A Louisiana graduate recently received two special honors: a college degree and a sweet baby. First-time mom Jada Sayles went into labor just hours before her commencement ceremony at Dillard University the next morning.
Sayles tells Romper she was in “disbelief” when she went into labor last Friday night. “I was very in denial and didn’t come to terms until I was actually checked into the hospital!”
Her newborn son, Easton, was born on Saturday morning. Sayles had texted outgoing Dillard President Dr. Walter Kimbrough around 4:30 a.m. on Saturday to tell him she had been admitted into the hospital to deliver her son, so she would have to miss the graduation ceremony. But that did not stop Kimbrough from making sure his graduate got to celebrate her accomplishments. She may have missed her opportunity to walk across the stage, but Kimbrough and his wife visited the new mom on Sunday to officially confer her degree.
“I did something today I have never done before in 18 years as a college president. I conferred a degree in a hospital,” Kimbrough tweeted. He also shared a video of Sayles accepting her degree while wearing a cap and gown. “I even did the tassel part of commencement,” he captioned the video. “This really was a very sweet moment. I’ll never forget it.”
Sayles also tweeted about the moment and shared pictures of her with her son. “I thought I was gonna walk across the stage to be my degree; instead I got my baby,” she tweeted. “My sweet face decided to make his way on MY big day (now his). Shoutout to my university for still bringing my graduation and degree to me. Ima college graduate & mommy, talk to me nice!”
“It felt surreal. Once I got my degree, I felt complete but also still in shock with everything that was happening,” Sayles tells Romper.
Sayles’ story has gone viral on social media, with many praising the university for its efforts and congratulating the new mother.
“Double Congratulations graduate and new mother,” one person tweeted. “Thank you for showing us what perseverance looks like. I pray for a multitude of job offers and for companies and individuals to bless you and your baby. You are both in my prayers. Let’s bless this grad and new mom.”
Another tweeted, “Huge double congratulations, new Mom, new Grad! Impressive feat! May blessings continue to come to you. Thanks to Dillard university for making all accommodations to help you be included in the ceremony.”
“Kudos to the President for going the extra mile for his student,” another tweet read referring to Kimbough. “Double blessings!”
Dillard University is a historically Black university in New Orleans. The HBCU graduate received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice with an emphasis on pre-law, according to WDSU. She tells Romper she plans to attend law school.
“I will never let Easton live this down, as soon as he doesn’t want to eat a vegetable I will remind him what mom went through,” she jokes, “but it will be a special moment to share with him as he gets older.”