Woman Graduates From The University Where She Was Abandoned As A Baby
Graduating from college is an enormous achievement, but for one California resident, donning the cap and gown had deeper meaning. Last Friday, a woman graduated from the university where she was abandoned as a baby 31 years ago, and her inspiring story will make you feel all the feels.
Jillian Sobol had an unusual start to life, to say the least. As a newborn she was found in a cardboard box left in a dormitory laundry room at San Fransisco State University. The baby girl was wrapped in blankets wet with the birthing fluids, and survived alone for hours until she was noticed by a student loading a nearby drier the morning of November 5, 1984. The menial task turned life or death when he alerted another student in the midst of washing clothes. As luck would have it, his fellow student, Esther Wannenmacher, was enrolled in the nursing program and quickly realized the severity of the situation. She kept the baby warm and breathing until the paramedics arrived, and delivered the child safely to San Fransisco General Hospital.
The biological parents of Jillian, who was dubbed "Baby Jane Doe" by the media, were eventually located by campus police. The young mother and father, both sophomores, had met at a party. The mother had hidden the pregnancy from everyone, giving birth alone. While the students were not prosecuted for abandoning the child, both elected to leave school without their diplomas.
Though the baby was soon adopted by a loving family, trouble lay ahead. “I know I’m a capable person, but I had difficulties in high school,” Jillian told The San Francisco Chronicle. “I had dyslexia, and some ADD (attention deficit disorder) and learning disabilities. I’ve gone to a lot of tutors, and people who taught me learning techniques.” Additionally Jillian was plagued by migraines and depression. “Puberty was tough. I was definitely different from my parents. They were more reserved. Professionals. I was more rambunctious," she described in an interview.
While Jillian learned of the circumstances of her birth at the age of 16, many more years would pass before she returned to the school where her life began.
Jillian elected to keep her unique connection with the campus a secret while enrolled in the college of business. But two months prior to graduation, she revealed her identity in a letter to the president of the university, stating, "Thirty years later I am here to face the past, complete the circle, and move forward, into the future. Hope is the thing I believe my mother had when she made her choice. I’m here today making my own choices."
While Jillian has reconnected with both her biological father and the former nursing student who protected her in the laundry room, she is not yet ready to speak to her birth mother. Though she does empathize with what a terrifying circumstances that the 19-year-old faced. "That’s a horrible spot to be in for a woman, where the only choice she had was to abandon her child in a box. I’ve faced it by not letting it dictate my life," she told the San Fransisco Chronicle. "The love and support I’ve been raised with has allowed me to embrace it and not run from it or be scared by it."
Photos of Jillian standing tall, resplendent in the purple and gold of her school, have flooded the internet, warming collective hearts. Graduating from college is a pivotal milestone in any person's life; it closes one chapter and signals a new beginning. Jillian is mindful of this, thinking of the opportunities that have lead her to this success. “I believe it to be a story of hope, joy, optimism, family and San Francisco State University," she said.
Heart warmed yet?