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Adversity didn’t stop mom, daughter from graduating together

Friday, May 10, 2019

It meant picking up some extra classes to finish at the same time, but for Ciara Speight it will be worth it to walk in Oklahoma State University’s graduation commencement this Saturday with her mom, Yokolanda Speight, as mother and daughter university graduates. 

“We’ve always been really close,” said Ciara. “She said ‘I really want you to walk with me!’”

For Yokolanda and Ciara, it will be an emotional walk as the two participate in the Spears School of Business commencement ceremony. Both started college at OSU at different times and both had to take breaks from school before returning to finish, but through it all they had each other for encouragement. For Yokolanda, her daughter’s support meant the difference between nearly giving up and graduating.

“I’m very honored and blessed that I’m able to do this together with my daughter,” said Yokolanda, who has worked as an administrative assistant at OSU’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology for nearly 14 years.

Both mother and daughter will graduate with business administration management degrees, Ciara with the nonprofit business specialty.

For Yokolanda, earning her college degree was a long-term goal for the onetime high school dropout who gave birth to her daughter at age 17. For a time, Yokolanda worked full-time while taking a full-time course load. She was within 45 hours of graduating when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which made her nearly immobile. Because of her condition she quit school and Ciara also quit after her freshman year to help her mom.

“I went through a bout of depression. A part of me felt like a failure because I was so close to finishing,” Yokolanda said. “I was sure I was done with college. I thought, well that chapter of my life is done.”

She began to receive medical treatment and as she became stronger following knee replacement surgery, Ciara returned to OSU and then began encouraging Yokolanda to do the same.

“I told her, ‘You can do this. Even if it’s just part time or online while you’re working,’” Ciara said. “‘You’re too close to not finish.’”

Yokolanda re-enrolled and mother and daughter even took a few classes together on campus. Though both are graduating, neither is finished yet with their education. Both plan to pursue MBA’s at OSU.

“I am so excited and honored as a mother to see my daughter walk across the stage and complete her degree,” said Yokolanda.

With Mother’s Day coming on the day after OSU commencement, Yokolanda and Ciara will share a special gift as they walk together.

“I feel like we have been through so much together already that it’s fitting that this is something we’re able to experience together,” Ciara said. “This will be a moment we will cherish.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Jeff Joiner | 405-744-2700 | jeff.joiner@okstate.edu

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