57-year-old mother and two sons to graduate from University of Arizona together

57-year-old mother and two sons to graduate from University of Arizona together
Published: May. 8, 2023 at 7:16 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Hundreds of college students are preparing for graduation this week at the University of Arizona. For one Wildcat family, this week’s ceremony holds an extra special meaning, because they will be graduating together.

In just a matter of days the Chhieu family will have three college graduates in the family. After brothers Harry and Anthony enrolled in programs here at the University of Arizona, their 57-year-old mother decided it was time for her to do the same.

“I’ve grown up doing everything with my brother, he’s kind of my best friend. My mom has always pushed us to better ourselves not only focus on school, but do what makes us happy. With her pushing us, and now graduating with us it’s a surreal moment. It’s indescribable,” Harry Chhieu said of his mother Carol Kay, a single mother of three children, and brother Anthony.

Kay came to the United States from Cambodia when she was just 15 years old. She said never thought all these years later she would get the opportunity to not only to go to school, but do it with her two sons.

“I went to school, attended high school. And not knowing a single word of English is pretty scary, you know? After I graduated the opportunity wasn’t there for me to go to school. So, I had to go to work and earn a living,” Kay said. “As my kids got older I said ‘I’m going to go back to school.’ Something I’ve always wanted to do.”

When she came to American she said she didn’t know any English and took a job at a preschool to provide for her three young children. She added that the job inspired her degree in education, which she will be receiving this week.

“Man, life is crazy! From not knowing how to speak any English one word. To speaking multiple languages. I then owned a donut shot in California and then I moved to Tucson and became a preschool teacher,” Kay said.

This week, the three members of the Chhieu family will be receiving different degrees. Anthony said his mom is the epitome of the saying “it’s never too late to go back to school!”

“My mom actually did it. Not only did she come here at 15 years old not know how to speak English. She put herself through school and now she’s graduating. It’s super cool to just share the stage with her,” Anthony said.

Carol noted that when her two sons enrolled in college, she didn’t thing she would be joining them. But life had bigger plans.

After graduation this week, Carol said she hopes to become a teacher.

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