How Lehman Students Cope without Mom on Mother’s Day

By Keidy Gómez

Photos courtesy of Kimberley Aguirre, Biancania Romero, and Shareida Spencer (respectively).

Mother’s Day presents a special challenge for Lehman students who can’t always celebrate the holiday with their mothers. These students have to struggle to fill the void of her absence and recreate the bond they miss. In doing so, though, they creatively keep the memory alive by giving all the love that wasn’t provided to them. While this can be difficult, in some cases, they find themselves blessed with another created family of their own.

“Due to both of my parents having personal issues, I was placed in foster care from the age of one till five,” said Lehman senior Kimberley Aguirre, 26. Aguirre, an English major, explained, “Throughout the years I've spent sporadic time together where [my biological mother] tried to buy my love with toys and clothes. After a fight at the age of ten over tickets to my graduation, she walked out my life.”  Aguirre admits that wanting to have your mother in your life and not having her there is hard, but she herself embraces motherhood vigorously so she can foster a bond with her own daughter. “What I've learned from this is to focus on my daughter and no matter what happens to be there for her always.”

For Lehman students who grew up in foster care, Mother’s Day has brought about feelings of loneliness, sadness and grief, because they have been hurt before, or they are waiting to see their mothers again. “In foster care days, you can’t just sit there and buy things, you have to wait for visitation,” recalled Shareida Spencer, a 25-year-old Lehman sophomore majoring in social work.  We get into a group and if all [the biological mother’s] kids are in the same foster care we get one big card and put flowers in it.” She added that for someone who has been separated for so long from her mother, it is difficult to feel close to her. “I’ve haven’t been with her all my life, so there’s lots of Mother’s Days I’ve missed,” said Spencer, who had to deal with the fact that on Mother’s Day she either had to wait to see her mother or celebrate it with strangers. Spencer hasn’t forgotten her mother, whom she cares for deeply. “I would love to get her...a house. She’s been talking about it ever since I was born, that’s 25 years, and she’s never had one. If my life was to get right and things go the way they are supposed to, I would get her a house,” said Spencer.

For other students, illness has separated them from their mother on Mother’s Day, and fear instead of celebration becomes heart-wrenching. “The worst Mother’s Day, I would say was back in 2014, when my mom had open heart surgery months before and I was taking care of her until she was better,” recalled Biancania Romero, a 20-year-old junior, majoring in speech pathology. However, the experience taught her an important lesson, she added. “I think that Mother’s Day was the day I realized I had to appreciate my mom the most because of everything she’s done for me since I was born. My mother is truly the person who always had my back no matter what.”

Ultimately, many students found that growing up without a mother can actually strengthen their own love and shape them to choose to be there for their mothers even when they hadn’t done the same. “If I have a break, I’ll visit [my mother]” Spencer said, “and we’ll cook and sit there and have conversations.” For Aguirre, the experience has made her into a mother that creates a stronger bond with their children. Now, she said, “Mother’s Day is a day for my love as a parent to be recognized. Although my daughter is only two and a half, I tell her every morning and night that I love her, and give her a hug and a kiss. All a child needs is to be reminded that they are loved.”

Hungry Students Put Price First, Health and Taste Second

By Keidy Gómez

Carman Hall Café, where friends are made. Jerlisa Ware, Daisy DeJesus, Courtne Comrie. Photo by Keidy Gomez.

When the food we’re eating is good, we want to continue savoring the moment. Unfortunately for many Lehman students on tight budgets, that happens only once in a blue moon. Even with a new program to cut food costs, most students we talked to said that they choose food that is convenient and affordable over what they actually want to eat, which means they don’t always make healthy choices when it comes to eating on campus.

“I like to go for healthier foods, I don’t like to eat junk food, but, sometimes I go for a pizza,” said Courtne Comrie, a 24-year-old Lehman sophomore who’s majoring in creative writing.

“When I feel naughty, I eat greasy pizza,” said Jerlisa Ware, a 25-year- old Lehman senior, also majoring in creative writing and minoring in education. “When I’m hungry, I eat whatever is available.” Ware often goes to the taco truck on Goulden Avenue outside campus, when she wants something quick to eat and is on the go, but when she feels like having a food adventure she eats halal.

“When I feel naughty, I eat greasy pizza.”

- Jerlisa Ware, Lehman Senior and creative writing major

Students like Ware and Comrie don’t usually savor their food experiences as much on campus, where food is relatively expensive. A soda from Carman Hall Café costs $1.91, while in a bodega it costs only $1.25. Plain pizza costs $2, and a full meal can cost $8 to 10 including a drink and tax. So rather than splurging for taste, more often than not, students on a budget just eat for sustenance.

To help students cut costs a bit, last semester Lehman began offering Dining Dollars, a program that lets students use their student ID card to pay for food. Students can put $25 dollars on their student ID card and they don’t pay tax. If they add $50 dollars they get $2.50 back. The funds, however, expire at the end of every spring semester. Daisy DeJesus, the cashier at the Carman Hall Café, explains it as “a debit card that you can add money [to] and have savings.”

DeJesus herself goes above and beyond to help out students who are trying to make ends meet. “Some students leave their money in the classroom and forget to bring it. I take their name and number and let them pay me later,” she said. “If a friend of mine is hungry and can’t pay, I pay out of pocket for them. I know how hard it is when you are hungry and broke.”