On Aug. 16, Montoya Major will graduate from Nova Southeastern University in Florida with a bachelor’s in cardiovascular sonography and a master’s in health science — an accomplishment all the more laudable, as the 23-year-old welcomed twin daughters during the program.
Ahead of the exciting milestone, Major took to Facebook to share the celebratory news — though she never expected the July 20 post to go viral with nearly 3,000 likes and 1,000 shares.
The proud mom told Fox News that she never would have been able to weather the challenging season of life without the support of family and friends, especially her dad. (Montoya Major)
The Mobile native and single mom told Fox News that she began her dual degree program at Nova Southeastern in May 2017, soon after receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology from Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University that same year. Five months later, 700 miles away from home, the woman was shocked to learn she was expecting — twins.
"My initial thought, when I found out I was pregnant, was, 'What am I going to do with a child?'" Major told Today. "I was living in Florida, away from all my family and friends. Having kids was never a thought of mine. I wanted to pursue my degree and establish a career.”
“I knew that now, my entire thought process would have to be re-evaluated, and I needed to figure out what to do next,” she continued.
Though the director of Major’s academic program told her it would be “nearly impossible” to complete her studies with two babies on the way, she remained laser-focused on her studies, attending class “every single day literally until the day I gave birth,” as per Facebook.
In May 2018, little Makenna and Makinlee were born early via C-section. One week later, Major was back in the classroom.
The proud mom told Fox News that she never would have been able to weather the challenging season of life without the support of family and friends, especially her dad. Her father raised her as a widower, and always championed the importance of education — as his daughter was the first in their family to attend college.
“Throughout this entire journey my father encouraged me the most although he was not physically there. My father and I are very close and have always been inseparable after my mother passed when I was young,” Major told Fox News. “Whenever I had an episode of wanting to quit school he always encouraged me that it would be worth it in the end.”
Nevertheless, the collegian would later reflect on that journey as the “hardest year of my life” – balancing her studies and clinical rotations with caring for two newborns on her own.
"During that semester, I had one day that I was required to be in class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and like any new mom, I did not want to be away from my babies," she told Today. "I physically felt and looked terrible. I had body aches and incision pain, not to mention the lack of sleep."
"It honestly seemed as though everywhere I turned, there was another situation trying to stop me,” Major continued. “When the girls were sick, I had to miss days to care for them. When I simply just needed a break or to do schoolwork, I didn't have that."
Despite the immediate obstacles, the driven mom drew on encouragement from loved ones – and her endless love for her children – to see her through.
“I am a completely different person since giving birth,” Major told Yahoo Lifestyle. “I honestly feel like if it wasn't for them I would not have been the strong woman I am today. I would have never physically, mentally, or spiritually pushed myself in ways that I have since they were born.”
Now, she’s looking forward to completing her clinical rotations and graduating with her dual degrees later this month — with her twin daughters in tow.
“My father, siblings, children, and I plan to travel [to Fort Lauderdale] for me to participate in the commencement ceremony. We also will be turning the trip into a mini vacation and taking the girls to Disney World,” the proud mom told Fox News. “I’m really excited to take them because my dad used to take me to Disney World almost every summer and now I will be able to do the same with my children.”
After that, Major and the toddlers will relocate to Mobile to be closer to family as the new grad hunts for a job.
Though social media commenters have largely congratulated Major for all her accomplishments, she admitted that there have been a few nasty critics — but they can’t break her spirit.
“I don’t let the negative comments get me down because I have accomplished and been through so much in these past two years,” she told Fox News. “I will always be happy for myself because I have an education that no one could ever take away from me. In the end I will forever be able to provide for my children.”
“I just want to inspire other parents regardless if they are married or doing it completely alone to go for their dreams. Having a child is not the end of your education,” Major mused of her story’s greater impact. “You will go through many obstacles but ultimately you can do anything you put your mind to.”
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