GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Like many parents, Cassandra Tiensivu enjoys the time she gets to spend every day with her two daughters, Sabrina and Juliana.
But unlike most parents, Cassandra Tiensivu gets the chance to spend that time with them both at home and on a college campus.
In 2016, Tiensivu was stressing the importance of furthering Sabrina and Juliana’s education past high school, trying to get them more interested in going to college. Instead of simply telling them how important it was, she decided to prove it to them by enrolling at Grand Rapids Community College.
“I understand how hard it is for young people to follow the advice of someone who doesn’t put their money where their mouth is,” Tiensivu said.
Tiensivu had never planned on going to college, instead opting for the stay-at-home mom position. That was until her divorce lawyer at the time told her she would be “better off living off child support” because she did not have a degree to fall back on.
“That showed the light,” Tiensivu said. “I wanted my daughters to not live like me. That’s why I decided to join GRCC.”
Tiensivu started out as a full-time student at the college but as she was working through her two-year degree, disaster struck. In 2018, Sabrina was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Tiensivu decided to take a year off from school to focus on her.
Sabrina went on to make a full recovery and five years later, the three Tiensivus found themselves all enrolled at GRCC with plans to move on and even pursue additional degrees.
The concept of a mother and her daughters at the same college has garnered the Tiensivus a lot of attention, even from the school itself as it posted about the family on social media.
“Usually people are shocked when they first find out,” Tiensivu said. “But then they’re like, ‘That’s amazing.’ They think it’s great.”
Tiensivu is taking the current semester off to focus on mapping out the remaining courses she needs to complete her three desired associate’s degrees before moving on to her bachelor’s degree. Both of her daughters are still looking to complete their associate’s degree requirements and move on to four-year universities.
The time the trio has gotten to spend together on campus may be coming to an end soon, but the experience is not lost on Tiensivu. Despite the struggles, she said she wouldn’t change any of it and hopes that her decision to get a degree will inspire others to do the same — no matter how long it takes.
“I’ve been going since 2016 and I’m graduating in 2024. You’ll get there eventually but you won’t if you don’t start now,” Tiensivu said. “You have to take that initial leap of faith.”