Indiana State University Newsroom

A growing tree-dition: Fifth and sixth children of family enroll at ISU

September 3, 2013

Kathy Garretson stood in her daughter Stephanie Swinford's room watching as her daughter pulled clothes from her closet and packed them into a lime green tote. She eyed the pile of bedding and pillows on top of another tote near the bedroom door.

"Did you just do summer clothes or winter clothes?" Kathy said.

"All of them," Stephanie replied, continuing to pack.

"That's freshmen," Kathy said with a laugh.

With 11 children in a blended family, Kathy has experience helping children pack for college, especially for life at Indiana State University. Of those 11, four of the seven currently in college attend Indiana State and two graduated in 2012. The children - all 21st Century Scholars - also earned laptop scholarships from Indiana State as well as other aid.

"We just really like ISU," Kathy said. "There's a lot of perks to going there if you've got some kids that are going to work for it. If they work hard in high school, I feel like ISU rewards them very well."

Steven Swinford, '12, first enrolled in Indiana State and ran track for the Sycamores.

"And his brother followed him and his brother followed him and his brother followed him so they've just enjoyed it," Kathy said.

"It was three hours away," said Shawn Swinford, '12, about the distance from his Peru, Ind., home. "It's not too big of a school, not too small of a school. It was just the perfect size."

Now Aaron Garretson attends as a senior studying math while Shannon Garretson studies business as a junior. Twins Stephanie and Shane Swinford joined their older brothers this fall as freshmen.

"They can always help me out if I get in trouble or just whenever I need them," Shane said about joining his brothers.

Stephanie recalled her brothers' advice when she decided to enroll at Indiana State. "They were just saying there are a lot of nice people down there and you'll love it," she said. She also recalled a certain tradition of which they informed her.

"They said you have to run through the fountain to be a Sycamore," she said. "I haven't done that yet. I need to do that."

For the two newest members of the Sycamore family from his family, Aaron said he has passed along advice to Shane and Stephanie for dealing with the chapters to be read, papers to be written and projects to be completed.

"You do your homework, put your studying in and you will do well here," he said. "If they take advantage of the study groups that they have at ISU and the people that are willing to help, they shouldn't have a problem."

Shannon, who transferred to ISU from Ivy Tech in Peru, pulled seats out of the family's minivan to make room to load his brothers' and sister's totes, bedding, duffle bags and more for their move to Terre Haute. He acknowledged that he enjoyed having his siblings close.

"If we ever need anything or need someone or need help, we can at least have somebody," he said. "Plus a lot of them know things that I don't know or can tell me where something is."

On the Friday of move-in weekend, the family climbed into two vehicles and began their journey to Terre Haute following highways the family has come to know well: "31 to 465 to 70 to 41," Kathy recited. "Construction kind of stinks, but that's been going on since 2007 when we took the first one down there."

After the family moved Stephanie into Blumberg Hall and she made her bed, Aaron, who spent the summer in Terre Haute, appeared in the doorway to the family's delight. He helped move Shane into the newly renovated Erickson Hall.

Aaron said the 11 children grew up spending a lot of time playing together, which developed a close bond among them.

"It's harder to deal with them being far," he said. "I think about my other siblings that didn't come here. I think about them a lot."

Photos: Stephanie Swinford with her mother Kathy Garretson packs to move to Indiana State. ISU Photo/Tracy Ford Shane Swinford loads the family's minivan for his move to start college at Indiana State University. ISU Photo/Tracy Ford Move-in crew members help Stephanie Swinford carry her clothes and bedding to her residence hall. ISU Photo/Rachel Keyes Shane Swinford receives help from family members, including from his brother Aaron Garretson (far right), who is a senior at Indiana State. ISU Photo/Rachel Keyes Kathy Garretson, Shane Swinford, Shannon Garretson, Stephanie Swinford and Mike Garretson. ISU Photo/Tracy Ford

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, associate director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or