Although many at the University of Dallas are familiar with senior Abigail Ross’ warmhearted personality, few know that her kindness isn’t the only “sweet” thing about her. When she’s not at UD, she helps with her family’s local honey-making company.
Although Ross was born in Colorado, her family moved to Texas when she was eight to be with the rest of her extended family. Her father used earlier experience of raising bees with his father, and started a family business with his wife in Hallettsville, Texas.
“We started off with a couple hives, just about three or four, and we just kept going from there,” Ross said. “Now we have close to fifty hives spread out around different places… I think we have about twenty just in our backyard.”
The Ross family has a wholesale brand, Texas Sweet, as well as a retail brand for customers, Hallettsville Honey Company where they harvest, bottle, package, ship and distribute the honey.
“It’s a local brand, which means that the honey was made by the bees within a 50 mile radius of where you are,” Ross said.
Local honey has a range of health benefits, including relief for allergies, but the goodness of Hallettsville Bee Company honey doesn’t just stop there.
“Usually the honey you find in stores has been filtered and pasteurized, which you can tell when you look at it because it’s very clear. But our honey is raw, so basically we take it out of the hive and run it through a very fine strainer just to catch any pieces of wax that accidentally fell in, and then it goes straight into the bottle,” Ross said. “It’s basically as fresh as you’re gonna get it, as if you took out a chunk of honey from the hive and put it in your mouth.”
Not only does Ross credit her dad with starting the family business, but she was also inspired by him to come to UD.
“UD wasn’t on my radar at first, I’d heard about it and gotten a packet, but I was like, ‘this school sounds super expensive and I’m just not about that,'” Ross said. However, her dad encouraged her to “just apply and see what happens” since UD is a small Catholic school in Texas.
“I was like, ‘okay, dad, I’ll apply,’ and then I completely forgot about it,” Ross admitted with a laugh. However, when she struggled to decide between Franciscan University of Steubenville and Texas A&M University, she asked God for a sign to aid her decision.
“I got that acceptance letter [from UD] offering a scholarship…and I never looked back,” Ross said. “I am so glad I came here, it’s exactly where I need to be.”
Although there’s a cliché that the Rome semester changes lives, Ross says that her Rome semester in the spring of 2019 truly did change her life. “The experience of being able to travel the world and see how other people live and think was just really amazing.”
Ross even saw the cramped Due Santi campus as an opportunity to view the world from a different angle. “Living on a little bitty campus, in one building, with ‘one hundred of my closest friends,’ you really do build a family,” she said. “Getting to know my classmates, learning about their lives, it gave me a whole new appreciation for my peers and what UD has done for them.”
Beyond Due Santi, Ross especially benefited from volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity during part of her ten day break. Ross was part of a group of female UD students who helped to care for disabled women in Romania who had been shunned under Communism, but were handpicked by Mother Teresa after the fall of Communism for this group.
“I can’t even express how much I saw God in them, because they were just pure happiness and innocence and joy all the time,” Ross said.
Ross also reflected on seeing the effects of Communism in a real way in Romania.
“One of the things that is hardest about being in America is that we can learn about all these things, what happened in World War Two, what happened under Communism,” Ross said. “To actually go there and see the physical effects was really eye-opening, and it made me super grateful for where I was born and everything I was given. It makes me want to be more generous with everything I have.”
Ross will undoubtedly take that inspiration for generosity with her beyond UD when she graduates in the spring.
“The first thing I want to worry about is basically just finding any job I can and paying off my loans,” she said. “But after that I’ve thought about teaching, I’m really interested in some sort of editing job, but my dream is to own my own bookstore one day. I love books so much, they’ve completely changed my life, and I want to help give that love to other people.”
Although Ross has narrowed her involvement with groups at UD in her senior year, she continues to be dedicated to UD Chorale, which she has been a part of since freshman year.
“Things have been crazy with COVID restrictions, and of course we can’t all be in the room together anymore, but it’s still amazing,” she said, with the same positivity that she brings to other facets of life. “[The UD Chorale director] Mr. Bentley is an absolute angel, I do it all for him. It’s kind of a relaxation period.”
Even in this strange senior year, Ross continues to look on the bright side, focusing on time with friends and making her community a more joyful place.
“I really want to focus on doing well in my classes, but also just to enjoy the time I have left with the people I’ve come to really care about,” Ross said. “I want to take in every single moment that I can.”