UK Grad Reflects On Challenging, Pivotal Senior Year
The University of Kentucky is holding its 2021 Commencement this weekend in-person at Rupp Arena and via live stream. As WUKY’s Arlo Barnette reports, one graduate made the grade despite dealing with COVID-19 close to home.
Hopkinsville native Montre’ale Jones earned a Bachelor's Degree in Architecture from UK in 2020. The same day he picked up his cap and gown, the pandemic hit, sending him home for a much longer Spring Break than expected.
But Jones didn’t let the pandemic stop his education. He began working on his Master’s Degree and stuck with it, through a year that burdoned him with isolation, the loss of a close friend, and eventually COVID-19 itself. This January, his mother went to the doctor with what she thought were cold symptoms, only to have her projected one-week recovery turn into a hospitalization that’s lasted four months.
"She's been a little bit through everything, from the the nasal oxygen, to the BiPAP mask, to the ventilator, her being unconscious - and then even through the worst winter storm that we experienced this year, my sister in her route to work would drop me off, and I would be up there at her bedside for over a month; playing music to her, talking to her, caring for her, like, her physical needs. And at the same time I'm attending class and hosting organizational meetings, kinda with the splotchy Wi-Fi that the hospital offers."
Those challenges aside, Jones got his Master’s Degree in Urban and Environmental Design. He says his mother is proud of him. And there’s also exciting news: his sister is pregnant!
"[Chuckles] So, me a first-time uncle, my mother a first-time grandmother - and so while celebrating that and preparing for the arrival of my niece, I always like to kinda coin it as like this hourglass - where my mom is like the top chamber, and I'm trying to restrain the sand from leaving. And then my sister, who is expecting, [is] recieving sand as we're preparing. And I being that little funnel in the hourglass, kind of trying to - I'm in the middle of it all and just trying to keep it together."
Jones isn’t the only one struggling to find balance in the wake of COVID-19, but he walks the stage this weekend with the mutual support of his family to secure the credentials he’ll make into a career.
Watch a live stream of UK's 2021 Commencement here.