Lyn Thomas, a 52-year-old housemaid from New York, has achieved her lifelong dream of earning a university degree after 30 years of caring for others. She is set to graduate from the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health.
Thomas moved to New York from Jamaica at the age of 18 to join her mother, who was also a domestic worker. She started working as a nanny for various families, while also attending night classes to get her high school diploma. She got pregnant at 26 and raised her daughter as a single mother, after the father left them before she was born.
She later married another man, but he turned out to be addicted to drugs and stole all her savings. She lost her apartment and had to sleep in her car with her daughter for a while. She never gave up on her dream of getting a higher education, though. She enrolled in BMCC in 2019 and took online classes while still working as a housemaid.
“I worked very hard for this. I didn’t have a high school diploma. Because I’m a go-getter, you can’t tell me no. I will do it,” Thomas said in an interview with Scholarship Region, a website that provides information on scholarship opportunities around the world.
Thomas said she chose Public Health as her major because she wanted to help people and make a difference in the world. She said she was inspired by her mother, who died of cancer in 2018, and by the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected many people she knew.
She said she plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Public Health after graduating from BMCC. She also hopes to find a job in the health sector and to inspire other women who face similar challenges as she did.
“I want to tell them that it’s never too late to achieve your goals. You have to believe in yourself and work hard. You have to be resilient and persistent. You have to overcome your fears and doubts. You have to be your own cheerleader,” she said.
Thomas will celebrate her graduation with her daughter, who is now 26 and works as an accountant. She said she is proud of her daughter and grateful for her support throughout her journey.
“She is my motivation and my inspiration. She always encouraged me and cheered me on. She always told me that I can do anything I set my mind to. She is my best friend and my angel,” she said.
Thomas is one of the many success stories of BMCC, which is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system and serves over 25,000 students from diverse backgrounds. The college offers over 50 academic programs and provides various support services for its students.
BMCC President Anthony E. Munroe congratulated Thomas and all the other graduates of the Class of 2023 in a statement.
“We are proud of our graduates for their achievements and perseverance. They have shown remarkable resilience and adaptability in the face of unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic. They have demonstrated that they are ready to take on the world and make a positive impact in their communities and beyond,” he said.
Ntombizodwa Merriam Mahlangu is a South African woman who defied the odds and achieved her dream of getting a higher education. She was born in Tonteldoos, near Dullstroom in Mpumalanga, South Africa, where she faced many challenges such as poverty, poor education system, lack of resources and development, and an unplanned pregnancy.
She had to give up her opportunity to study at Tshwane University of Technology when she fell pregnant in 2004. To provide for her daughter, she started working as a domestic worker in Pretoria East in 2007. She did not let her circumstances stop her from learning and improving herself. She taught herself how to use a computer, learnt to drive, and found employment as a receptionist, personal assistant, and public relations officer at a large organisation in the debt regulation industry.
With the support of her employer, she enrolled at the University of South Africa (Unisa) in 2014 and studied part-time for four years. In 2018, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in human and social studies. She became one of the few domestic workers in South Africa who have attained a university degree.
According to Statistics South Africa, only 3.3% of domestic workers in the country have completed tertiary education as of 2019. The majority (57.7%) have completed secondary education, while 22.5% have primary education or less. Want to read more about Ntombizodwa? Click here.