EDMORE — For members of the McCarthy family, the value of an education is a common bond soon to be shared by mother, son and daughter.
They just didn’t expect to watch each other graduate in cap and gown all within a month.
On Saturday, the family watched as Mike McCarthy, 21, graduated from Lake Superior State University with a bachelor’s degree in conservation leadership.
On Friday, the family will watch as Mike’s mother, Lee Ann McCarthy, 48, will graduate with an associate degree in medical information systems from Montcalm Community College (MCC). MCC’s graduation will take place at 7 p.m. in the Central Montcalm High School gymnasium in Stanton.
And on May 24, they will watch as Lee Ann’s daughter, Kaelyn McCarthy, 18, graduates from Montabella High School.
“It’s been very busy and overwhelming, but I think we’ve all proven a little bit of success with what all three of us have accomplished,” Lee Ann said. “We were just very surprised when we found out we were all going to graduate around the same time.”
Lee Ann began attending MCC 4½ years ago with intentions to earn an associate degree. While working as a cosmetologist to help support her family, she has taken morning, night and online classes for nearly five years with a goal to pursue a new career, with hopes to one day work in a doctor’s office or hospital.
“I have a license in cosmetology, but the medical field seems to be where everything is at,” she said. “I just decided I like the medical field area and so I went after that.”
Being a student again is something Lee Ann has been able to share directly with her children. At times, they seem more like study buddies than parent and child.
“She actually had starting going to school before I started going to college,” Mike McCarthy said. “It was kind of neat how we could piggyback and compare grades and talk about which classes were hard. We were able to share our stories and experiences back and forth.”
Mike said he would visit home about once a month while away at college and it was often during those long car rides home that he and his mother would do schoolwork together.
“Sometimes the trips home consisted of doing homework together,” he said. “A lot of times we’d sit on the couch and do our homework together as opposed to maybe going outside and doing something. It may not be considered the norm, but it’s what we had to do.”
For Kaelyn McCarthy, it has been slightly more personal as both her and her mother have lived at home together while Mike was away in the Upper Peninsula.
“There are nights that we both have homework and there are nights where she is struggling with algebra so I’m sitting with her helping her as best that I can,” Kaelyn said. “I had an anatomy class I struggled with this year and she had taken an anatomy class online, so she was able to help me with some of her material.”
Kaelyn said she has been able to look at her mother as a source of inspiration putting an effort forth toward a new education. She doesn’t believe there is any excuse not to pursue a degree in college.
“I am definitely proud of her,” she said. “It gave me, personally, something to look forward to knowing that if she could go back and do it this many years later that I can just continue on my way and do it too.”
Kaelyn will be attending Ferris State University in the fall, pursuing a degree in sonography.
“I want to work as an ultrasound technician,” she said. “I got an ultrasound on my heart my freshman year of high school and I thought it was just the coolest thing how they could see it. I knew then that I wanted to do that and it’s also a growing field.”
Aside from the occasional dinner not being set for Kaelyn and her father, Greg, Kaelyn said the difficulties at home have been minimal.
“Dad and I get a little sad come dinner time, because sometimes there are no groceries,” Kaelyn said with a laugh. “Sometimes you’re left scrounging for food, but we made it. We made it through because we knew she was working hard.”
For Greg McCarthy, he can sit back and look at his family knowing he has something to be proud of in each and every one of his family members.
“I’m very proud of all of them, especially Lee Ann,” Greg said. “I don’t know how she could go back to studying like that. It’s quite an accomplishment to get back in the groove of going to school like she did.”
After nearly five years, Lee Ann will walk with her graduating class at MCC, something she says still feels a little surreal.
“I don’t think it has hit me yet,” she said. “I don’t know if it will even hit me by Friday when I walk for graduation. There’s been many nights where I’ve been on the computer working on homework until 1 or 2 a.m. in the morning and MCC has been very accommodating with working with people who do have jobs, but it will be strange to return to a life where I’m not going to school any longer.”