Graduating seniors always look forward to the month of May because it’s when they get done with their finals and find out if they are going to walk the graduation stage and receive what they have been working so hard for. Mothers, on the other hand, love this month because it brings about Mother’s Day, a special day where mothers are celebrated and honored for the hard work they do in raising their children.
This year South Texas College decided to have their graduation ceremonies on the 11th and 12th of May giving one mother the best Mother’s Day gift she has ever received in her life.
Lilea M. Cortez was born in Michigan, but was raised in the Rio Grande Valley. She started her family as soon as she graduated from high school, having the first of her four girls shortly after graduating. She was a stay at home mom, so she never really had the chance to attend college.
“When I graduated from high school I wanted to go to college, but I decided I would rather take care of my daughter,” Lilea explained. “Then before you knew it, I had four in total and the idea of me having free time to go to school went out the window.”
She did earn her substitute teacher certificate in order to sub at her daughter’s elementary school.
“When my four girls all got into school I finally found I had some free time during the school day so I decided to get my certification as sub so I could be close to my daughters and have something to do other than be home all day,” she explained.
Even though she took that step, the idea of attending college after so long intimidated Lilea; it suppressed her desire to go back to school even though she had the time. It wasn’t until here first-born daughter, Angela, graduated from high school that the thought of going back would become a reality.
“When Angela graduated she didn’t want to go to college because she felt it wasn’t for her,’ Lilea said. “I had to tell her that I would enroll with her and explained to her that we could both get our education together so it would be less intimidating and difficult.”
Little did Lilea know that Angela was doing this in order to get her mother to enroll into college.
“I knew my mother really wanted me to get an education, but I also knew she really wanted one as well and was just scared of going back to school. I figured that she would do anything to get me to go, even go herself,” explained Angela. “So we both started taking classes and even had one or two together; it was great.”
Soon after both Lilea and Angela starting taking classes, Lilea’s second daughter, Janet, graduated from high school and enrolled at STC as well. Before she knew it, Lilea was taking classes with not just one daughter, but two.
“Going to school with my mom was pretty cool,” Janet said. “Most of our classmates knew we were related; they just didn’t know how. I would always get a kick when they found out that we were a mother daughter team since they always thought we were sisters.”
The icing on the cake was when Lilea found out that all three of them would be graduating at the same time. The three of them walked together at STC’s Mid-Valley Campus Graduation Convocation together and they all walked the graduation stage at STC in May, giving Lilea the best gift a mother could ask for.
“I never thought that I would graduate with my daughters,” she concluded. “I had always wanted to get a higher education, especially to show my daughters it was possible, and then to have all this happen right before Mother’s Day – I just can’t believe it happened I am so happy and thankful.”