What started out as discipline between feuding girls in Fern Smith Hall has turned into a tradition practiced by many.
“Secret Encouragement Sisters” has been a tradition for four years. The idea was sparked in a meeting between former Resident Director Lisa Barber and a student for disciplinary measures.
“Everyone thought it would die off after she graduated,” said current Resident Director Alyssum Roe, “but it didn’t and has continued on.”
The girls are randomly assigned a “sister” to give an encouraging reminder to every other week. This tradition is embraced by many, as this semester almost 60 girls are participating. Their motivations for doing so are equally widespread.
“I like making people feel uplifted during hard times, so for me it was a way to reach someone if they were struggling or had a hard week,” said sophomore Taylor Studer.
“I really like giving people things, so I think it’s fun to brighten their day,” said freshman Kelsey Doornenbal.
Freshman Lyric Morris commented that, “It was fun to get to know someone, and it builds community in Fern.”
“By having a girl who wasn’t on your wing be an SES, the dorm would be connected as a whole,” Roe added. “I think something that is cool about it is how many girls do participate and do love it; and I think some girls who didn’t necessarily participate in any other activity will participate in this.”
Creativity abounds with the gifts given. One impeccably-timed gift was given to Studer during midterm week.
“I was in the worst mood ever. Someone knocked on the door and I threw it open, and there was a girl holding roses from my SES with a really nice note,” Studer said.
“Another time she gave me a cup of 100 Bible verses and sayings. It was cool because it was an ongoing present that I could look at every day and be lifted up.”
Other common gifts included picture frames, plaques, candy and other types of food, handmade art and even a mini mailbox.
Sometimes, the gifts were able to be extra-personalized.
“My SES wrote me notes about my mom and gave me extra support,” Morris said, referring to the recent death of her mother.
Freshmen Erin Holle also found how encouragement can be taken a step deeper.
“It’s cool how it’s meaningful to what’s going on in my life right now,” Holle said. “I’d write down a verse and be like, ‘Whoa, this applies to my life too,’ even though I didn’t know what was going on in [the life of my SES].”
Part of the fun was in not knowing when the gifts were coming. However, this also added occasional difficulty.
“One time I had just walked away from my SES’s door and dropped something off and she came back,” Morris said.
“It also sucks for the roommate if you got something regularly and she only got it once a month,” Holle said.
At the end of the semester all of the participants crowded in the Fern lounge with one final present for a revealing party.
In some cases, the relationship continued even after the semester and the assignments ended.
“I went out for lunch with the girl who I got gifts from, and that began a friendship,” Studer said.