To me, education is a path to freedom that nobody can take away from you.
Lyrvole Orival Antoine was working as a flight attendant for Haiti Trans Air when she decided to move to the U.S. because of the turmoil that was happening on the island she called home. “All the schools where I was were closed,” she recalls.
Lyrvole landed in Miami, FL in November of 1994. She could barely speak English and immediately enrolled in the nearest available school with an English as a Second Language program. After that, she moved to her sister’s place in New Jersey and enrolled in Essex County College for Journalism. A year later, she found herself married, relocated, and attending Union County College (UCC).
After becoming pregnant with her first child, Lyrvole had to cut her studies at UCC short because of pregnancy-related health problems. However, she earned a Property and Casualty Insurance license and began working with her husband in their private insurance agency and tax service business. Later, she obtained her Cosmetology license and gave birth to a second child. The thought of going back to college was always in the back of her mind.
Then one day, tragedy struck.
Lyrvole’s son died in an accident. She says of his death, “My world went upside down. It felt like I was living in slow motion for about a year, until I realized that life is not over until it is over.”
In order to help her oldest child deal with the passing of his brother, Lyrvole and her husband decided to have another baby. Their daughter was eventually diagnosed with mild autism and a speech delay. “I became interested in learning everything I could about the human brain,” she says, and started to look for online education and psychology degree programs. She looked at three different schools before settling on Ashford because of its affordability.
Having failed twice at trying to go back to a brick and mortar college, Lyrvole realized that an online program might be the only way for her to balance her commitments. “The beginning was hard for me, trying to keep up with work, kids, and their school activities. At first I did not know how to handle the online format, nor did I believe I could do it. I called the school, frustrated and ready to drop out, and talked to my Admissions Counselor.” Lyrvole decided not to give up. “I hung up that “D” grade I had for my first course and promised myself to never let it happen again. It didn’t; I made the Dean’s List all the way to the end.”
Lyrvole graduated with a double major in Psychology and Social Science. She holds the memory of her commencement ceremony as one of the greatest days of her life, especially because she is the first member of her family to earn a Bachelor’s degree from the United States. She says, “I feel very good about the quality of the education I got at Ashford. I have gained more confidence not only in myself, but also in my abilities to face future challenges.”
With her Bachelor’s degree, Lyrvole has found a part-time job teaching in New Jersey and was accepted into the Master’s degree Counseling program at Caldwell College. She says, “I feel like it is my calling. I will use that degree to make a difference in the lives of other people. Taking those psychology courses helped me a lot with issues like the death of my son and my daughter’s health problems. I could have chosen to drink or smoke to deal with the pain, but I chose education to keep my mind busy. Now, I feel more courageous to share my story with other mothers. I plan to open a grief-counseling center and create awareness in my community, especially the Haitian community. I also hope to inspire other working mothers or adults, as well as my own children. To me, education is a path to freedom that nobody can take away from you.”