Westhampton students reading their letters

Note to self: Letters offer a look back as grads move ahead

May 13, 2024

Student Experience

New Spider alum Lara Ballout couldn’t help but laugh when she read the first line of the letter she wrote to herself early in her college career.

“It said, ‘I hope you’ve started your law school applications, and you’re not procrastinating,’” she said. “I hadn’t started them, and I was still a procrastinator. That’s something I’m still working toward.

“But I am going to law school, so at least that part worked out.”

As an undergrad, Lara Ballout wrote to her future self: "I hope you’ve started your law school applications, and you’re not procrastinating."

Ballout read her letter at Proclamation, one of Westhampton College’s longest-running traditions. At the ceremony, new students write letters to themselves, detailing their hopes and ideas for the coming years. At the same time, seniors have their letters returned to them.

The event is a bridge that connects Westhampton students through the years and across generations. Two seniors are selected to read their letters — sight unseen — out loud to both classes, and an alum returns to share their memories, thoughts, and advice.

“Proclamation itself, and the letters in particular, are beautiful bookends for our students,” said Mia Reinoso Genoni, dean of Westhampton College. “It is a lovely combination of celebrating an individual student’s personal journey, and celebrating Westhampton as a community.”

Proclamation also offers seniors a moment to reflect on their time at Richmond. Ballout, who wrote her letter at the start of her sophomore year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, could see how she was just starting to settle in at Richmond after a year of mostly remote learning and commuting from her parents’ house. She wrote about trying out for the mock trial team the night before and how she hoped it would be a fun way to make friends.

“Reading that was a full-circle moment,” she said, “because I was sitting with my friends from mock trial, wearing my mock trial T-shirt.”

Ballout said many of her plans from the original letter came to fruition. Most notably, she’ll be attending Richmond Law in the fall.

As she approaches graduation, she’s now thinking about her aspirations for the next five years. "Hopefully I’ll have passed the bar and I’ll be a practicing attorney,” she said. “That I’m able to do everything that I’ve worked toward for my entire life.”