For seniors Michelle Yeboah and Angelina Khalimendik, Mother’s Day felt much different than it did for traditional students on campus. Yeboah is an international student from Ghana, where her mother still resides. On the other hand, Khalimendik is both a student and a mother herself, which has presented its own unique challenges and experiences for her.
A Mother abroad:
Senior Michelle Yeboah’s mother lives overseas in her native country of Ghana. Yeboah’s discussed how her relationship with her mother has changed since she left Ghana.
“It’s actually better [than it was in] high school… We see how important our relationship is now because we don’t get to see each other [often]. Now that we’re far apart we’ve just started to get closer,” Yeboah said.
Yeboah believes that having distance from her family and acquiring the ability to think freely actually made her more like her mother in certain ways. She discussed the admirable qualities she sees in her mother which she, too, now possesses.
“I’ve become more like my mom. She’s just a very strong woman in general and she has a strong set of ideals and morals, both religious and traditional. I’m willing to fight for what I believe in, first,” Yeboah said. “Now that we’re distanced I can understand her better and I’ve become more like her because I’m not willing to conform to things that people want me to become.”
Before coming to America, Yeboah had never personally experienced racism. This sudden shift in societal attitudes was difficult and painful to endure and though her mother lived thousands of miles away, she was able to support Yeboah.
“Coming from Africa, it’s just completely different [here] … Freshman and sophomore year, I didn’t really let things affect me in terms of being a black person. When my mom comes here, she tells me all the time, ‘Michelle, you’re not [going to] let anyone walk all over you despite the color of your skin, or your race, sex or age. If there’s something that you believe is right, you go for that.’ … She’s made me realize that I can’t accept any form of discrimination.”
A Mother at Knox:
Senior Angelina Khalimendik had her first child, Anna, as a student transferring to Knox her sophomore year and her family has since then grown with her one-year-old son Michael.
“‘My family used to tell me, ‘You’re not grown up yet.’ But once they found out that I was having a baby, they were like, ‘You’re really grown up now. You need to start thinking about a house and the environment you want your kid growing up in.’ So, that’s kind of opposite of what [they] had been saying,” Khalimendik said.
While excited for the new baby, some of Khalimendik’s family members did not actively encourage her to continue her college career. Despite their assumptions that she would stay at home to raise her children while her husband worked, she was determined to complete her education.
“Even though it’s not what we planned, I know that having an education is really important for me and it’s really important for my kids to grow up in a family where the parents are educated,” Khalimendik said.
For Khalimendik, having as many opportunities in her future as possible was imperative. She looks forward to being able to provide her kids with the same educational opportunities as she did.
“I know that it’s hard and I know that it’s difficult, but you can get through it. The one thing that you have to look forward to is that you’ll be that educated person that actually stuck with the plan of getting an education, rather than just giving up on it at the first sight of something difficult,” Khalimendik said.
Khalimendik’s efforts have paid off and she will soon graduate from Knox. While it was challenging to balance school, work and parenting, she looks forward to the positive impact her degree with have on her and her family’s future.
“Getting to come home to smiling little kids they just brighten up my day no matter how tired I am. I think that’s what keeps me going,” Khalimendik said.