Laurel Ridge is a family affair for the Sunderlin women – Michele and her twin daughters Lydia and Katie. All three have benefited from attending Laurel Ridge.
When the girls graduated from James Wood High School in 2017, they were unsure about what they wanted to do career-wise. As a single mom of three children, Michele was grateful for the chance to save money on the early years of college by sending her daughters to Laurel Ridge.
“It gave us time to actually figure out where we wanted to go to complete our degrees, and the ability to transfer into any Virginia public college,” said Lydia, adding that all of her credits from Laurel Ridge transferred to the University of Mary Washington where she is studying historic preservation.
“Growing up in Winchester, it’s such a historic town, and I just fell in love with the history,” said Lydia. “I volunteered at Belle Grove Historic Plantation while growing up, and still do. It’s one of my favorite places to be.”
Meanwhile, Katie has enjoyed working at the Wayside Inn and at Shenandoah Valley Westminster-Canterbury, where she served and did events work.
“I had a passion for it,” she said. “I really like to cook and serve people and make people happy.”
That led Katie to decide to study hospitality management at James Madison University.
“My goal is to own a historic inn myself somewhere in the valley,” she said. “All three of us would love to do something like that.”
“We love history and we love hospitality and we love the valley,” she said.
The sisters enjoyed the time they spent on campus, both in and out of class. Watching the 2017 solar eclipse was a highlight for Lydia.
“We just liked how there was availability to walk the grounds, and the gym was really nice and convenient,” she said.
Lydia’s favorite class was anatomy and physiology with Professor Jeff Hollar. Both were fans of Math Professor Cyril Petras.
“I really liked his teaching,” Lydia said.
Katie added, “He always had a smile on his face.”
“I think that matters so much,” Michele said. “I just remember the Lord Fairfax professors all seemed to be happy to be there.”
She herself took classes at Laurel Ridge many years ago.
“It was just a great experience for me,” said Michele, who now has her own computer consulting business. “Many of the skills I use in my career now come from the knowledge I gained at Laurel Ridge.
“One of the best classes I had at Lord Fairfax was theology. A rabbi taught the class. I loved all the people at Laurel Ridge.”
Her workplace gave her credit for her classes.
“We couldn’t have done it without Lord Fairfax,” said Michele. “We love it. It’s convenient.”
And, her daughters were able to work and go to college at the same time.
“These girls paid for their whole entire college,” Michele said. “They’re going to walk out and get their degrees and not have $60,000-$70,000 worth of debt, and a lot of that comes from Lord Fairfax. I’m very thankful.”