College is not only a time of learning, it’s also a time of discovering more about yourself. You learn about your passions, interests, and who you are as a person. But for two girls at Columbia University in 2013, they would learn far more about themselves than they could have ever expected.
Katy Olson and Lizzie Valverde grew up in two different parts of the United States, but through a twist of random coincidence, ended up at the same university at the exact same time. Taking it further, they are enrolled in the exact same writing class. But how are they connected?
1. Meet Katy Olson
Katy Olson was born and raised primarily in Florida, then later moved with her adoptive family to Iowa. She had various childhood health challenges that she courageously pushed through, which made her the strong woman she is today. With a mild form of Cerebral Palsy, she had to endure multiple medical procedures as a child, but never let her condition hold her back from pursuing her dreams.
As she grew older, she developed passions in comedy and creative writing. She worked hard to get accepted into the prestigious Columbia University to pursue creative writing as a career. But what she discovered in class would change her life forever.
2. Curious About Her Past
Being adopted, Katy had a natural curiosity about her birth parents. In her teens years, she began researching information about her birth mother and found out something exciting. Her birth mother had given birth to another baby girl who was adopted by a family. This meant Katy had a sister!
Excited at the prospect of having a sister and learning more about her past, she began to search social media to contact her. She looked up the name “Lizzie Delgado” full of hope at connecting with a new family member, and finding a missing piece to the puzzle of her past.
3. The Social Media Search
Focused on finding her lost sister, Katy took to social media to initiate contact. Looking under the name “Lizzie Delgado”, Katy found a woman with the same name on Facebook. She sent her a message hoping for a positive response. Now it was just a matter of waiting.
The weeks passed without receiving any response on Facebook. As the weeks went by, Katy became more and more disappointed. She believed it must have been the wrong Lizzie. It was a long shot anyway. But sometimes fate has other plans. Through a random twist of circumstances, Katy would find her sister in the most random way.
4. Lizzie Valverde
Lizzie Valverde is from New Jersey and is one year older than Katy. She is the daughter to two loving, adoptive parents and had a happy, privileged childhood.
Life took some twists and turns in Lizzie’s life as she was finding her path. She took some college classes, worked odd jobs such as bartending and as a personal assistant, and was married and divorced at a young age. She has a beautiful daughter from her former marriage.
One passion that Lizzie decided to pursue was in creative writing. She applied to Columbia University in New York to pursue this career path, and that’s when her life changed for the better.
5. The Class That Changed Everything
Although Katy didn’t get a response on Facebook from who she hoped was her sister, she put it behind her to focus on her studies. It was an exciting season for Katy, following her dream as a writer, and studying at an Ivy League university. Everything she worked so hard for was finally transpiring.
A new semester started, and she walked in to her first creative writing class of the day, “Literary Reporting”. Since it was the first day of class, the professor did something typical for the students to get to know each other: an icebreaker activity. As Katy heard one of her classmates speak, her heart began pounding and she suddenly felt faint with shock.
6. The Icebreaker
Lizzie Valverde realized last minute that she needed an extra class this semester for the Creative Writing Program she was enrolled in. Literally 45 minutes before class started, Lizzie registered for “Literary Reporting” to fill her schedule. As an icebreaker to get to know each other, the professor asked each student to share a few fun facts about themselves.
When it became Lizzie’s turn, she started to share fun, unusual things about herself. Her obsession with the Olsen twins. Her father is a local news reporter. She’s a mom to a young daughter. When she started sharing a little bit about her adoption story, Katy’s heart skipped a beat.
7. Why Is She Staring At Me Like That?
As Lizzie was sharing about herself in a class icebreaker activity, she began to share a little about her adoption story. When she shared that she was originally born in Florida, and adopted by a family in New Jersey, Katy just about fell out of her chair in shock. Could Lizzie Valverde be the Lizzie Delgado that Katy attempted to contact on Facebook?
Lizzie noticed a panicked look on Katy’s face. Why is that girl staring at me like that? Do I know her? Lizzie found this girl she had never met before to be quite strange! But she was about to find out why.
8. A Complicated Situtation
A little bit of background on Lizzie’s past. When Lizzie was only a year old, her parents were contacted by the adoption agency. They were told that Lizzie’s birth mother was pregnant with another child and wanted to know if they might be interested in adopting Lizzie’s future sibling.
Her parents expressed interest, but were told about some complications in the pregnancy. The birth mother was told by doctors that the baby has a health condition and a low chance of survival. The months passed, and they never heard any news of the baby. They assumed the baby must have died in childbirth.
9. Approaching Lizzie
Katy knew some facts about Lizzie from the Facebook profile of “Lizzie Delgado”. She knew she had a daughter, owned a shop, and that she lived in New Jersey. Just like herself, she knew her sister was also born in Florida. Hearing Lizzie share her story in class was all too surreal – this must be her sister!
Katy couldn’t wait another moment to approach Lizzie and confirm her strong suspicions. Even though it was in front of the whole class, her excitement was too great to wait for an appropriate moment. Finding her sister was one of her greatest hopes and dreams.
10. Connecting the Dots
Katy approached Lizzie and told her she thinks they are biological sisters. She shared with her the pieces to the puzzle that fit perfectly together with Lizzie’s story. She asked her if her birth mother’s name was Leslie, and if she had been born in Tampa, Florida. Katy’s jaw dropped as the facts began to reveal that they were, indeed, sisters.
The whole room stood still as the two girls began connecting the dots from their past. Lizzie shared in a TV interview with CBS This Morning that all she could say was “Is this real life?”. It was as strange as a scene in a movie.
11. Brought Together By Fate
After more than thirty years, sisters Katy and Lizzie are united by chance in a creative writing class. To say this was a coincidence would be a huge understatement. It was almost as if it was organized by a higher power.
Coming from two different parts of the United States, it seems impossible that the girls would be at the same university, studying in the same program: creative writing. Even more impossible, that they would be in the same class together. With Lizzie only enrolling in the class 45 minutes before it started, it could not have been planned in any human sense. It seems that fate brought these two lost sisters together.
12. Getting to Know Each Other
After class, the girls went straight to a bar to start getting to know each other. In an interview with ABC News, Katy told a reporter, “We just ordered pitchers of beer and just started going back and forth with our lives and biographical details, like, do you like chicken wings? I like chicken wings. Do you have a weird pinkie toe? I have a weird pinkie toe.”
Lizzie shared with Katy about how her parents believed that she didn’t survive as a baby, due to health complications. It was especially heartwarming for Lizzie to see her sister alive and doing well, and know that she was adopted by a loving family.
13. Still Something Missing
The sisters were thrilled to be united. They became inseparable, spending as much time as possible together to make up for thirty years of lost time. But as they continued to connect as sisters, the curiosity of their biological mother began to grow.
Questions of why they were both given up for adoption began to rise up in their conversations. They didn’t feel any anger or sadness against their birth mother, but had an increasing desire to understand the story behind their adoption. They were also open to have a relationship with the woman who gave birth to them. With graduation coming up, would now be the right time to contact her?
14. Leslie Parker
Leslie Parker is a strong woman with a troubled past. When she became pregnant as a teenager, she knew in her heart she was not capable of raising a child. That’s when she gave Lizzie up for adoption. She made the same decision when she gave birth to Katy, just one year later. To make this difficult decision twice at such a young age would have left an emotional scar.
Leslie opened up in an interview on CBS This Morning, “I wanted to give them the best possible future they could have and it wouldn’t have been with me. As sad as it is to give up your own children, but I felt that’s the best that I could give them, to let them go so they had a chance.”
15. Reaching Out to Leslie
With the girl’s graduation coming up, they thought it would be the perfect opportunity to reach out to Leslie, their birth mother, and invite her to the graduation ceremony. Lizzie had met Leslie once before, as a child, but never pursued any relationship with her. This would be Katy’s very first time meeting her biological mother. They hoped she would agree to come.
Leslie was a little nervous to meet her biological daughters. But she was so incredibly proud of Lizzie and Katy’s accomplishments and wanted to celebrate with them. She said yes to their invitation to attend the graduation ceremony.
16. The Graduation
When Katy Olson started her studies in creative writing at Columbia, she never expected in her wildest dreams to be sitting next to Leslie Parker, her biological mother, and graduating with Lizzie Valverde, her biological sister. Fate had brought this family together.
Leslie was beaming with pride and joy witnessing the graduation of her two biological daughters that she bravely gave up for adoption as a teenager. Through their meeting, Katy and Lizzie were able to learn about the reasons why Leslie decided to let them go, and be adopted by other parents. Their reaction to the story was overwhelming to Leslie.
17. Reunited At Last
Leslie Parker opened up and shared with her biological daughters the reasons why she let them go as a teenager. Upon hearing about their adoption story, Lizzie and Katy said two words that brought joy and relief to Leslie, their biological mother: “Thank you“. The girls shared their heartfelt gratitude to their birth mom for making the brave choice to give them up for adoption.
Lizzie shared in an interview on CBS This Morning, “A lot of sacrifices were made for me to be sitting where I am right now… I never forget that.” Katy also shared that “what she did was amazing.” The girls live a life of gratitude for the journey that has brought them where they are today.