DANVILLE, Va. — An ambitious mother-daughter duo from Pittsylvania County is preparing to graduate from college together, less than two weeks after Mother's Day.
Wendy Morris and her daughter, Kameron Morris, have spent their lives in the southern end of Pittsylvania County. On May 20, Kameron will graduate from the University of Lynchburg with her bachelor's degree in health promotions. Wendy will graduate from her online program at Northcentral University (San Diego) with a master's degree in health psychology just two days later.
Wendy's sister, Maxine Petty, who will also graduate with a degree May 22, said, "Wendy is a single mother who has strived for excellence as well as instilled the importance of being ambitious and having drive in her daughter, Kameron. These two are truly something special."
During an interview Friday afternoon in downtown Danville, Wendy told the Star-Tribune, "Statistics say we shouldn't be here."
"Being a woman of color, according to statistics, I'm not supposed to be here," she said. "But I refuse to be a statistic. I wanted a better life for myself and my daughter."
For that reason, daughter Kameron considers her mother to be a beacon of inspiration in her life. After all, Kameron is also planning to pursue a master's degree in psychology. She hopes to become a youth counselor and help at-risk youth to understand the importance of mental health.
"My mother has been such an inspiration to me ever since I was little," Kameron said. "I just love her so much, because she makes me realize that there's no excuse."
Wendy currently works as a transition coordinator for Virginia Premier Health Plan, where she helps elderly and disabled individuals to transition from the hospital to the home. Wendy is accustomed to working inhumane hours just to support the ambitions of both herself an her daughter.
"I remember being 8 or 9 years old, and she was working about four jobs," Kameron said of her mother. "She was still able to take care of me and get her bachelor's degree from Liberty University. If she can do it while working a full-time job and taking care of me, it shows me that I can do anything I put my mind to."
Likewise, Wendy considers Kameron to be not just her inspiration, but her hero.
"Kameron literally saved my life," Wendy said. "I knew that I wanted a better life for her, and the only way that I could do that was to go to school, get my education and set that example. She is my inspiration. When I want to quit, I think about her."
Twenty-two years ago, Wendy moved back to Danville with 5-month-old Kameron. It was May of 1999.
"This time of year is very significant for me," Wendy said. "I'm already sentimental during this time of year due to that fact. I just didn't know how I was going to make it."
Wendy said she can trace her family back to a long line of strong-willed and supportive women. She had a great support system with her mother during the darker hours of her past.
"According to statistics, we're not supposed to be here," Wendy reiterated. "With that being said, just to see Kameron flourishing and graduating from her school of choice within four years, I'm just extremely proud and grateful. I thank God for carrying us along through this journey."
The Morrises look forward to a social-distanced family gathering to enjoy each other's time this Mother's Day. Kameron has a couple of surprises up her sleeve for mom, too.
"Do not let your statistic or your stereotype define who you are," Kameron said. "Always understand that you're not like any other person. You create your own story. God didn't create everyone the same, he made everybody different."
Wendy added, "My thing is to never give up. Be resilient. Your dreams can come true, you just have to work hard and stay focused."