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Monday, May 15, 2000

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Kalei, 11, left, and Ekolu Miller, 10, proudly escort their
mother, Jamee, a master's degree recipient in social work,
through the University of Hawaii's Cooke Field yesterday.
Several who graduated this Mother's Day were student moms.

Graduating moms have
a double celebration

Receiving degrees is their
rewarding achievement

By Leila Fujimori


Zandra Lindsey's mom couldn't afford to give her a college education -- her father died when she was 2 -- but her mom set the example "to be simple and strong."

So the 25-year-old did it on her own, joining the Air National Guard to get free tuition, getting scholarships, going without food at times and once sleeping in her car.

Yesterday, Lindsey, herself a mother, gave her mom a special Mother's Day present. She became the first in her family to graduate from college.

Lindsey was one of a number of graduating moms who stood yesterday morning on the floor of the Stan Sheriff Center when commencement speaker Michael Bird asked all mothers to stand and be honored.

About 1,100 of the 1,290 graduating students earning baccalaureate degrees attended the first commencement exercises of the 21st century for the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Master's degrees were handed out in the afternoon.

Lindsey, who received her bachelor's degree in education and has been student teaching at Maili Elementary, has been accepted in the master's degree program in language arts in elementary education. She wants to teach in the Waianae district.

Being a mother has helped Lindsey bond with her students, to whom she feels like a mother, she said, and helped her gain greater respect. It also gives her the perspective of her students' parents.

Sacrifice was the common thread among the graduating moms yesterday -- on their part and on the part of their families.

"I would not have done this without my husband," said Beatriz Haymer, 44, who earned a bachelor's degree in Spanish language, was Phi Betta Kappa, president of the National Honor Society, a member of the UH Mortar Board and a volunteer with La Leche League and the Girl Scouts.

Her husband, David, a UH molecular biology professor, has been doing the chauffeuring, cooking, cleaning and laundry.

Jenny Meyer, 2 months pregnant, graduated with an accounting degree. But daughter, Kala, 4, was so happy to see mom graduate, "she kept hugging me; she's so excited."

"If I didn't have my mom, I couldn't have done it," said Cynthia Paden, a communications major and speech minor who graduated with honors. Paden's mom baby-sat her daughter Taylor, now 11 months.

Some said the odds were against Paden finishing college. The 23-year-old went to school until she was three months pregnant, and took a semester off when her daughter was 2 months old.

Others drew strength from other student moms. Waianuhea Victorino, 48, says it wasn't easy going back to school after so many years. She would call or email others, such as mom Mitzie Higa, a fellow education major in her Ka Lama II cohort group, to discuss homework.

The cohort group of 26 students go through the two-year program together, and four of their group are mothers.

Higa, 33, returned to school 10 years ago and decided on the College of Education two years ago. It's taken her longer than most because she married, had a child and went to school all at the same time. "It's been my dream for a lifetime," she said.

Yesterday, along with so many other moms' on Mother's Day, that dream was realized.

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