My mom’s kinda awesome.
Headquartered at a monstrous U-shaped, faux-wood “poly-ury-ply-a-thane” desk-and-drawers nicknamed “Command Central” in the sunless basement of our house in suburban Virginia, Mom spent much of 25 years of her life devoted to making other lives better. And the way she improved THOSE lives meant a lift in the lives of generations to come. Mom founded and single-handedly created “Project MATCH,” an organization that identified high-ability students in DC area public elementary and Jr. high schools and provided them with information about and, if desired, assistance in the exploration of and application to private day schools and boarding schools around the country. True to the name “Project MATCH,” the fundamental idea was to know each student well enough to understand their individual strengths and weaknesses and then pair each child with one school from a selection of schools best suited for that student. As you might imagine, this meant not only getting to intimately know different groups of students and parents each year but also learning the nuances, philosophies, and styles of well over 100 schools…and staying on top of any adjustments in either of the entities. Additionally, Mom had to maintain relationships with many an admissions staff, as financial aid to these schools was a necessity for most of her kids.

Many an hour was spent at Command Central reading, learning, assessing, communicating. By herself. With tenacity. In the quarter-century in which she ran Project Match, she successfully helped send over 600 students to schools with academic rigor, small class sizes, diverse student bodies….and enhanced opportunity. Oh, and she did it for free. Expenses (school trips, application fees, etc.) were funded by donations. Never charged parents or kids. Amazing.
After 40 years in our home, Mom moved to a de-luxe apartment in the sky; “sky” being a relative term as her unit rests on the highest floor. It’s a beautiful spot that has an open kitchen, wall-to-wall carpeting, and a southwest exposure that, to paraphrase Rado & Ragni, really lets the sunshine in.

What the new place didn’t have, though, was enough room for Command Central. It was just too large to fit anywhere comfortably…or uncomfortably… in the new abode. Mom had a relatively easy time downsizing from the home in which she spent more than half of her adult life. Furniture, books, tools, clothes: all found their way onto the junk heap. But this specific desk-and-drawers; this was like Rose floating on top of (ironically) a desk…and reluctantly releasing Jack’s hand.
I’d love to end this story with Command Central having been saved. It wasn’t. It really was too big. By now, it’s likely kindling awaiting a next year’s winter fire. But like the football that’s even though the quarterback is on the ground from the hit sustained a millisecond after completing the throw, this is about forward potential and the excitement behind what can still happen. Command Central was the genesis point for action that’s led to former students becoming lawyers, doctors, business owners, government officials, and more. From Command Central, actions occurred that are responsible for breaking the cycle of poverty in many families; This generation’s success will hopefully beget future generations as well. I understand Mom’s lamentation of the loss of Command Center…a significant partner in her life’s journey. What Mom generated from there continues to bear fruit. And that fruit bears fruit. Kinda awesome.

Mom’s work and her name live on. Most recently, she was surprised at the Groton School in Massachusetts. A faculty home was named in honor of Mrs.Wanda C. Hill for her Project Match program in which she “matched” almost 500 students with 80 college preparatory boarding schools, for 30 years, from 1980 to 2010.
This lil’ missive is in honor of Wanda Hill, mother to Gary and Stephen, who made it so that many have, and many more will get, a piece of the pie.
@stephenghill IG:stephengranthill