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Chmiel '98 balances academics, family life

It's 4 p.m. on a Wednesday. Frank Chmiel '98 is sitting at his kitchen table sorting through Princeton Shuttle payroll distribution forms. Children's laughter fills the room – Veronica, his wife, is in the living room playing with his daughters, Jackie, three years old and Alana, 15 months.

As a politics major writing his senior thesis on the Christian Coalition, his workload sounds typical. But add the roles of husband, father, student-teacher and Princeton Shuttle head manager to the task of writing 100 pages and the picture changes drastically. "Sometimes I just sacrifice a little bit of sleep," he said.


"I have nothing in common with my high-school friends any more. My life is different from theirs," he said. Instead of going out to the 'Street,' he has "family life," he said.

'High-school sweethearts'

The story of Frank and Veronica begins in high school where the two were "high-school sweethearts" in Elizabeth, New Jersey, he said. The two became especially close, though, when Frank's father died during his senior year. In response to Frank and his mother's grief, Veronica spent "virtually every afternoon" at his house. Veronica even "stayed up late with my mother" consoling her, he said.

The progression of their relationship assumed the qualities of a classic broadway musical, complete with love, conflict and a happy ending. "Gradually, we fell in love," Frank said.

Their story twisted when Frank and Veronica decided to get married. Frank – a football recruit – faced the opposition of his high-school football coach and his mother.

Instead of complying with his coach, Frank and Veronica secretly married in the August before his first year at the University. "We got married behind everyone's back," he said. Two weeks later, Frank went to football camp and Veronica went to Rider University. Frank's mother did not find out about their marriage until October, he said.

"I was a lot more confident in my decisions than my family. My dad got married instead of going to college and my family was afraid I'd do the same thing. . . . They didn't know what a good wife Veronica would be, or what a good mother," Frank said.

'His plate is full'


Three years later, Frank is intense and focused. He no longer plays football, but his plate is full. He is in the University's teacher preparation program, he has a "wonderful" wife and two daughters, ages 15 months and three years, and he knows exactly what he wants to do.

As a future social studies teacher, Frank has ideas about education reform. "It's hard to get kids to think. They know how to regurgitate knowledge but they have trouble defending their ideas. . . . I learned how to make an argument and get evidence to defend it. It's a great talent and skill when you can do that and express it in writing. There are plenty of problems that need to be solved in this country – social studies is a great way to it," he said.

Frank said he would eventually like to coach football in addition to teaching. "Athletics are good because they teach discipline. It is important to have a healthy body and mind, to have a happy medium," he said.

Along with his academic aspirations – both at Princeton and in the future classrooms he will lead – is a dedication to his family. "Veronica is a really good wife and a really patient, good mother," he said. "Family is always a priority. I've missed classes to go to doctor's appointments."

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And just as his wife and children are important to him, his father's memory is as well. "(My father) wanted me to come to Princeton all along. . . . He'd be really happy to see where I've ended up," he said.