“He has changed completely,” a smiling Ikpum said after the school’s baccalaureate ceremony Wednesday.
Mike, a basketball player at John Carroll who plans to attend the University of Rhode Island, was surprised to learn Wednesday that the whole senior class, joined by faculty members, had worked towards flying his mother from Benue State, to see him graduate from high school.
“I was really, really surprised. It is really a blessing and I thank everyone for coming here. It was a tough drive for her. She said at one point, she felt like giving up. It was also her first time on an airplane, and for a while, she couldn’t recognize me and couldn’t believe it was her son,” Mike said.
Toward the end of the school’s annual ceremony and Mass, Principal Madelyn Ball told the friends and relatives gathered in the gym that one student had asked,
“Is Mike’s mom coming to graduation? Everyone was concerned because, you see, Mike has not been home for four years,” Ball said.
She then explained how the senior class was able to raise $1,763 for his mom’s trip. When “there were some issues once the flight was booked,” because the class was about $500 short, class co-advisor Carrie Siemsen raised the remaining money within a few hours by emailing faculty and staff.
Mike and his mother got a standing ovation as they were asked to come up on the stage during the graduation ceremony. They thanked the senior class for bringing them together. Some of his classmates were seen wiping away tears as Mike and his mother made their way to the stage. Mike said he is an only child and his mother is his only immediate relative.
Besides playing basketball at college, the 6-foot, 10-inch tall senior said earlier he is considering pursuing economics or business management.