By Dawn Ginnetti AC
This Smith College jacket
is my favorite article of clothing. The story of my life
is woven into this fabric…my hopes, my dreams, my failures,
my triumphs, laughter, love, heart ache, disappointment and
joy, all woven into this jacket that I’m wearing.
this jacket on campus in June of 2009 but its story goes
back to 1981 when I was 5 years old. In that year my father
was sentenced to 40 years in prison in a highly publicized
trial. My little brother was less than 6 months old and
at 25 my mom found herself with two young children
that she was ill-equipped to take care of.
She had dropped out
of school in the 8th grade and had no real job skills to
speak of. She had to sell the furniture in our dilapidated
trailer to feed us but even that wasn’t enough. We constantly
moved in search of work. At one point the three of us lived
in one room of a run-down trailer while my mom worked two
jobs to try to feed us.
By the time I was in the 4th
grade, I had gone to seven different elementary schools.
diagram a sentence but I could grocery shop, cook a meal
and take care of my toddler brother. By the time I had started
high school, my mom had re-married and things went from bad
to worse. My step-dad was inappropriate with me and rather
than give up the financial and emotional security of married
life my mom sent me to live less than a mile away with my
Life in Aunt Sara’s house was
in a word...hell. She was physically and verbally abusive
to me every single day of the three years that I lived with
her. While other kids were going to parties and proms, I
had become an expert on how to camouflage the bruises that
she gave me. She told me every day how ugly, stupid, worthless
and unlovable I was. After a while I began to believe the
things that she said to me and gave up on myself. Were it
not for two amazing teachers who encouraged and at times
cajoled me into staying, I would have dropped out of high
school. Graduating was a huge victory for my family and me
since I was the first to actually get my high school diploma.
I was not ready academically or emotionally for college,
so I joined the workforce.
A few years later, while working
for Carnival Cruise Lines, I met my ex-husband and married
at 23. My ex was college-educated and from a close-knit
family. He was everything that I was not and all that I wanted
to be. I wanted his love more than I had ever wanted anything,
so I let him turn me into the "perfect wife." He told
me what to wear, what types of food to eat, whom I should
vote for…he spent years molding
me into his ideal of the perfect woman. All the while the
real me was being slowly suffocated, trapped inside a shell
of a person I no longer recognized and frankly didn’t even
I sank into a deep dark depression
that culminated with an in-patient hospital stay. As I began
to get healthy and assert MY opinions, MY thoughts and MY
needs, my marriage fell apart. After 9 years, I filed for
The divorce process was lengthy
and it was during that time that my friend suggested that
we take a road trip to this cute little town called Northampton.
While we were here, we took a walk onto the Smith campus
and he turned to me and said, “Wouldn’t you
like to go to a school like this?” I looked at him and laughed, “Girls
like me don’t get to go to schools like this.” I loved the
school and campus so much that I went to the bookstore and
bought this jacket. After my divorce was final, I moved back
home to Florida.
Inspired by my visit to Smith
College and my desire to be a teacher, I started attending
community college. It was there that I excelled. The girl
who had been told that she wasn’t smart enough for college
was now the woman who was making A's. Fast-forward two years
to 2011 and I was applying to Smith as an Ada Comstock Scholar.
When I found out that I was wait-listed, I was crushed and
made plans to attend another school.
It was on a rainy afternoon
in early June when I received a call from Sid Dalby [associate
director of admission] offering me admission to Smith. It
was the happiest moment of my life. As I hung up the phone
I looked in the corner at a box of stuff that I had planned
to give away and saw my Smith jacket laying on top. I rushed
over and picked it up, holding it close to me as I sobbed
tears of joy with the realization that my dream was finally
And so the fabric used to make
this Smith College jacket is the fabric of dreams woven together
over 35 years to create a masterpiece….me.