Proud Mom: Daughters Spread their Wings At Widener

Lori Shaffer, for University Relations
Three members of the McRae family sitting in front of the Pride of Lions statue, with one daughter in commencement regalia.
Daughters Arielle, left, and Arianna McRae, right, with their mother Sonia Lashley-McRae celebrate Arianna's commencement.

Sonia Lashley-McRae has had the uncommon experience of being mother to two Widener undergraduates, and ironically, her first impression when she visited campus with her eldest daughter was “the instant feeling of family,” she recalls.

With both her daughters selecting Widener for their bachelor’s degrees, the Widener mom has a unique perspective on how the university helps shape its students through personal and academic growth experiences, and puts emerging young adults on the inside track to successful careers. 

Eldest daughter Arianna McRae recalls stepping onto campus for the first time to tour nearly six years ago, and experiencing an overwhelming feeling of comfort.

“Widener has a family-oriented community, and you can feel it every time you visit, and I can safely say during my four years at Widener the feeling never changed,” Arianna said.

She quickly assimilated to campus life and became part of the Pride.

“I was a really shy kid, but as I interacted with students and advisors, I began to get involved in activities that piqued my interest. They all pushed me to be bigger than what I am. I know that if I had stayed in my shadow of shyness, I wouldn’t have blossomed into the student and woman I am today,” she said.

Her mom agrees. 

“Campus life helped her grow by exposing her to different opportunities and allowing her to spread her wings. The amount of support she had gotten not only from her peers but from faculty and staff helped her immensely,” Sonia said. “They were such a close-knit community for her, always pushing her to go above and beyond in all her leadership skills and positions.”

Along with many campus-wide activities, Arianna was the 2020-21 Student Government Association president. At the height of COVID-19 she was challenged to represent her fellow classmates through one of the most challenging years in Widener history.

“I learned how to handle tough situations. Looking back at it now, I am more able to handle conflict than I was able to before,” she said. 

Arianna’s younger sister, Arielle McRae, watched her older sibling flourish at Widener, and just a few years later chose to follow in her footsteps. Arielle decided to pursue her undergraduate degree in biology at Widener and is on track to graduate in May 2024.

“I looked at my sister as a role model because she was able to juggle so many positions with grace and poise,” Arielle said. “I wanted to pick up from where she left off to continue the legacy she had begun. She always encouraged me to join as many organizations and volunteer as much as possible because it was the most rewarding part of her years at Widener University.”

Mom Sonia knew it was the right choice for her second daughter.

“With my knowledge of Widener, it was the right fit for her also. I felt she would get the support she needed,” Sonia said. “I am very proud of the way that my daughters were able to navigate their professional and personal growth independently. They have overcome many obstacles on their own and I know they are navigating to be the most successful in whatever they chose in life.” 

Arielle is currently the sophomore coordinator for the Center for Civic and Global Engagement, a PSC Bonner scholar, and a volunteer at Family & Community Service of Delaware County. She is also part of the executive team for the Student Government Association, a transporter for the Integrated Professional Studies transportation program, a resident assistant, and a member of the pre-health professionals club.

Arianna graduated in 2021 with a bachelor’s of science in allied health and is currently working as a medical/nursing assistant on the orthopedic spinal and trauma floor at Morristown Medical Center. Arielle wants to become a physician’s assistant.

“Widener's faculty and staff go above and beyond to make sure their students are getting the knowledge and experience needed to be able to be successful after college. I am forever thankful for it because they aided in my own success,” Arianna said. 

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