that I wanted more for my kids than the education I had myself.

I was kind of that smart kid in school, 4.0, yadda, yadda. But bottom line is, I was a good memorizer, and I was highly organized, but my education was paper thin, and that's when I really began to explore Veritas as well as classical education because I never knew how to connect the dots. I never knew how to take a big step back and speak intelligently about how something related to something else. I just knew the date the Parthenon was built. And so that was a big change for me. So we plopped our oldest, Michael in seventh grade. That would have been 13 years ago.

Laurie Detweiler:

By is a really awesome kid I might add.

Susan Gimmotty:

He had had no logic, no classical training. And we just plopped him in, we plopped him in the full-time diploma program. I wanted a transcript. I wanted him to walk across at graduation stage, and I really just held my breath to see how it was going to go. And he did beautifully. So he graduated five years ago, and he went on to get an undergraduate degree in pre-med and finance, and now he's in dental school. He's one-fourth of the way through dental school. And his education at Veritas just prepared him beautifully. One of the best quotes Michael has ever said to me in my entire life was when he first went to undergrad. In October, he came home for a little break. He had been there six weeks and I sat him down. I put my big girl pants on, and I said, Michael, “How should we be preparing your siblings better? You went out of state to college. You know, you were in the homeschool bubble. So he had been with me, you know, under my little roof for 13 years. And we launched him out 4 hours away, and he said, “Mom,” this is literally an exact quote, “Mom, there's a thousand freshmen at my school, and I am pretty sure I am the best prepared of all 1000.” Oh, my God. That was a sweet comment that he made to me. And he is doing well.

I then put three more in the program. My second one is Madison. She graduated three years ago, and she's almost finishing her undergrad in education. And then I have Nicholas. He graduated a year and a half ago, and he is actually a collegiate golfer. So kind of fun. Also, that Veritas does well with NCAA, and he's an electrical engineering major. And then I still have one in high school who's at Veritas. So that's a little bit about me and my journey.

And so then, a few years ago, one of my worst nightmares is twiddling my thumbs. So after I had launched two do college, I reached out to Veritas, and I said, “Hey, I love it so much. I would like to help people along the way.” I love to mentor. I do a lot of that in Kansas City to mentor local homeschool moms and I kind of wanted to try it on a bigger scale. So I'm an Academic Advisor here at Veritas. I oversee a lot of students, and I guide them. I help them. I might get them in second grade, sixth grade, and 10th grade. It doesn't really matter. And I help them along to, Lord willing, cross that graduation stage with us and launch them out to the world.

Laurie Detweiler:

Right. And I think one of the things that I hear from people is how amazing you are looking at each child's needs. And I think that that's one thing that there's a difference in this kind of education for a child, as we talk about colleges, is, you know, you really can look at each child individually, even within a family, and they are all different. Lexi is experiencing that because she has younger children, too. By the way, if you haven't been on this podcast before, it happened to be my grandchildren. So just saying, I kind of really like them a lot! They are different, and they all learn differently. And that's one thing that's been so great about this, all of your children, Susan, I know they're different, right? And they don't have one size fits all.

Great. Well, Lexi, I know you have some questions for Susan, and we're going to be talking a lot about college and the admission process and what it means. And one of the reasons I wanted Lexi here also is she's at the beginning of this. And I can remember my oldest son– I pretty much knew my sons now are 30, almost 37 to 33. So 34, gosh, that's hard to believe. So, I remember when they were just holding these babies in my arms, thinking, “Oh, my goodness, this education is all in front of me, and I'm responsible for this,” because as a Christian, I believe before God we were responsible in educating a child.

And so it was an overwhelming thing, and I have a lot of new moms that asked me, “I know this kind of seems weird, but I have a kindergartner, but I want to know what Veritas’ success is and getting kids into college and what do I need to be thinking about?” So that's why we decided to do this podcast today. So Lexi, ask away because she’s the expert on this!

Lexi Detweiler:

Yeah! So as Laurie said, I have three little ones. They are four, six, and eight. And as a homeschooling parent, I'm always just comparing–I’m comparing to other homeschoolers, other kids in the neighborhood. Am I doing enough? How do I know that they're on the right track? And I know that's the question that a lot of homeschooling moms have. And thanks to Veritas and the community, I know that I am doing enough, but everybody's always trying to do more, you know, just to make sure that they get into the college that they want to get into. And it's kind of overwhelming! I honestly don't really want to think about college right now because I want them to stay little forever.

Laurie Detweiler:

I want them to stay little too!

Lexi Detweiler:

But I know– but they're already like practically teenagers to me, the way you know, the way that they're acting. So I just want to make sure that I'm taking the right steps now. And I guess my first question is, how early is too early to start thinking about college? What can I do now that my kids have started this schooling? And, you know, what's your advice for young moms?

Susan Gimmotty:

That's a great question, Lexi. I do feel like that danger of comparison is something that is kind of the black cloud over us. And I do feel like we as homeschool moms, we homeschool our children for a reason because we think we know that's God's given mandate. And we feel like homeschooling is the best one– best, you know, pathway for us.

So I think, A: I would like to speak to just that danger of comparison, and that is, and I again mentor a lot of moms here in Kansas City, and I always share with them. You know, every day of my homeschooling wasn't fabulous. In fact, few days were fabulous, but I was faithful. It was never a negotiation. Every single day we did it, and I worked hard and I kind of kept my nose to the ground for 13 years, really.

And yeah, I would go to the little homeschool conference. I was a lifelong learner, but I was careful with that too, because if I'm just getting like off the rails, like, “Oh, I need to go do this math or I should change this grammar,” or, “Well, obviously they don't know anything about Latin

Should I maybe start that?”

You just have to be careful, and you know your own self, and you know how much of that you can handle. So I just encourage you that most homeschool moms are doing a great job. You're committed; you're faithful. But every day did not look fabulous. And I probably could count on just my hands and my feet how many days actually looked fabulous. And that at the end of the day, I'm like, “Oh, that was so fabulous!” So I encourage you with that.

But as far as how early to start, I would say one thing we did in our home because I had a friend who didn't do this in her home, and it came to bite her, and she encouraged me differently was this: we talked about going off to college regularly. It was part of our dialog, just simple things. “Well, you know, when you go off to college, blah, blah, blah,” “Well, you know, when you go off to college, this is going to be something.” And so it became a natural step to the pathway for college.

My friend was kind of in denial, like, I want to keep my kids young forever, and maybe if I don't talk about it, maybe somehow, miraculously, all of us will be ready by the time they're in 12th grade. I disagree with that. And she and the student really, really struggled because they hadn't kind of mentally prepared, really their mind and their heart for what is going to be a big change versus if I would send my kid to traditional school down the street, you know, they would be going off during the day, and they would forget their homework, forget their lunch, their computer cord all of a sudden doesn't work. What are they going to do? Well, my kids really, their first time to experience that fully was when they went off to college. So I think mentally even, you know, with Ava as eight-years-old, I would say little things like, “You know, honey, someday when you go off to college,” you know, or “When I was at college, oh, this was so fun. I remember,” you know, “We got a sled on the cafeteria trays,” you know, just envisioning them that college is fun, and it can be a great step for many kids.

Lexi Detweiler:

Yeah, yeah. That's a good point. Just like talking about the future is really a healthy thing to do.

Laurie Detweiler:

You do that! You talk to them about college.

Lexi Detweiler:

I do. But you know, it's a lot about like well –well, that's true. Ava wants to be a veterinarian. And I'm always like, “Well, Ava, you know, you have to go to vet school, and you have to like do math,” which is like a big thing in our family. It’s like we don't really like to do math.

Laurie Detweiler:

I explained in order to do prescriptions, she would have to be doing math.

Lexi Detweiler:

And handwriting!

Laurie Detweiler:

And handwriting. Yeah!

Lexi Detweiler:

Okay, so talking about like next steps with them is there really is, you know, a little. But then when the actual like college search and that kind of thing starts happening, what, what do you recommend as far as that?

Susan Gimmotty:

Yeah, I feel like that's kind of twofold. My one best tip, and this is the overarching thing as people contemplate college is this we sometimes can think college– getting into college is like jumping off a dock. I'm in the middle of the lake, I'm standing on a dock, and I hope I jump in the right direction, and I hope it works out. I would say that is not how the college search should be.

I feel like it's stepping stones. Imagine a river or a creek with 15 steps that little stones that I can walk across. And that is what college search looks like. So I would say, like Ava, who is thinking about being a veterinarian as she gets older– so my oldest, Michael, decided he wanted to be a dentist pretty early on. He was between 13 and 14. I loved it when I am at a place where there is a person who has an occupation that I don't know a whole lot about. So i.e. dentist or I'm at the accountant, and I happen to have a kid with me. I routinely ask them when they were little in front of them. I said, “Hey, do you like your occupation, and what do you like about it?” Well, so I'm asking the orthodontist this in front of Michael, and the orthodontist is really just unloaded on Michael how this is the most fabulous profession ever. And Michael was a very observant kid. Now, all my kids are not overly observant, but Michael was, and he picked up on it. And within, you know, you see you have to see the orthodontist, you know, like once a month. And so over and over again, he would kind of hear the sales pitch, and he's like, “Mom, I think this is maybe what I want to do.” So what we did is we got him into shadow. And that is I feel like a big part of the process.

Now, does that have anything to do with a college application? Not really. But it will decide where you want to go. And for example, my youngest son, Nicholas, he decided he wanted to be an engineer and he wanted to play golf. We wanted him to, Lord willing, find a Christian college not super far away. And also, he had to have the college be south of Kansas City because golfers don't like to play in the snow.



Laurie Detweiler:

That is for sure!

Susan Gimmotty:

One thing that surprised me in our search for colleges for him is how few Christian colleges in the Midwest or in the South have accredited engineering programs. And so we kind of we had all of these possible programs that also had golf teams that he could probably play on. And we struck through half of them overnight when we did the research and figured out they don't have accredited programs. So why in the world would I spend all that money sending you to college, and you don't have an accredited engineering degree? Nicholas has a fancy internship right now, an engineering internship, and every single one he applied for said, “You have to be in progress at a college with an accredited engineering program.” So this isn't just, you know, for the extra smart, this is something you need.

So what I would say is kind of figure out what they might like to do. Now, some of my kids were laser focused. Others of my kids were all over the map, literally. And it drives me crazy because I'm kind of an organized person. So to help them, you know. So for Ava, as she gets older, start her shadowing at a little vet clinic; maybe she could even moonlight for them, you know, on the weekend or whatever.

Even if it's a volunteer, most of that shadowing will be volunteer. And that really helped my second one. She thought she wanted to be a teacher. Great. Maddison, let's get you to start teaching Sunday school all by yourself. She used to be my helper, and I flipped the rolls, and I would literally sit in the corner with my hands tied and let her do it and let her figure out when it wasn't working. And she had to figure out how to make it work.

So I would say from ages like 10 to 15 is a great time to provide them opportunities to figure out what they might like to do.

Laurie Detweiler:

Marlin calls it greasing the skids. He does talks for homeschoolers on greasing the skids. And I will say, you know, your family, I think one of the reasons our families get along is because we think alike in this. But, you know, it's hard as a mom and a dad with multiple children when they're all different. Right? Yours are all different. Mine are all different. So my oldest son, like yours, was the engineer, and we were doing engineering competitions and dragging him all over.

My second one was the golfer, so, you know, we were always in fact– we employed my dad to help with that. And Travis, our third son, who Lexi's husband, was in the theater, you know, and so we were all over between Philadelphia and New York because he was acting. And then my youngest one was an entrepreneur from day one and selling things. And so I think you were so right because it narrowed down the college search. You're so right about that. When they know what they want to do it does narrow down what you're looking at.

Susan Gimmotty:

And I think it's always the elephant in the room when they don't know what they want to do. And so with one of ours, we actually employed a career coach. I did some research. And because, you know, as they get to be teenagers, sometimes the mom's opinion doesn't hold as much weight as you would like. And it's time to rally the troops and rustle the trees and get a third party. And there's a lot of different– there's books out there you can read. There's career coaches, and I felt like it was just a very valuable money that we spent. Yeah.

Lexi Detweiler:

So it sounds like your kids really figured out the path that they wanted to take. Started doing the shadowing and the volunteering. How important is that kind of stuff? You know, like extracurriculars and stuff like that– on the transcript compared to the grade part of the transcript.

Susan Gimmotty:

That's a great question. So on a Veritas transcript, which by the way, just holds up really, really well on the college apps, I help about 25 kids get into college every year, and our–the Veritas transcripts just look impressive. 90% of our classes are on the honors level, no matter if you're an honor student or not. They look rigorous. We have a weighted GPA, but one aspect of the transcript is the extracurriculars. And so when I'm advising these 25 students a year, I ask them, we encourage them to fill the box up over the course of four years.

So what does that look like? College want to see that you did more than just study that you're not just another smart kid. Because of COVID, we have entered an era where the standardized test, like the SAT, or ACT, the importance of it has really lessened, and there are many schools out there that are actually going test-optional. And you can how do you find that? You just hop on their website, and it's usually right on their home page or under the admissions tab. And it will say if they are test-optional, and experts will tell you that possibly might continue after COVID. COVID is pretty much subsided, and colleges are still going test-optional. So because of that, we need to make sure we are showing that our kids, our Veritas graduates are super well-rounded. Now, what can go, what can be extracurriculars? Really, the sky's the limit.

Like Laurie was mentioning, I mean, if your kid is in the theater, well, that's going to be a great extracurricular. Both of my girls dance, and they do classical ballet. And that is certainly something that's on our extracurricular. Veritas actually has things that you can do within Veritas. We have clubs. I mean, we have fun clubs like cooking and photography, and then we have more academic clubs like Latin Club, and those look great on a transcript, you can become like a mentor at Veritas, or you can run for student government. All my kids did that. They were vice presidents of their class or whatever.

Then locally, like Honor Society, I make my kids do honor society, and if I'm honest, they don't really like it, but they think it's like, okay, this is a waste of time, mom. It looks great on their extracurriculars. Again, trying to fill up all of those lines, not to look like a busybody, but that you show that you did more than just study.

So I would say, you know, just keep your eye out. For example, super random here. But we have there's an organization called Sons of the American Revolution, and they have an essay contest. Well, one of my sons had just written an essay for Omnibus, which is our course here at Veritas that combines history, literature, and theology. And he had just written a really fabulous paper for his class about the Revolutionary War. Something came across my desk about this contest, this essay contest, and I'm like, “Michael, you've already written this paper. All you have to do is reformat it, maybe have it, take you 30 minutes, and you could submit it!” He's like, “Sure.” I mean, I think it was like $500 or $800 that you would win if you won. So he submitted it, and he ended up winning. I don't think there are a lot of applicants if I'm honest, but he won like $500 and then it went to the state level and I think he won $400 more. He won $900 off this essay. Well, that's kind of a fun distinction to put on your little list, you know, essay contest, winner, whatever. And then so then, of course, I made my other son do it. I'm like, hey, here's a good way to start earning money. And it was interesting when he was interviewing for the engineering internships, one of– he was like with a VP. I mean, this kid's only 18 years old, and the VP noticed that on his distinction list on his transcript and actually said, “Oh, looks like you're a good writer. That would help in this role, that usually engineers don't have to be good writers, but in this role, we need people who can write.” So you just never know where those little distinctions might–.

So I would just keep my ear to the ground. Like ours only has eight lines to fill up. Eight lines is not a whole lot over the course of four years. And so when I'm advising students, I start by ninth grade, and I'll we'll talk about their extracurriculars. What are you doing outside, and how can we massage these two look good on a transcript?

Laurie Detweiler:

Absolutely.

Lexi Detweiler:

Yeah, that makes sense! So we have the extracurriculars, the academic test you said ness as important anymore, and obviously good grades. Is there anything else that would be important for having on the transcript as far as what classes to take?

Susan Gimmotty:

Yeah, that's a good question. So in an era where standardized testing is becoming less important– now, you know, if your kid goes in there, knocks it out of the park, and scores a 34 on his ACT, well, I certainly would be putting it on the transcript. You know, I would say we share what we want people to know, and we don't have to share what we don't want people to know. That's perfectly fine.

So your choice of classes is certainly– you want to show rigor. And one thing nice about Veritas is that 90% of our classes are honors on the transcript. There's a little “H” by each of those classes, so like I happen to be looking at my daughter's transcript right now, and to a college, it looks like she tried very hard to take a rigorous course load, and she did. She didn't try– she did. Then in addition to that, we advertised in some other schools, offered as well. We offered dual enrollment.

Laurie Detweiler:

Right! So important.

Susan Gimmotty:

Yeah, the quick rundown on dual enrollment is this: dual enrollment means you take a high school class for college credit. Here at Veritas, we offer 28 dual enrollment classes. All of my kids took dual enrollment, each of them took about 30 to 33 hours of dual enrollment. So that's ten or 11 dual enrollment classes through Veritas. We partner with a university that gives college credit, and then they can take that into college.

Well, you might say, “I don't really get that,” or, “I bet my college I'm looking at wouldn't accept it.” Well, quite frankly, most colleges will accept it. For example, every kid in college has to take English 101. You're going to see it on every degree plan sheet. I could pull up 100 colleges right now, and I will find something like English 101. Here at Veritas, our senior thesis counts as English 101.

So none of my kids had to take English 101 in college because they took it in high school, paid the extra fee, got college credit. So what did my kids use all this extra credit? You're like, “Oh, I bet they only had to go to school for three years.” Well, technically, they could because they had shaved 33 credits off, and usually, degrees are about 120 credits.

So in an ideal world, yes, they could shave a year off. However, the big-time scholarships, the academic scholarships out there are for four-year students. And it was cheaper for my kids to go to school for four years with the big-time scholarships they were offered than three years and coming in as a transfer student. So what did my kids do with all these credits?

My oldest, the dentist, he knew he wanted also a business finance degree. So, in addition to pre-med, he was able to have a finance major, and he did that because he could use his dual enrollment for his general ed. Madison: she knew she wanted to be a teacher, but she also wanted a minor in Spanish. Believe it or not, education degrees are jam-packed for your program. They have no room for a minor. She was able to use her dual enrollment is to get that Spanish minor and to get rid of a big chunk of her general ed.

Nicholas the golfer. He has a very hard major, trust me, the golf course tells us that all the time. And he has he's playing collegiate golf. So what we did with his is instead of taking the normal 15 to 17 hours a semester, he can check off a general ed class each semester. And he only has to take more like 12 to 13 hours, which allows him to be successful in the classroom with a hard major and successful on the golf course. So dual enrollment can do a lot for a lot of different kids. But on the transcript, it's going to look very rigorous. So our transcript, like Madison's transcript, I'm looking here, she's got like 25 Hs, which denotes honors, and then she has 11 DE, which denotes dual enrollment. And so that's going to show rigor to any college.



Lexi Detweiler:

Wow, that's great. So I guess my last question for you is, how do I know that college is the next step for my kids? I know that college is not for everybody we already talked about. Our kids are all different. How do I know, and what are my other options?



Susan Gimmotty:

Yeah, that's a great question. I think for some it's going to be super obvious that college is for them. It's just.



Laurie Detweiler:

I agree.



Susan Gimmotty:

You don't really even have to have that conversation because the goals they have in life require college, whether we like it or not. It's a world we live in. And then I think there's going to be somewhere you're just not sure. And so I think those other options would be:


  1. Take a gap year. If you're on the fence, maybe take a gap year. There's many really fabulous programs out there. So it's not just necessarily sitting home, playing video games on your gap year. You could be having an internship, getting a job, doing a program, going on missions, things like that would be your gap year. And I feel like I would encourage all students who aren't sure college is for them to at least consider the gap year possibility.

  2. Another thing that is really popular with some of the families that I work with in Kansas City is junior college. We have a fabulous junior college, literally like three miles up the street. It's very affordable. And I feel like that is a little bit more of a bridge. I'm not sending them out. They might not be ready to live 5 hours away from mom and dad. They might not want to live 5 hours away from mom and dad, and the junior college can get them some experience under their belt and also possibly figure out what they want to do because it is hard to swallow sending a kid off to college if they truly don't know what they want to do. Just the financial commitment.

  3. And then there's trade schools, you know, we have a friend who became a plumber. We have another friend who is doing a dental hygiene school.


And so I think, Lexi, it kind of goes back to what I said earlier with your kids even being young, help them talk about what they're good at.

Nicholas, he enjoys being around kids. And we had a tutoring opportunity, and I made him do it. I'm like, “Hey, this other family, they need an algebra tutor.” I mean, he was like in Calc 2 by then, and I'm like, “I want you to do it.” So he tutored this kid twice a week, and that is helping see if you kind of like teaching whatever it might be.

And so, college isn't the golden ticket to success. There's so many pathways to get there. And I think as you dialog with your child, as you put them in different circumstances, I think those decisions will become more apparent as you think and talk through those.

Laurie Detweiler:

Absolutely. And I think that you know, today there's so many things in the tech world that don't require a college degree. I know kids in our program that are coding now that already have job offers when they get out. Sometimes, that's the right path. You don't need to go to college. But Marlin always asks the question, “What else might you need to know?”

So that's where I would say to even if you don't think your child is going to college, the great thing about Veritas is, you know, I know some students that didn't go to college that even went through our diploma program, and some of them are business owners now. And the thing that they said that they got from that is they had all the math skills that they needed to run a business. They knew how to communicate with people. Their English gave them the ability to write well so that they could write things to customers and things.

I get asked by moms, you know, “If my child's not going to college, why in the world do they need this rigorous education,” which I always answer, “They need it more than just going to college or getting some of those things then that they don't need later on.”

But Susan, thank you so much. You know, Lexi always has great insight and wonderful questions, but thanks for joining us today because I know this is something we hear it all the time at Veritas. People are just nervous that they're doing the right thing for their child. And I love what you said at the beginning. You get up every morning, and you just go at it, and you do the right thing. And even, you know, I even say to Lexi, cause she'll say, “Oh, this day just didn't go well.” Yes, but look at what you accomplished because you got it done. May not have been this perfect moment, but I know what I see.

Just things that homeschool moms take for granted as I look at my grandchildren and I will be somewhere with a group of children, and I look at them, and they have this incredible imaginary play because they read so much, right? They spend time in nature, and they're doing this. And, you know, Lexi says Ava wants to be a vet.

Well, I can't– I won't show you. But I have an entire setup here at my house where she and her brother and sister are, have a vet thing set up, and they are doctoring all the animals, and they're not taking care of the people, I might add. But they always say– know we had somebody die on the set of this. Ha! Last week they saved the animals. They said you can't save the person now? Okay.

So but we're just we're excited to have had you here today. And I know this is going to be helpful. And for those of you out there in the audience, I hope that you found this podcast helpful, and thank you for coming. Lexi, anything else you want to say here?

Lexi Detweiler:

If you like what you hear, don't forget to like and subscribe. And if there's anything else that you'd like us to discuss, just drop us a comment at VeritasPress.com/vox.

Laurie Detweiler:

And don't worry, we'll have Sugain because she's a wealth of information!

Susan Gimmotty:

Sounds good!