Mother and Daughter Graduate Together 2

Female student in the middle of other students at the Park, talking to each other

Graduation 2009 – Mother & Daughter Graduate Together


   Samantha Jaikaran (left) and her mother
            Gayatri Nehrunsingh review
           commencement programs at
       Passaic County Community College

Part 2 - To read Part 1 click here

“At first I wondered what other students would think, when they realized the person sitting next to me in class was my mom,” said Samantha who chose to attend PCCC  in order to stay close to home and family. Now, she thinks her fellow students admire the relationship she has with her mother.

“We may be mother and daughter, but we’re also friends,” added Gayatri. “Some parents are parents all the time, but with Sam, I’m her mother when I need to be her mother, but I’m her friend when I need to be that.”

Though they took some classes together, the women admit to having very different working styles and strengths. “Sam is good at languages and helped me with Spanish,” said Gayatri. Samantha said she and her mother sometimes studied together but always worked on projects separately. “We write completely differently,” she explained.

Active on Campus

In what might seem a twist of expectations, it was the outgoing and exuberant Gayatri who drew her daughter into PCCC’s extracurricular activities. “There’s a part of me that has never grown up,” she smiled. “I enjoy new things and experiences.” Samantha, who has a more reserved manner, agreed that her mother took the lead. “At first, I would just go along to keep her company, but then I got sucked into all the activities myself.”  This year, Samantha is president and Gayatri is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges. Also, Gayatri is vice-president and Samantha secretary of the college’s student government association.

Family Background

With two younger children at home, Brendan , 10, and 7-year-old Amanda, Gayatri noted that after years of stay-at-home motherhood, she found it refreshing to come to college where “I wasn’t somebody’s wife or somebody’s mother. I was just able to be me.”  But she also credits the support of her husband, Noel, and the cooperation of the entire family with making it possible for her to pursue her goals. “I’m blessed that my children are all very independent and responsible,” she explains. “They do their homework and help and support each other, and they understand the importance of education,” she explained.

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, the family came to the United States when Samantha was 8. Though Gayatri helped her daughter study and was determined to see her go to college, the mother never thought she would be able to do that herself. “I felt I was too old and college was too expensive.”  But as time passed, Gayatri’s natural curiosity and desire to learn were too strong to resist. She attended a proprietary school and earned certification as a medical assistant, then decided to study radiology.

Choosing PCCC
“That’s when I came to PCCC. It has a good radiology program and was close to home,” she said. However, while volunteering at the former Beth Israel Hospital in Passaic, Gayatri had the chance to see the radiology profession up close and changed her mind. “It just wasn’t for me,” she decided.  At the same time, was enrolled in an anatomy class with PCCC science professor Anne Loving that re-directed her goals. “The class blew me away,” she said. “I decided I wanted to get more involved in science, but worried that at my age, it might be too late.” 

Professor Loving convinced her otherwise. “She was great to me,” said Gayatri. “She told me not to sell myself short. That I wasn’t too old.”  Though she still hopes to pursue studies in anatomy and eventually teach the subject herself, Gayatri admits that the challenges of chemistry and math may delay her.“Those are my weaknesses,” she explains. “I have a love for English and a passion for writing, and I think people should use their gifts, so I decided I’ll aim to become an English teacher first and maybe later I can teach anatomy, too.”

Like her mother, Samantha also volunteered at Beth Israel where, as a teenager, she decided to become a cardiac surgeon. “I helped in the emergency room and felt it was amazing to be part of what doctors do there.”  However, Samantha also eventually decided that the hospital environment was not for her. “I wanted to do something where I could travel more and see more,” she explained.

A talented performer who distinguished herself in the college’s drama program, Samantha had considered a career in performing arts. “I love being onstage, and I’ll probably always continue my interest in theater, but I want my college degree in something more solid,” she explained. While working in the college’s student activities office, where she helped promote activities and events sponsored by the office, Samantha felt drawn to communications. “I got good at that and enjoyed it,” she said.

Gratitude for PCCC Faculty and Staff
Both mother and daughter expressed profound admiration and gratitude for the faculty and staff at PCCC, especially Professor Loving, humanities professor Ed Moseley, admissions director Patrick Noonan, and James Tardiff, the director of student activities. “Jim models how much fun it is to be involved and his example makes you want to do it,” explained Samantha.

In turn, Tardiff remarked, “It was an absolute pleasure working with both of them. Seldom does a student activities director have the opportunity to work with student leaders who actually make the job easier.”

Professor Loving, who taught Gayatri in two science courses said, “She was an amazingly delightful student.  She is very bright, and absorbs details and complex concepts with seemingly little effort.  To say that she has a pleasant demeanor is an understatement – Gayatri is absolutely effervescent.”  Loving also had Samantha in her anatomy and physiology class. “Samantha is clearly a product of her mother, equally smart and engaging,” the professor said.

The thought of going their separate ways after graduation caused mother and daughter to choke up during a recent interview. “We’ll really miss being together,” said Samantha.

Wiping away tears, Gayatri agreed. “Sam is my backbone,” she said. “She helps so much at home and with the younger children that I don’t know what I’ll do without her.”  But then, like a good mother, Gayatri put on a cheerful face and said. “Going away now will be good for Sam. It will be her chance to become more independent and develop herself.”

Passaic County Community College:  Pride in Our Graduates