Jelina Sheppard, a resilient 24-year-old single mother, recently achieved a significant milestone: graduation from North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University. As she walked across the stage to receive her hard-earned diploma, a sigh of relief escaped her lips, and she took a moment to express her heartfelt gratitude to her 4-year-old son, Karter Sheppard.
In an Instagram post dedicated to her son, Sheppard poured out her emotions, acknowledging the sacrifices he had made during her academic journey. She wrote, "Dear Karter, For all those nights you had to fall asleep in the library, for all those times you had to watch cartoons alone because I needed to do homework, for the early mornings in daycare because I needed to be in class, to being the last one there because I had to work... Most importantly, for the moments of separation because I needed to get this done, thank you."
Sheppard shared that her bond with her son is extraordinary. Sheppard told TODAY, "When I'm sick, he takes care of me. When I'm in need of a hug, he's there with open arms. I never thought I'd have a little boy watching over me, but I'm so happy I do."
Although Sheppard had been studying mathematics at the university since 2010, she encountered several obstacles along the way that forced her to take breaks. During her sophomore year, Karter's father left, necessitating Sheppard to switch to online classes. Not only did this setback affect her credit hours, but she was also disheartened to discover that her scholarship did not cover those online courses.
When Sheppard finally made the decision to return to school full time last year, her car broke down midway through the semester, leaving her without transportation. Faced with this challenge, she had to withdraw for the remainder of the year and work as a substitute teacher to save up for car repairs.
Throughout her arduous journey, Karter remained Sheppard's unwavering source of motivation. Sheppard expressed her gratitude to her son, writing on Instagram, "You are the motivation for my heart to keep beating. I love you more than words can say. I finished because you needed to see me do it. I'm not strong because I want to be, I'm strong because I'm your first example."
Now equipped with her hard-earned degree, Sheppard plans to pursue a career as a math teacher while simultaneously working on her book, "The Boy With No Shadow," which explores the experiences of a young boy growing up without a father figure.
"We've seen a lot and overcome a lot more," Sheppard wrote. "To infinity and beyond, a mother's greatest love."
Jelina Sheppard's remarkable journey serves as an inspiration to all single parents, highlighting the strength and determination it takes to achieve one's goals while raising a child. Her story exemplifies the power of a strong bond between a mother and her son, proving that love and support can conquer any obstacle along the path to success.<