STILLWATER, Okla. – “We’ve always been really close,” said Ciara Speight. “She said ‘I really want you to walk with me!’”
The journey to a college degree hasn’t been easy for Ciara or her mom, Yokolanda Speight.
Both started college at Oklahoma State University at different times, taking breaks along the way before returning to finish.
But on Saturday, the two walked together in the Spears School of Business commencement ceremony.
“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 graduated with business administration management degrees, Ciara with the nonprofit business specialty.
Yokolanda, who was a onetime high school dropout after giving birth to Ciara at 17, says earning a college degree was a long-term goal for herself. She worked full-time while also going to school full-time.
During her college career, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which made her nearly immobile and because of the condition, she quit school and Ciara also quit after her freshman year to help.
“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.”
Yokolanda started to receive medical treatment and became stronger after undergoing knee surgery. That’s when Ciara decided to return to OSU, encouraging her mom 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 was within 45 hours of graduating when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
So, she re-enrolled and even took a few classes with her daughter on campus.
“I am so excited and honored as a mother to see my daughter walk across the stage and complete her degree,” said Yokolanda.
The pair isn’t done yet, though. They both plan to pursue MBA’s at OSU.
“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.”