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Family Ties and Triumphs: Celebrating Grandmother, Mom and Daughter Grads

Mother and daughter Kim Medina and Chelsea Vega-Mitchell celebrating at Commencement

Southern New Hampshire University’s (SNHU) 2023 spring Commencement saw many students realize their dream of graduating with a degree. Among these graduates were grandmothers, mothers and daughters, including some who shared their journeys throughout their degree programs and walked across the stage together.

These women demonstrated that success knows no age or limits. Each with unique educational pursuits and triumphs, discover the stories of these determined women who have balanced education, motherhood and personal growth.

SNHU Celebrates Mother's Day

Triumphing Over Challenges: Heather and Kayleigh’s Resilience

Mother and daughter Heather and Kayleigh Maier at CommencementHeather '23 and Kayleigh Maier '23 graduated together, each with unique educational pursuits. Heather earned a BS in Accounting through an SNHU partnership with a local hospital.

Simultaneously, her daughter Kayleigh, an aspiring author, completed her Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Creative Writing and English on campus. She said she only applied to one school — SNHU — because she fell in love with the campus.

For Kayleigh, sharing the graduation experience with her mother made the moment even more special. She admired her mother, who balanced being a grandmother, working full-time and raising her family throughout her educational journey.

Heather, in turn, takes great pride in her daughter’s accomplishments. Despite working two jobs and attending school full-time, Kayleigh graduated with high honors.

Heather’s message to her daughter emphasizes the importance of chasing dreams, no matter how challenging life may seem. “If you want something, go for it,” she said.

She also highlighted the significance of taking risks and embracing opportunities, noting, “The only thing you regret is what you don’t do – or try."

Breaking Family Barriers: Diana and Rachel’s First-Generation Achievement

Mother and daughter Diana Bechtold-Arnold and Rachel Bechtold at CommencementDiana Bechtold-Arnold '23 and her daughter Rachel Bechtold '23 were determined to earn their bachelor’s degrees side by side.

Diana earned a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in HR Management. At the same time, Rachel completed a BS in Business Administration too.

Both Diana and Rachel long considered furthering their education, but the prospect of undertaking this journey together truly motivated them. They supported each other by studying together, reviewing each other’s papers and providing moral encouragement throughout their programs.

For Diana, achieving her lifelong dream of earning a degree was made even more meaningful by sharing the experience with her daughter. She hopes her educational journey will inspire her children to believe that anything is possible and take it one step, one day at a time.

Rachel is proud to share the moment of being a first-generation student with her mom. They both have their sights on pursuing a master’s degree next.

Grandmother’s Inspiration: Sharla’s Pursuit of a Legacy

Sharla Kaleihua Kahale-Miner at CommencementSharla Kaleihua Kahale-Miner '23 is a grandmother of nine from Hawaii, who made the journey to Commencement. She earned her BS in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Legal Studies and Advocacy.

A former Polynesian dancer and current hula studio owner, she was inspired to return to school after witnessing disparities in her community and decided to become a voice for the locals.

Sharla’s determination to pursue higher education was fueled by her daughter’s success transitioning from a flight attendant to a pilot.

“If she can fly an airplane, I can go back to school,” Sharla said.

Her other daughter is a Grammy-nominated musician. Sharla touted the importance of flexible online education, mentioning that she brought her laptop and worked on her studies while on her trip to the Grammys with her family.

With her bachelor’s degree in hand, Sharla has her sights set on attending law school in Hawaii, where she aspires to become an attorney and advocate for the Hawaiian people.

Her goal is to leave a lasting legacy for her children and grandchildren, demonstrating that it's never too late to pursue one’s dreams.

Overcoming Adversity: Tamica’s First-Generation Triumph

Tamica Matos at CommencementTamica Matos '23 is a resilient mother of three and military spouse who had to overcome many challenges to achieve her educational goals.

Due to an extensive brain surgery, Tamica had to relearn how to remember things and adapt to a different way of seeing the world. She is now legally blind in her left eye.

As she navigated the challenges in her life, raised her children and supported her husband during his transition to civilian life, she also pursued her BA in Human Services with a concentration in Substance Abuse.

A first-generation college graduate, Tamica felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment, knowing that she has set the stage for future generations in her family.

It was important to Tamica that her children witnessed her journey towards earning her degree, as she wanted to teach them the value of perseverance.

“Never give up,” she said.

Breaking Generational Barriers: Tiare’s Example for Her Children

Tiare Hazen at CommencementTiare Hazen '23 is a firefighter and first-generation college graduate. She earned her BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship while raising three boys, completing EMT school and attending the firefighting academy.

As a first-generation college graduate, Tiare takes great pride in her accomplishment, believing she sets an inspirational example for her children and breaks generational barriers.

Undeterred by her busy life, Tiare found the online program easy to navigate and well-suited for her schedule, allowing her to manage her family, work and education simultaneously.

She plans to open a small business with her newly acquired skills and put her SNHU education to good use.

Mother-Daughter Accountability: Kim and Chelsea’s Shared Journey

Mother and daugher Kim Medina and Chelsea Vega-Mitchell at CommencementKim Medina '19 '23G and her daughter Chelsea Vega-Mitchell '23G are a mother-daughter duo who embarked on earning their master’s degrees together.

A mom of three, Kim began her college education right after high school but had to adjust her path when she became a mother at 18. Throughout the years, she continued taking courses to set an example for her children, emphasizing the importance of education. Kim earned her Bachelor of Science (BS) in Business Administration from SNHU in 2019.

Inspired by her mother’s accomplishments, Chelsea decided she wanted to pursue a master’s degree. She encouraged her mom to join her in that endeavor, making their academic journey a shared experience.

Kim earned her Master of Science (MS) in Human Resource Management. At the same time, Chelsea focused on a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Human Resources (HR).

Despite living in different states, they supported each other by serving as accountability partners, ensuring they stayed on track and met their deadlines throughout their respective programs.

"I'm so happy that (Chelsea) convinced me to take on the program," Kim said. "We're doing this (graduation) together. We're here. I'm happy."

Mother-Daughter Motivation: Holly and Cortlynn’s Lifelong Learning

Mother and daughter Holly and Cortlynn Danby at CommencementHolly '23G and Cortlynn Danby '23G wore matching caps on graduation, dubbing themselves the “Danby Duo” when they graduated with their master’s together.

Holly pursued an MS in Business Analytics while working in higher education. Cortlynn earned an MS in Marketing.

Challenged by her daughter, Holly became study buddies with Cortlynn throughout their academic journey. The experience proved rewarding, as they motivated each other along the way and both finished with a 4.0 GPA.

Holly, a firm believer in lifelong learning, emphasized the importance of continuous growth and being unafraid to try new things.

“You’re never too old to keep learning,” Holly said. “Continue to strive forward. Continue to be a lifelong learner, and don’t be afraid to pivot and try something new.”

Inspiring Achievement: Bridgitte’s Journey from Kenya to a PhD

Bridgitte Kiprop at CommencementBridgitte Kiprop '19G '23PhD is a mother of six, a scholar and a businesswoman from Kenya who has achieved a massive milestone by graduating with her PhD in International Business.

As a first-generation college graduate, Bridgitte’s accomplishments bring great pride to her extended family in Kenya, particularly the women who never had the chance to receive a basic education.

Bridgitte always aspired to reach the highest level of education, and her determination led her to fulfill that ambition. As a role model to her six children, she aims to inspire them and show that anything is achievable with hard work and dedication.

"With the degree I've earned ... I'm hoping to use the knowledge I obtained from SNHU to teach at (the) college level," Bridgitte said. "And, also do research, especially in the area of small-business finance."

Bridgitte aspires to support the small-business ecosystem and contribute to the local economy’s growth.

Online. On campus. Choose your program from 200+ SNHU degrees that can take you where you want to go.

Nicholas Patterson '22 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

Two students walking in front of Monadnock Hall

SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.