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UCS Mom, daughter will graduate together at the same ceremony

Graduation Photo

Maria Ramirez López made a bet with her kids a few years ago that has changed the course of their lives – let’s see who can finish high school first. 

It was a bet that paid off, as next weekend she and her daughter Ashley Rivera will be graduating together at the same UCS graduation ceremony: López from the adult education program and Rivera from the Utica Alternative Learning Center.

“I think my story shows that dreams really do come true,” the soon-to-be UCS alumni said.

Her diploma was a journey that was interrupted when Ramirez López  left school to help raise her younger siblings. 

“My mom was working two to three jobs,” she said. “My mother had given up so much for me. I knew I had to help her.”

Ramirez López wanted to make sure that history did not repeat itself when she said her own children were struggling with their education. 

“I did not want my kids to give up like I did,” she said. “I didn’t want the same story to repeat.”

It was then that she made a bet with her kids – I’ll go back to finish my education and we will see who can graduate first.

“At first it was a little battle but after a while, it got us to move forward and motivated us to keep going,” she said. 

The challenge worked.

“Once she went back, she said – ‘look, we are going to get through this together,’" Rivera said of her mother. “She has always been my biggest supporter. She was always like 'you've got this. You can do it. Just do your work.’”

And now, mom and daughter will graduate on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. when the Alternative Learning Center and Adult Education hold their combined graduation ceremony at the O’Rena at Oakland University.

And they are not done. Both plan to pursue their education at Macomb Community College – Ramirez López for culinary arts and Rivera to pursue a career in the medical field. 

Both said that the support of UCS staff allowed them to reach their goals. 

“At first it was scary for me, but I met the people here and they made like I was home,” Ramirez López  said.  

Rivera said ALC staff helped her remain focused on her diploma. 

“They are always on track of my work so that I would get it done,” she said.