KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo’s Commencement will be extra special for one mother and daughter, as they celebrate their accomplishments together.
Michele Simms and her daughter, Brooke Castleberry, will both cross the stage on Tuesday, May 11, as Castleberry earns her Bachelor of Science in Education, and Simms completes her Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.).
“It’s just a really cool experience to graduate together because I was not expecting that. I thought she would either be a year ahead or behind me,” Castleberry said. “I will always remember that because it’s my mom. She always talked about going back to college and did it. It’s really neat to see her succeed with me.”
Castleberry has dreamed of being a teacher since being inspired by her second-grade teacher. She’s spent the past semester student teaching at Western Primary School where she had the opportunity to work with both a special education kindergarten and a second-grade classes.
“When a kid is struggling and then they start getting it after you’ve taught them and you just kept encouraging them – seeing them succeed is what really keeps me going,” she said.
Simms, whose M.B.A. includes a concentration in finance, set a goal for herself long ago to return to school for a graduate degree. When Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) partnered with IU Kokomo to start a cohort program for its employees, she jumped at the chance.
She is currently an administrator at the plant and hopes to use her M.B.A. to further her career or possibly start her own business.
Simms said she was fortunate to have many caring professors during her time at IU Kokomo.
Throughout their educational journey, the two were able to rely and lean on each other through all the rigors of being a student.
“It’s great because we both understand when the other is overwhelmed and we go to each other like, ‘How do you do this?’ or just give each other different methods or encourage other and say, ‘You’re going to finish,’ when we get overwhelmed,” Castleberry said. “We can be there for each other and encourage each other.”
Castleberry has also enjoyed the bonding experience with her mother now that she’s married and moved out of her childhood home. If anything, this has allowed the two to bond in a new way and be more understanding.
“We cheer each other on all the time and encourage each other,” Simms said. “You also understand when one or the other says, ‘I absolutely have to do my homework and can’t participate in that family function,’ or they need to leave early. We were very understanding because we were going through very similar journeys.”
“Whatever she’s going through, I’m going through it at the same time.”