News / Halifax

'I’m still in shock that we’re here:' mom, daughters graduate together at MSVU

All three women graduated with a bachelor's degree in child and youth studies Thursday.

Mary Lou Bouchard, centre, is flanked by her daughters Liana Clifford and Jenny Clifford.

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Mary Lou Bouchard, centre, is flanked by her daughters Liana Clifford and Jenny Clifford.

When Kingston resident Mary Lou Bouchard walked across the stage at Mount Saint Vincent University on Thursday, she wasn't alone – literally.

The single mom of three was followed across the stage by her two oldest daughters, 24-year-old Jenny Clifford and 22-year-old Liana Clifford.

All three women graduated together with a bachelor’s degree in child and youth studies.

“It feels amazing. Unbelievable,” said Mary Lou in an interview prior to the graduation. “It’s like a dream come true, I’m still in shock that we’re here.”

Mary Lou, who was previously an avionics technician with the air force, became a stay-at-home mom when her youngest daughter, Robyn, was born. She’d planned to go back to school when Robyn, now 19, started school, but that didn’t happen.

When Jenny graduated from high school, though, Mary Lou figured it was now or never time and took the plunge. Together, Mary Lou and Jenny attended NSCC Kingstec, where they graduated from the health and human services program.

“I never planned to continue on to university, I just planned to go to college, but everyone encouraged me,” she said.

Mount Saint Vincent has a program that applies NSCC credits toward a university degree, prompting Jenny and Mary Lou to enroll. By that time, Liana was ready to attend university and started taking extra classes to catch up with her sister and mother.

All three women balanced school with work and were able to graduate debt-free.

“We were working full-time at École Rose-des-Vents in Greenwood, Jenny as an EA and I was working in preschool,” Mary Lou said. “We’d work until 2:30, then travel to the Mount for night classes. We did that for three years.”

The last two years, mother and daughters studied full-time - “It was taking too long and I was losing motivation,” Mary Lou said - spending three hours a day in their car as they drove back and forth, clocking as many as 1,200 kilometres a week sometimes.

Their Kingston home was sometimes more like a dormitory than a family residence, but they split up chores and responsibilities, “and we all understood when we had midterms or big papers due,” Mary Lou said.

 “I’m so proud of them. Jenny worked two jobs all along and they’re graduating debt-free and they’re A students. We couldn’t have done it without each other,” she said.

“They helped me – at first I was not very tech savvy with the power point – and I helped them, too, I think, with my experiences.”

Her daughters are equally as proud of Mary Lou.

“She’s been our role model and beacon of light,” said Liana, her voice choking with tears. “The world is open to all of us now.”

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