Moms Proudly Wear Cap and Gown as Long Journey to Rutgers Graduation Comes to a Triumphant Conclusion
SAS seniors discuss their RevolUtionary experience as students and moms
They held down full-time jobs, pulled all-nighters to keep up with their studies, and leaned on family and friends like never before.
And through it all, they still handled the most important role: Mother.
“It has been a long road with plenty of hard work, late nights, and hours away from my son because I had to study, do a project, or finish homework,” says Crystal Molyneaux. “But it was worth it and I would not take a moment of it back.”
Molyneaux, whose son Brandon is 6, majored in psychology at the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) and is among a number of moms in the Class of 2017 who will receive their bachelor’s degree at the May 14 University Commencement and SAS Convocation, which take place on Mother's Day.
The moms constitute as diverse a group as one might imagine from Rutgers University, spanning racial, ethnic, and age divides, with career aspirations ranging from oncologist to union organizer to lawyer to school psychologist.
But they all have one thing that binds them together: a fierce commitment to get their degree, sparked by the belief that they are setting an enduring example for their children.
“What inspired me to come back to Rutgers is showing my daughter that even though I hit some detours in life, I was able to go back and finish up,” says Marcy Kennedy, a psychology major who has a 4-year-old daughter, Mia.
Leslie Reyes agrees.
"I did it for my daughter, so failure was never an option,” says Reyes, whose daughter Isabella is 8. “I knew that getting my degree meant increasing her chances of graduating, so that kept my dream alive.”
Lisa Scott, majoring in Africana studies, said her dedication to getting her degree has already had an impact on her son, who is a rising senior at Rutgers, one year behind her.
“I am a firm believer in practicing what you preach,” Scott says. “I took 19.5 credits in the fall of 2016 and earned a GPA of 3.923. My son stepped it up and is registered for 19.5 this spring.”
The moms often relied on friends and family to help them through the demands of school and parenting.
“I’ve had an amazing support system from my younger sister Elmyra,” says Margaret Rodriguez, whose son, Ricardo, is 6. “She helped babysit while I work 13-hour shifts. Without her, I don't know if I would have gotten this far.”
At least one mom faced serious illness and still refused to quit. Christina Rescate, an English major, was stricken with cancer, endured chemotherapy, and made it back to get her degree. She’s planning on attending law school.
“The fortitude I required to earn my degree pales in comparison to the joy I have from feeling worthy of the pride my daughter expresses for me,” Rescate says. “To have my family present to witness this milestone, especially my mother Lorraine and daughter Sabrina, is the best possible way I could imagine spending Mother’s Day.”
Congratulations to these courageous, committed graduates of the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences!
Thanks for sharing your stories with us.
Meet the Graduates
Name: Angela Annaguey
I was always telling my son to dream big. But I was not following that advice in my own life. I needed to show him, not simply tell him.
Name: Jessica Cintron
Major: Latino and Caribbean Studies and Psychology
This achievement is more than mine alone. My degree belongs to my family just as much as it does to me.
Name: Katherine L. E. Hoyt
I value my time at Rutgers because I have finally been able to appreciate the pursuit of academic excellence that I was not able to enjoy while I was in college when I was younger.
Name: Charlotte Massiel
To my daughter Skyla Rose, thank you for being such a loving spirit and making this an experience full of happiness and smiles.
Name: Crystal Molyneaux
It has been a long road with plenty of hard work, late nights, and hours away from my son because I had to study or work on homework. But it was worth it.
Name: Catherine Oliver
Hometown: Monmouth Junction
Major: Labor Studies and Employment Relations
When I visited my friends at Rutgers, people would always ask me if I was a student. I made a promise: One day I would have a Rutgers degree.
Name: Kendis Pacholec
Hometown: Tom's River
Major: German Language and Literature
I am finally crossing the finish line with my 3-year-old daughter and the rest of my incredibly supportive family!
Name: Natalia Patel
Major: Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
My three amazing children are my biggest accomplishments in life. I hope to inspire them the way my parents inspire me.
Name: Christina Rescate
To have my family present to witness this milestone, especially my mother Lorraine and daughter Sabrina, is the best possible way I could imagine spending Mother’s Day.
Name: Lisa S. Scott
Major: Africana Studies
I am ecstatic about this accomplishment and I know that it’s the stepping stone for the next level. Dreams are made to come true.
Name: Marija Stojanovska
My senior year included a lot of sleepless nights. But I am receiving my degree as scheduled. Now, I want to inspire my son and ignite his wildest dreams.
Name: Kathleen Vina
Hometown: Red Bank
Major: Labor Studies and Employment Relations
The Rutgers campus became my son’s favorite weekend get-away. It usually ended with a stop at Barnes & Noble and a walk around Voorhees Mall, our favorite hang-out spots.