FAIRFIELD, Conn. – When Ulysses Youngblood, Jr., receives his bachelor’s degree diploma in business administration from Sacred Heart University on Sunday, his mom Leslie will probably cheer the loudest, though not from the audience. The mother of three will also be wearing a black cap and gown at the University’s 46th annual commencement ceremony, receiving diplomas for a double major in both nursing and business administration.
While it’s common for cousins and even siblings to graduate together, the same can’t be said for mother and son.
“It would be very fun if we planned it this way, but we didn’t. It’s just the way things turned out. Still I am very excited,” said Leslie Youngblood, 47, of Trumbull. “It’s a dream I’ve waited a long time for, both for Ulysses and myself.”
A part-time student since 2005, Leslie said she put off going to college to get married and raise her three children, Tikenya, 27; Ulysses, 24 and LaFaith, 12. She worked on and off over the years, but realized when LaFaith began elementary school that it was time for her to go back to school, too.
“I wanted more for myself, for my life and for my kids. I also wanted to set a good example for my kids by showing them that you can achieve anything if you are willing to work hard – and I really did work hard. It was tough taking care of the kids and a house while keeping up with my studies,” Leslie said, adding that she probably couldn't have done it without the support of her husband, also named Ulysses.
The support Leslie received from her professors made her believe Sacred Heart would also be the right college for her son Ulysses, who was attending college in Massachusetts and was just not happy there.
“I knew the small class sizes and one-on-one attention you get from the instructors at Sacred Heart would be just what he needed, and it turns out I was right. He really did terrific here,” Leslie said.
Although the two were often on campus at the same time, they rarely met on the campus quad or in the cafeteria. There were also no nights sitting at the kitchen table doing homework together.
“Not too many 24-year-olds want to hang out with their moms when they can hang out with their friends,” laughed Leslie, who plans to pursue a career in public health. “But it was great knowing that he was at the school, and I was at the school, and that we were both succeeding. Success is what every mother wants for her child, right?”
That Sacred Heart’s graduation day is also Mother’s Day makes celebrating their successes extra sweet. Family will attend the ceremonies, and then they’ll all head back to the Youngbloods’ house for a big dinner Leslie will not be cooking.
“No way! It’s Mother’s Day, and we’re having it catered,” said Leslie. “But in truth, in my mind the day is more about Ulysses than it is about me. I am so excited for him to graduate. I’m very proud.”