Bria Stapleton completed her 45-page senior dissertation at the Saucon Valley Hotel, often working at night in an empty lobby.
A February fire destroyed 22-year-old Stapleton, her parents and two younger sisters from their home in Bethlehem, forcing a senior at Albright College to finish her semester between campus and a hotel.
“No one really realizes what you need if you’re trying to do it in a hotel room,” she said. “And as much as I love my family, I need my own space at the same time. I definitely maneuvered and I learned what works for me. ”
Steadfast and determined, no matter the hurdles, Stapleton will be one of Albright’s graduates who walk the stage during Saturday morning’s opening ceremony of the college at Santander Arena in Reading.
Looking back on her time as a student, Stapleton spoke about her studies, working on campus as an accounting teacher, an internship she spent as a member of the fan team, and how she was crowned Queen home in September – all good impressions on which she decided to focus rather than on fire.
“I tried to stay positive and not allow myself to sink because there are so many good things happening,” she said.
Stapleton is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in clothing design and merchandising. She has already been accepted to graduate school at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where in September she will begin work on a master’s degree in retail merchandising.
“We’re all finishing school, and everyone can just go home, and I’m going back to the hotel,” Stapleton said. “And so staying positive is hard, but it’s just necessary.”
Hours after she returned to campus after a visit with her family on Feb. 27, Stapleton’s sister called her, informing her of the fire and that they were forced to stay at a hotel.
“My first thought is, I’m panicking because I think, ‘Well, are you all right?’ Luckily, my family is fine, “she said.” They didn’t tell me because I was driving back to school, and they didn’t want me to panic and get into an accident or turn around and come back. “
Although the house near Liberty High School is not a complete loss, there is major damage, she said. The dryer in the laundry caught fire, spilling over into this room and into the kitchen. Several windows were smashed as firefighters worked to put out the fire, and black smoke poured from the house, even from Stapleton’s attic.
“It’s just a very long process of working with insurance and getting back and forth,” she explained, adding that demolition work began on Monday.
And because of the fire, the family learned that there was a months-long gas leak, Stapleton said.
“Basically, it made me even more grateful, because if the fire had reached the basement, my whole house would have exploded, and I probably wouldn’t have my family with me anymore,” she said. “It was a lot, I tried to go back and forth to deal with it and then finish school, but I’m just grateful.”
Teachers who have worked with Stapleton for the past four years have stated that she is manageable, smart and professional, and there is no doubt that she will succeed wherever she lands.
MeeAe Oh-Ranck, fashion instructor at Albright and Stapleton’s senior adviser on the subject, described her as an “absolutely wonderful man”.
“She understands. When I teach a friend, she seems to conclude what will happen next, and she has great academic abilities, ”she said. “In addition to that, she works a lot. She does not hesitate to communicate with the professor. Sometimes students are reluctant to do so, but she has always opened this channel of communication with the professor to share her thoughts and her problems. ”
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O-Rank said the teachers were very happy that she worked in the school’s fashion department, adding: “I think she will be successful wherever she goes.”
Professor of Accounting Andy Yunikievich taught Stapleton in his freshman year.
“She did so well, even though she’s a clothing design major, that I tried to get her to switch to accounting,” he said, adding that she works great with other students. “I would like her to stay here for another couple of years.”
Starting her career, Stapleton knows she “doesn’t want to do just one thing,” she said. She hopes to one day work as a creative director in a fashion or retail company, but is also fond of styling and interested in buying clothes for companies.
She said she has been fond of fashion since childhood.
“My parents will tell you that my mom bought me a bunch of fabric and I sewed clothes for my dolls, and then I had countless sketchbooks – I drew all the time and still paint outfits,” Stapleton said. “So to be able to look back and see where I’ve been, and seeing that I’m actually doing it, I follow the dream I’ve always wanted.”
The correspondent of “Morning Bell” correspondent Molly Bilinski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.