BY MELISSA JOHNSON ’20
Mount Holyoke College’s Frances Perkins scholars (FPs) presented passionate monologues to students, faculty and administrators on Wednesday, April 4. Guests filled Gamble Auditorium to hear the unique stories from a handful of FPs, who described their personal journeys to the gates of Mount Holyoke College. This year’s monologues were a part of the second annual Building On Our Momentum (BOOM!) conference, which took place last week.
The FP Monologues were included among the conference’s many events to “celebrate age diversity,” according to master of ceremonies, Roz Rideout FP ’18.
FPs are nontraditional students above the age of 25. According to the Mount Holyoke Website, “The Frances Perkins Program is open to and designed for women 25 years and older who have experienced an interruption in their education, but who now seek the intellectual challenge of completing their four-year degree at a top liberal arts institution.” Since the start of the FP program here at MHC in 1980, the website says, “the Frances Perkins Program has graduated more than a thousand highly accomplished women.”
The show kicked off with Rideout and FP Julie Edwards ’18, who presented on what the FP Monologues are, and who the FP students are on campus. Rideout and Edwards also spoke on behalf of many FPs who filled out a survey about the lives they lead outside of school. Many of them have spouses, children and grandchildren. Many of the FPs on campus also hold full-time jobs, live in different states and have big dreams about what the future holds for them someday.
Rideout and Edwards also shared jokes about being older students on campus, beginning “You may be an FP if...” and ending the sentence with self-deprecating humor. “You may be an FP if menopause should count as a PE credit,” said Edwards.
The masters of ceremony introduced each student before they presented their monologues. The performers included Li-Ming Dolan ’19, Mercedes Murphy ’19, Susan Cooper Daigneault ’19, Melissa Stewart ’19, Rosalie Sligar, Chiari Lattanzi ’19 and Edwards.
All of the performers presented for 10 minutes, and many spoke with heavy hearts. Each described the hardships they faced in childhood and on their journey to Mount Holyoke. Many spoke about abuse, eating disorders, mental illness and violence.
Dolan spoke about her life as a woman of color, with two small children and a failed marriage. Despite those harsh parts of her life, she rose above those odds to get her college education. “I am here to prove you wrong. I can do anything,” Dolan said.
Daigneault also shared her story about surviving abuse. She went on to state that her journey to Mount Holyoke has been her own “journey to healing.”
Many FPs spoke about coming to Mount Holyoke and feeling worthy enough to go to such an “elite liberal arts college.” This was something that none of them ever expected would be possible.
“I think [the FP Monologues] are important because we have life experiences that we have already come out on the other side [of] … Roadblocks, trauma, interruptions, successes … we’re able to show that there is a way to rally, and not let [the] past define who you are and who you can be,” said Daigneault.
With each performer, there were times when the crowd laughed, times when the crowd fell solemn and many times when the crowd gave resounding applause.
“[The monologues] were really special and moving,” said Liz Rose ’18. “I know few of the FPs personally in my classes, and to hear their stories made me appreciate Mount Holyoke and our community even more.”