It’s graduation season, and there are many heartwarming stories of graduates who’ve come through exceptional challenges to get their degrees. Among them are a number of moms and daughters graduating from college together.
This is a news story that’s especially close to my heart, because 12 years ago my mom and I graduated from our local community college together. I was 19, finishing up an associate’s degree in journalism that I’d started as a high school senior. My mom was in her 40s, finishing a degree she’d started over 20 years earlier. Earning those degrees together was an incredible experience that changed our relationship forever.
Graduating with my mom was an amazing day; our whole family just overflowed with pride and joy. We’d both won academic recognition, and our family was also recognized for being the first mother-daughter pair to graduate together in the school’s history.
What was even better than graduating together, though, was going to college with my mom. We’d commute to campus together. We’d meet for lunch in the middle of the day, or grab coffee on our way to an afternoon class. We spent evenings at the dinner table doing homework together, and shared stress about exams and term papers just like any two college friends. The long talks we shared about school and life during those times cemented the beginnings of our adult friendship.
The experience helped us learn to see and respect each other as people, and broke us out of the painful growing pains of my adolescence. I learned to trust my mom for her wisdom and thoughtfulness. She’s a great listener and a great teacher. She was also an incredible, if intimidating, role model as a student. By example, she taught me how to be a college student: how to organize my time and my assignments and my desk. How to get things done. She was a stellar student, while I was merely a pretty good one.
After we’d earned our associate’s degrees together, I went on to get a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree. My mom went back to her career as a health care administrator, using her new degree to leverage herself into a better position professionally. She also kept on taking classes. She never said much about her studies, she just quietly kept doing it while working full-time, running a small business, and being an involved wife, mother and grandmother.
This past weekend, my mother graduated with her bachelor’s degree (with high honors! Go, Mom!). I think I was even happier at her graduation than I was at my own; it was such an accomplishment for her. I’ve never seen someone work so diligently at a degree.
My mom has mixed feelings about this milestone. I think she’s a little embarrassed that she didn’t march in a cap and gown at 22 like many of her peers. That’s OK. I am proud enough for both of us. I think the achievement of earning a college degree is even more impressive when you’re coming to it later in life, with all the responsibilities of an adult. I can’t imagine trying to go to college now, while juggling a career and a house and kids. There’s something truly remarkable in pursuing a degree even decades after life has gotten in the way.
Selfishly, I’m glad she waited. I know it was hard for her to make it as a single mom without a college degree when my sister and I were kids. Still, I wouldn’t trade the two years we spent as college students together for anything. It was an incredible opportunity to get to know my mom as a peer, just as I was stepping into adulthood.
So to all the moms and daughters who are graduating together: Congratulations! I hope your college journey together has been as magical as ours was. Here are a few more inspiring stories of moms and daughters who are graduating together this year:
- Lisa Zamecnik and Andrea Zamecnik-Turner
- Leah Avila and Yvonne Avila
- Brenda and Breandra Porter
- Judy Wirth and Danielle Wirth
- Tonya Jones and Jackie Jones
Did you go to college with your mom? Can you imagine going back to school when your kids do? Share your story in the comments!
Photo: Sierra Black