School is out for the summer already. Being halfway done with college is definitely an intimidating thought, but over the college years, students are able to be miraculously carefree while they grow into adults at the same time.

Moving off campus or out of a parent's house forces students to become more responsible, and there are other ways students gain dependability | one of those lessons comes when we learn how to take care of ourselves, and the second when we learn to take care of others.

When I first left for college two years ago now, my mom told me, "Ash, have fun. This is one of the only times in your life where the only person you are responsible for is yourself. That's not going to happen again."

She was right, because these college years include most of the major times when students learn how to make it on their own. We have people to turn to, but it is not until we find that someone else depends on us that we actually realize just how much we really have matured in such a short amount of time.

When my roommate Carrie needed someone to take her small Maltese puppy, Vito, home for a month, I was the first one to offer. He's cute and fun, and taking care of him during the school year had been split between the four of us in the apartment, so I was familiar enough with him to know what he needs and that for the most part he is a good dog.

Luckily, my family helps take care of him, because going from the four of us nurturing and parenting Vito to just me is a lot of work. I didn't realize how much time and effort it takes to actually have a dog, and more than that, how much responsibility and selflessness.

This little dog depends on all of us to make sure that he is taken care of, and it is now our job to ensure his safety and to love and take care of him. If we don't, he is the one that has to suffer, and because of him my roommates and I have learned about compassion and time management. Even when he does something bad, it is still our main job to love him.

When I compare taking care of Vito to how a parent takes care of a child, it is clear how much work it is to raise kids, and the qualities needed to be a great parent. I get scared when I think that Vito is sick, and it must be extremely nerve-wracking and terrifying to be accountable for raising, educating and helping a child to become an adult.

It must be even worse to be so scared that something bad could happen to them, and even worse to know that there is a potential that even as a parent, you can't save your child from every injury or spare them from every hurtful moment. This is something that I never thought about until a few days ago.

Walking down the sidewalk at the beach, I was staring at the ocean. After a long week of finals, it was time to relax before starting work later in the week.

As I hurried along with Jay, making our way through the crowd to the pizza stand, I heard a loud, high pitched scream come from a woman near me. She was running toward the road, tears flowing from her face as she sprinted to grab her toddler, who was three steps from the middle of traffic.

She caught him just in time, and even after he was safe in her arms again, she was still crying uncontrollably. Thankfully, he was unscathed.

No matter how scary it is to think about, or even witness, things can change in a second. Taking care of others is not going to be easy all of the time, but the reward is knowing that within this dedication, and because of all the work and time we spend with people and animals, we are able to make someone else's life a little better.

The greatest contribution we can give to this world is to make certain that others are happy, safe, and healthy, because hopefully others will return the gift, and the world will be a better place.

Ashley Chamberlain, a 2005 Pinkerton Academy graduate, is a sophomore at Keene State College. She is in her third year as a Derry News columnist and intern.

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