Mom, son graduating at the same time UWI function to be memorable occasion for both
Kaveed Brownand his mother,Dian Vidal Briggs.

He dedicated his BSc in Terrestrial Ecology with a minor in cultural studies to his late grandmother. She dedicated her MSc in Management and Educational Leadership to her late mother. For both, that is Daisy Williams who succumbed to cancer in 2010.

Kaveed Brown, 23, and his mother, Dian Vidal Briggs, are both graduating from The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, together this year, after being awarded their degrees recently.

“Growing up, I've always admired my aunts and uncles in their UWI gowns, but to see my mom wearing the graduation gown the same time I do, is a next level of admiration and pride. I just still can't believe all of this is happening. I feel like graduating with your mom is top tier, seeing that we both have been through the rocky roads together and now reap the fruits of our labour. I'm still in awe with all this graduation stuff because I can't believe it's really happening,” Brown told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.

“My mother wasn't aware that her degree was awarded. In fact, she was sitting around the dinner table when I posed the question: 'Mommy, did you check to see if your degree was awarded?' and of course, she wasn't sure. I watched her as she checked and to see the joy on her face made me really happy and proud at the same time. Mine wasn't awarded until a few weeks later, however, the feeling was still the same.”

Vidal Briggs, Mathematics teacher and principal of Mount Pleasant Primary and Infant School in Portland, is just as thrilled as her son.

“We have got a lot of praise and congratulations. In fact, it is three of us from the family graduating this year. My niece Andrique Manahan has completed her studies and is off to Norman Manley Law School to complete the other phase. I know my mother Daisy Williams is in heaven smiling. My sister had a field day on Facebook and Instagram for a whole day. It is an elating, ecstatic, heartwarming and proud feeling. We are finally finished,” she told the Sunday Observer.

Brown, whom she described as “very loving” and “very secretive as any typical young man,” said his degree was inevitable, as he was groomed by a mother who is also a school principal.

“We have a very unique relationship I'd say. We do have our good and bad days. Her being a principal and an educator puts pressure on me academically, because failure is not an option for her. She believes in putting your best foot forward in everything you do,” Brown said.

“With this as her mantra, growing up, I knew nothing else but books, books and more books, so seeking further education is a must for me. I have no regrets, whatsoever, with her involvements in my educational journey because had she not been so strict on me, I wouldn't have earned this major accomplishment. I am the first from my father's side of the family to go to university and graduate.”

Enthused, Vidal Briggs backed up his claims.

“Yes, most definitely,” she responded. “It was easy as I had Kaveed starting school from as young as one year and eight months. At that time, I was seconded to a basic school to act as a principal. I spent two years there, so being the principal, I took him to school. He was ready and being so small everyone loved him. They called him 'School Baby', 'Beenie bud', etcetera.”

When she eventually left and returned to her former position as a teacher at Boundbrook Primary School, “Kaveed transitioned to the primary level at the school and he has remained at the top and even when he sat GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test), he was the most outstanding boy in all subject areas including a 100 per cent in Mathematics,” she recalled.

But the quest to her Master's degree, Vidal Briggs told the Sunday Observer, was deeply burdensome.

“It was challenging as we did not do the same courses. And since my studies were strictly online from the initial stage, there were areas that I needed his assistance with and sometimes he was not around because he had to be on campus.”

And for Brown, the road to his Bachelor's degree was just as bumpy. He added: “There was a point I was contemplating to take a leave of absence but thanks to my friends, I was reminded of my goals.”

Perhaps his mother was pleased when his friends surrounded him with good reasoning. A leave of absence was a no-no in her eyes.

“She believed that if she can do classes online so can I. And so, she showed me the 'ropes' of online learning. Pre-COVID, I had to juggle academics, my acting career and maintaining a healthy social life. This was really challenging due to the nature of my academic pursuit. Mom wasn't comfortable with the acting part because she thought it would hinder my studies and of course, to prove her wrong, I had to strike a balance. It is something I am passionate about so I had to make the best of both worlds,” Brown added.

Further, financing both studies landed the Portland-based mother-son duo in another quandary.

“God is good. Being a mathematically inclined individual, I have to keep my head above the water. I knew I did not want Kaveed or myself to be burdened with student loans at the end of our studies, hence I had to be tactful in how I approached the financial obligations. I have two credit cards that I juggled. These have helped me a lot, even though I am still owing some thousands. I know I will be able to clear those in short order.

“Thanks to my little sister Kerrine Ogle for assisting with part of the first semester, and big sister Winnifred Vidal Manahan, who offered to house him (in Spanish Town) for one full year without even a cent from me. All I had to do was provide travelling, lunch and other miscellaneous,” Vidal Briggs told the Sunday Observer.

Brown, who touted his mother's 'God will provide' approach, recalled being deregistered in the second semester of year one because of an outstanding payment.

“My mother had just paid some money on her tuition. However, she didn't have enough money to pay down on mine. Luckily, we had applied for the JTA (Jamaica Teachers' Association) tertiary grant which showed up the same day of deregistration. They granted me over $120,000 which was able to cover the fees I had outstanding, and also rolled over to second year tuition. Ever since I've began this educational journey, my mother has been at the forefront, financially and physically,” he said, noting that he had to commute from Spanish Town to Kingston daily during first year, because he couldn't afford boarding at the time.

In second year, things turned around after he received grants and scholarships from different institutions. He could then concentrate, he said, on working to earn boarding fees.

Both he and his mother said they were together in studies but were essentially separated by a difference in courses.

A typical day at home includes Brown locked away in his room finishing labs, research papers and assignments, while having to monitor his younger brother who was preparing for PEP.

Vidal Briggs would either be in her room or around the dining table where books, papers and up to three laptops were.

“We never studied together per se, but I would put my tasks on hold. That way, I had room for whatever help she needed. I recall her doing her research paper and I had to help her find sources where necessary. That helped me a bit because it reinforced a few strategies I learnt,” said Brown.

“Being a more computer and technologically savvy person, Kaveed assisted me several times. On the other hand, being the mother, I would provide the moral support as much as possible… checking essays, ensuring he wakes up for class or maintained his study schedules. It can sometimes be crazy. Sometimes we would be in the house and definitely know that we are there, but because of the pressure of the papers to be submitted we did not have time for a family chat until a day or two,” added Vidal Biggs.

Dian Vidal Briggsdedicated her MScin Management andEducational Leadershipto her late mother,Daisy Williams.
Kaveed Browndedicated his BSc inTerrestrial Ecologywith a minor inCultural Studies tohis late grandmother,Daisy Williams.
Kaveed Brownand his mother,Dian Vidal Briggs,in chill mode.
BY ROMARDO LYONS Staff reporter lyonsr@jamaicaobserver.com

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