While most mothers and fathers will be smiling from the audience at their children walking across the stage during Lakehead University’s 55th Convocation, Irma Hall will have a different view.
That’s because on June 8 she’ll be accepting a degree herself.
Irma, 51, will receive an Honours Bachelor of Social Work, while her daughter Becca Hall, 25, will receive an Honours Bachelor of Arts and Science in Interdisciplinary Studies.
“It feels like I’m living in a movie,” said Becca. “But it’s a great thing and I’m so proud of my mom for going back and completing her schooling. It was great to be able to have someone to experience this journey with.”
In the fall of 2016, nearly three decades after she had last been in postsecondary, Irma returned to complete her four-year undergraduate degree at Lakehead.
“After a number of major life changes I was no longer doing what I loved to do,” she said. “I wanted to work in the field of social work. The only way I could do that was to go back to university.”
When Irma mentioned to her daughter that she wanted to apply to Lakehead for social work, Becca became her biggest cheerleader encouraging her through the application and offer process. It was also what sparked Becca’s interest in going back to school.
“It was the very last day before the deadline to apply, and I decided that if I didn’t apply now that I would never do it,” Becca explained. So the two of them sat down and worked through Becca’s university application, together.
Although Irma and Becca enrolled in different programs, in first- and second-year mother and daughter ended up having multiple classes together.
“It was awesome having our classes together because we did homework together and studied together and encouraged each other – it was really nice,” said Irma.
What is hard to believe is that the duo managed to keep their relationship secret.
“We didn’t let many people know,” said Irma. “We had a few mutual friends who figured it out, but most didn’t know. We thought it was better for both of us to forge our own paths in university, which ended up overlapping in a lot of ways.”
After the pair accept their degrees on Saturday, the next chapter of their lives will begin. Irma will continue in her new role as Executive Director of the Orillia Pregnancy Resource Centre. Rebecca will take some time off to travel the world and have her own experiences.
“This is what I’ve been training for over the last four years, and to get a job right out of school … I would never be where I am right now if I hadn’t gone to Lakehead University,” Irma said. “I’m so excited to graduate on Saturday.”
For now, the duo is focused on Saturday and celebrating their achievements with each other and their family.
“Anytime your child graduates from university it’s a special thing, but in our family, we are the first two to ever go to university so it’s even more special,” said Irma. “I’m going to cheer and give her flowers and we’re just going to have a fantastic day.”
“I’m so proud of her, it was a really good choice for her and now she has a job right out of school,” said Becca. “I’m really excited to watch her cross the stage on Saturday.”