UC Blue Ash student’s inspiring journey includes a graduation surprise

Nadege Mondesir, her family and the Bearcat smile outside Fifth Third Arena

Nadege and her family meet the Bearcat mascot after the 2023 Fall Commencement Ceremony. Photo provided.

Nadege Mondesir’s story is one of resilience, determination and the importance of never giving up on your dreams.

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Nadege came to the United States in 1997 with her family as they searched for a better life. There were multiple moves in the U.S., but she eventually found stability with her aunt and uncle in Columbus, Ohio.

Nadege considers them her second parents, fostering a family dynamic that shaped her values. Inspired by her aunt's role as an elementary school teacher, Nadege discovered her passion for education, particularly in mental health and behavior.

She thrived in school and earned a scholarship to Ohio State University, but she found she wasn’t ready to commit to the demands of college. Nadege dropped out, moved to Cincinnati through a relationship, had a son and began working full-time. As she navigated these life changes, she never lost sight of her goal to pursue a degree. In 2019, she enrolled at UC Blue Ash College and began working toward an associate degree in psychology, fueled by a desire to make her family proud and contribute meaningfully to society.

@ucblueash Do you want to see a story of resilience and determination? Visit our social media profiles and join us in celebrating Nadege's journey from a young girl leaving Haiti to a determined woman who overcame challenges to earn her degree from UC.🎓 Sharing inspiration for this #BlackHistoryMonth ♬ original sound - UC Blue Ash College
Nadege and her son Kaeden E. James

Nadege and her son Kaeden E. James celebrate her graduation. Photo provided.

Nadege said balancing work, raising her son, and going to college was a challenge, let alone the daily obstacles she faced as a Black woman and single mother. And then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Nadege dropped out again, but it was only temporary. She returned to UC Blue Ash in 2021 and completed her associate degree.

Nadege transitioned to UC’s College of Arts & Sciences in spring of 2023 to pursue her bachelor’s degree in psychology. It wasn’t easy, as she had to focus on increasing her GPA, but she said she received support from her professors and advisors at UC Blue Ash and felt embraced by a caring community.

After so many ups and downs and dropping out of college twice, Nadege decided not to tell her family that she was back in school. She wanted to surprise them when she achieved her ultimate goal. Remarkably, after taking 11 classes in a short period, she finished her bachelor's degree in December 2023.

Her family, coming from different locations around the U.S. and the world, believed they were traveling to Cincinnati to watch her son's Christmas choir performance. It wasn't until moments before the commencement ceremony that they grasped the true purpose of their visit – her graduation. As her name was called at Fifth Third Arena, an eruption of joy and applause filled the air.

The family was moved to tears, especially when they saw her UC regalia decorated with Haitian themes and colors. Nadege reminded them, “Remember, I told you guys you were going to see me walk one day? Well, that day has come.”

Her remarkable achievement was a reunion of those who played pivotal roles in her life, culminating in a shared moment of pride. She is thriving at work as an early childhood educator at Youthland Academy Blue Ash. She is also considering a return to school to earn her master’s degree, and possibly her doctorate, in psychology.

Nadege Mondesir reminds us that education is a transformative journey. Her perseverance in the face of challenges with immigration and inequality that culminated with her graduation surprise can serve as a source of inspiration for her family, and for the entire UC community.

After this roller coaster journey, is there a message you would share with the young girl who immigrated from Haiti?

"My adult version will always be proud of you, kid,” Nadege reflected when asked what message she would share with the young girl who emigrated from Haiti. “Each person's trajectory and time are different, but keep going because you will get there. Live life and just try to be better.”

Featured Photo: Nadege Mondesir celebrates commencement with her family. Photo provided.

About UC Blue Ash College

UC Blue Ash College is a regional college within the University of Cincinnati. It offers one of the best values in higher education with access to a nationally recognized UC education in more than 50 degree and certificate programs, as well as tuition that is about half of most colleges and universities. The college is located on a scenic 135-acre wooded campus in the heart of Blue Ash, Ohio. To learn more, call 513-558-9495, visit us online, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.


Carolina de Salvo, Communications Events Coordinator

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