As graduates of Stony Brook University fill Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium this year, one mother will be there to cheer on her daughter, but with a much closer seat than other parents in attendance.
Helena Roura and her daughter, Anastasia Roura, both of Mastic, are doubly excited for graduation day. Both will be receiving their diplomas along with more than 7,000 graduates Friday, May 18. For Helena Roura, 44, the day has been years in the making.
“Sometimes you can’t do it all at the same time. Sometimes you have to do it in piecemeal. It doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish everything that you want to.”
— Helena Roura
The wife and mother graduated from William Floyd High School in 1991, and she said she attended college for a short time like most of her peers. When she and her now-husband, Miguel, got engaged, she said she decided to concentrate on having a family. The couple first lived in Japan when her husband was in the Navy, and it was where both her children, Anastasia, 24, and Xavier, 23, were born.
“I made myself a promise that someday I would go back to college and finish my education, but for then my life was dedicated to raising my two children,” the mother said.
Returning to the United States in 1994, she hoped to go back to college once her kids were in school but realized with all their activities, the timing still wasn’t quite right. After her
children graduated from William Floyd High School, her daughter in 2011 and her son in 2012, she knew the time had come to continue her studies.
“I wasn’t done learning,” she said. “I loved being in school. I loved learning. I knew I needed more and that I wanted more.”
Roura started her new college journey in September 2013 at Suffolk County Community College. Both of her children were at SCCC when she started, and during her time there she said she grew to love sociology after her daughter recommended a class. When the mother graduated from SCCC in May 2015 with a fine arts degree in photography, she applied to and was accepted by six colleges and chose SBU because her daughter was having such an enjoyable experience there. At SBU she took on a double major — sociology and anthropology.
The mother and daughter have commuted and studied together ever since, and due to having similar course requirements with her daughter majoring in women’s, gender and sexuality studies, they have taken a few of the same classes together at SBU.
“It was actually really amazing to have someone in your class with you — on this journey with you — who you can look to for guidance and as not only peers, not only family but as best friends going to class together,” the daughter said of attending school with her mom.
The two admitted to giggling at times in classes, and both said they believe their shared educational journey has made their relationship, which was already close, even closer.
“It allowed our relationship to level up,” Anastasia Roura said. “I think that sometimes people aren’t able to have that opportunity, and I was so blessed to be able to have that. We take the things that we learn in class, and we bring them home and talk about them at the kitchen table.”
The daughter said she and her brother were never embarrassed about their mother returning to school later in life. She said she would advise young people who may find themselves in a similar situation to help out their parents with adjusting to college life and the responsibilities that come with it.
Helena Roura shared advice for those thinking about resuming education later in life, despite an already demanding schedule.
“We take the things that we learn in class, and we bring them home and talk about them at the kitchen table.”
— Anastasia Roura
“Sometimes you can’t do it all at the same time,” she said. “Sometimes you have to do it in piecemeal. It doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish everything that you want to, but I knew I wanted to be married and have my family and have my babies. And I knew my education was so important to me.”
The mother said she’s not done with her college studies. She has already met with her adviser and is applying for a master’s program in both nutrition and public health. She said she also plans to pursue a doctoral degree.
Her daughter said while she jokes that she took her time so the two could graduate together, she said sharing the milestone on the same day just worked out that way, and she’s happy it did.
“We’re able to celebrate each other, our education, our degrees, and I just think it’s really amazing,” the daughter said.