Mother and daughters graduate together at ESU

09 May 2017 | 12:49

— When Stephanie Letki was a sophomore in high school and her sister, Alexandra, was a junior, their mother decided to take a college class.
“I just wanted to take one class, just to see if I liked it,” said Elaine Letki, a stay-at home mom from Milford with a love of history.
A few teachers at her daughters’ school, Delaware Valley High School, were graduates of East Stroudsburg University (ESU). So she decided to take a class there.
“If people like Mr. Valentine and Mr. Bates were products of ESU, I knew I wanted to be too,” Elaine said.
Alexandra graduated from high school in 2012, and Stephanie in 2013. They both took classes at Sussex County Community College in New Jersey before joining their mother as ESU students. By this time all three were enrolled full-time students and had a great car pool. Elaine continued to follow her passion as a history major, and her youngest daughter followed in her footsteps.
“History is the only thing I ever felt I was really good at,” Stephanie said. Alexandra took a slightly different route as an English major in the creative writing track. “I like to write, but I do like history too,” Alexandra said. “History is filled with stories!”
Stephanie said the first time she and her mother were enrolled in the same class, Elaine offered to change her schedule.
"She didn’t want to take away from my college experience,” said Stephanie. “But I insisted she didn’t. It didn’t bother me to be in class with my mom."
At first she was nervous that she’d only be known as Elaine’s daughter.
“But that wasn’t the case at all," said Stephanie. "Once I knew I can be my own person, I liked having classes with her.”
In fact, they all really enjoyed going to the same classes, and did so several times over the course of their undergraduate careers.
Last year, as they were planning their 2016-17 schedules, Elaine and Alexandra were looking ahead to their senior year. Stephanie, despite being a year younger, realized she was only a few credits behind her family.
“I took classes over winter break, and I am taking a heavy course load this semester," she said. "It’s a lot, but I did it."
The three Letki women graduated together, each with honors, on Saturday, May 6.
'We became the parents'The family had more than a few extra classes in the way of their three-way graduation. Elaine had some health problems that came to a head over winter break.
“There is a history of heart disease in my family,” Elaine said. “I have heart palpitations sometimes, but they were becoming more frequent and I passed out.”
Her doctor insisted on immediate heart surgery. But Elaine said no because the semester was about to begin.
“He looked at me sort of funny," said Elaine. "He said, ‘I just told you that you can die.’”
Her daughters encouraged her to take time off to take care of herself. But Elaine was determined to graduate with her girls. She started the spring 2017 semester after surgery, still weak.
“We became the parents,” Alexandra said. “We carried her books for her and made sure one of us was always with her.”
After spending all day together on campus, the three would go home and spend their nights together doing homework and studying.
“Dad sometimes just disappears when he sees all the books and papers laid out," Alexandra said. "He knows to give us space to get our work done."
"He really is so excited for us, though,” Stephanie added.
So are their grandparents, Elaine’s parents.
“I can only imagine how sick my parents’ friends are of hearing about us," said Elaine. "They are just as excited as we are."
It’s not unusual for parents to cry as they watch their child graduate, and Elaine is no different.
“I am so proud of them,” she said.
That emotion is returned.
“We are so proud of our mother,” Alexandrea said. “It’s not easy going back to school as an adult. She did it, and she excelled.”
“To share this journey with my daughters, it really is a gift," Elaine said.