Mother And Daughter Graduate Together
Lillian Rivera, an office administration major, graduated with a 3.6 GPA.
Stephanie Rivera, 20, a mass communication and journalism major, graduated with a 3.86 GPA.
The long wait to graduate finally arrived for thousands of Miami Dade College students this past April, but for two—Stephanie and Lillian Rivera— it was a double celebration.
Stephanie Rivera, 20, a mass communications and journalism major, walked alongside her mother, Lillian Rivera, an office administration major, during graduation on April 29 at the James L. Knight Center.
Lillian started attending Kendall Campus in fall 2009 along with her daughter Stephanie, who had originally decided to enroll at West Campus. The duo finished their studies at North Campus.
“In the beginning I was kind of embarrassed; who wants to go to college with their mom?” Stephanie said. “Everyone knows when it comes to college life, you’re independent.”
This pair took their class time seriously; Lillian earned a 3.6 grade point average and Stephanie a 3.86 GPA.
How the mother and daughter ended up at MDC together is a bit ironic.
One afternoon in 2009, as Stephanie arrived home from school during her senior year at Doral Charter High School, she found her mother Lillian waiting for her, which was very unusual.
“I was preparing my plans to go to the University of South Florida, Florida International University and MDC, filling out applications and sending them out, when I got the shocking news about my mother,” Stephanie said.
Her mother had been laid off from her job at Interval International, where she spent 11 years working as an administrative coordinator for the treasurer in the finance department.
Lillian’s department closed down due to budget constraints.
“It was very hard, 84 people were laid off. My boss was crying when he had to break the news,” Lillian said. “I just prayed and mediated on my way home. I’ve never had that happen after so many years of working.”
Stephanie was kept in the dark about the news by both of her parents because they did not want the news to affect her schoolwork.
“I didn’t find out until later,” Stephanie said. “It meant no money and a lot of staying at home.”
The layoff landed her mother in the unemployment line to look for a new job. The family was forced to depend on one income.
“We had to place priorities on the more important things; basically without any notice an entire salary was lost,” Lillian said. “As a family we stuck together, even though some of the family events that were taking place at that time weren’t as memorable as I wanted them to be.”
But Lillian moved forward. She joined a program called the Workforce Investment Act, which gave her a chance to pursue an education and to improve her resume for new employment opportunities.
“I haven’t been in school for over 20 years,” Lillian said. “I got involved in everything that could help me learn.”
Stephanie said the situation gave her an opportunity to spend more time with her mom at school.
“I liked spending time with her between classes and having lunch together,” Stephanie said. “What I didn’t like was having to wait for her to get out of her computer labs.”
Lillian is happy how things turned out. Stephanie is headed to Florida International University to pursue her bachelor’s degree and Lillian is currently working at Memorial Hospital in Miramar.
“I am very proud of my daughter, not letting things keep her down,” Lillian said. “This is history—mother and daughter walking down the aisle together into graduation.”
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