Ada Scholars Share Diverse Stories at The Ada Monologues

Olivia Goodman ’14
News Editor

On April 13 and 19, Ada Comstock Scholars came together in Graham Hall for the second year in a row for “The Ada Monologues,” an event where 11 Ada scholars performed their written stories about their unique journeys that led them to Smith. The event was first organized last spring by Jana Burke, co-president of the Ada class, who was inspired to put together the show after spending a lot of time getting to know other Adas and receiving “the most amazing, inspiring answers from them. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

“One night, it occurred to me that we could arrange a simple show of monologues that Adas would write and perform themselves. I felt really strongly that the community needed to hear these stories. They send a strong message about the importance of the program and its continued existence at Smith. The Ada Program changes lives. It truly makes dreams come true. I thought I had lost my chance at a college experience, for reasons beyond my control. When I found out the Ada program existed, I literally cried. It meant that much to me, and still does,” said Burke.

Burke’s goal for the show was to increase Ada pride and awareness as well as create a bridge of understanding between Adas and the Smith community, particularly traditional-aged students. Jane Ramsey, the fellow co-president of the Ada class, was also instrumental in organizing The Ada Monologues. Ramsey found her way to Smith after being invited to informational lunches at her community college by Smith, Mount Holyoke and Wellesley. She almost canceled her interview at Smith and went to Mount Holyoke, but her visit to Smith changed everything for her. “When I arrived on campus, something told me that I was home. I didn’t apply anywhere else, just Smith. And here I am,” she said.

In addition to serving as co-president, Ramsey is also the house president of Cutter. She wrote her monologue about living in a traditional student house as a reaction to the possibility that after this year, Adas will not be offered the option to live in traditional housing, due to the housing shortage at Smith.

“Jana and I would like to bring this to the attention of the student body, getting support to remain in traditional housing. Though initially, living in a traditional student house was hard – incoming first years didn’t know if I was a student or a staff member – I think the students in my house look to me as an aunt role. We can have a good time, but they can also come to me if they have problems.”

Dean of the Ada scholars Erika Laquer commented on the benefits of having Ada scholars at Smith.

“Ada Comstock Scholars are a part of the diverse community that makes Smith what it is. They bring a range of other life experiences to the classroom and the campus environment. Once traditional students leave school, they are rarely in work groups or situations with people of their same age, so the presence of Ada Comstock Scholars adds a specific real world benefit to the traditional students’ preparation for life after Smith.”

Laquer also echoed the sentiments of others, commenting on The Ada Monologues as an event that “permits the community to learn about and know the Ada Comstock Scholars in an intimate way as individuals, through the stories and narratives of their lives.”

Jan Morris, an Ada who is also a 15-year employee at Smith, also commented on the importance of the Ada Monologues as a way of showing the community how important the Ada program is. “The program is vitally important for helping older women continue their education. These women need this program for the chance to finish what they started. The Ada Monologues event is a great venue for all of us in the Smith community to get to know each other in a more profound way.”

Tanya Pearson ’AC also performed in The Ada Monologues, sharing a personal story that included past substance abuse issues. “I don’t think I wanted to communicate anything in particular in my monologue, but I am an advocate for girls who are suffering and recovering from substance abuse issues,” she said. “There’s such a stigma attached to addiction and I don’t talk about my experience very often, but when I do, I say it all. And what better venue?”

Many Adas reflected on the importance of The Ada Monologues as a venue where they could connect with traditional Smith students and also reiterate to the Smith administration the importance of the Ada Comstock Scholar Program. Pearson noted, “it’s probably kind of weird to see some random adults in your classes – I think the monologues promote tolerance and understanding. I have also heard there have been a lot of budget cuts, so I think the event reiterated the importance of the Ada program on a personal level.”

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