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By Stephen Wilson

Four advanced placement classes during junior year. Acceptance into a summer college program at New York University (NYU). Graduating in the top five of her class of nearly 110 students.

Doing all this while being a mom.

Meet Omayra Henriquez, one of the amazing members of the Class of 2023. Her daughter, Niseiry, was born in February 2018.

2 a.m.

The baby is up overnight for her bottle and diaper change. Like clockwork, Henriquez will be up again at 5 a.m. for the next feeding. She’ll just stay up, like she always does, getting lunches made and bags packed. It takes 30 minutes to travel by bus and train to get to day care.

At 6:40 a.m., mom and daughter are out the door. By 7:10 a.m., they will arrive at day care. After drop off, Henriquez races to school for its 8 a.m. start.

Such was the routine for the high schooler … which only continued at night.

2:30 p.m. exit from school. Back to day care. Back home in time to play with Niseiry, do homework, and start dinner.

The routine at Lafayette is obviously different. “I miss sleeping with her,” Henriquez says. “She was my alarm clock, so it can be hard to wake up on time.” While she calls her daughter every day at 6 p.m., Henriquez knows that this is her moment to shine.

“My mom and I came to a decision that coming to Lafayette was the best for my educational goals and long-term economic success, so Mom made a deal: She’d help with my baby so I could go out of state for college,” she says. “I know I belong here and will do all I can to grow and help others to grow alongside me with all I bring to this campus.”

High school success 

Henriquez grew up in a big family—13 siblings. By the time she was in high school, the house was quieter with just her younger sister and mom and dad. She attended a college preparatory academy.

Omayra Henriquez surrounded by her family at her high school graduation. All wear bright t-shirts with her face on the front.When pregnant, she went to class her full term. She was in the College Now program, offered through City University of New York, which helps students take credit-bearing courses. After the baby was born, friends dropped off her daily homework.

“I don’t like being behind,” she says. She completed her classwork and an SAT study course.

After a monthlong maternity leave, Henriquez was back in school. 

That summer she was accepted into the NYU pre-college program and completed a college-level psychology and writing course in six weeks.

“It was there I learned to ask for help,” she says, a common lesson for many students who have to adapt to college work.

Life at Laf

She has adapted well to life on the Hill. She is a tutor for the AmericaReads program and has joined NIA, a support group for women of color on campus. 

On her first day on campus, students dropped off balloons in her room, each one labeled and containing a note inside. During a moment of stress, Henriquez is to pop a balloon for an encouraging message. It is a gesture that has brought her joy.

“Everyone here is so cheerful,” she says. “I am meeting many wonderful people from New York City and beyond, but I miss my family’s home cooking.”

She also misses Niseiry. But the coming weekend, she is headed home so she can collect some hugs and kisses and share about life at college.

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1 Comment

  1. M. Katrina Wall-Cheatem says:

    This young lady should serve as an inspiration to us all. It must be terribly difficult for her to be away from her daughter, but I imagine what drives her, IS her daughter! It would be wonderful if Lafayette could revisit Omayra prior to her commencement, and catch us all up on how she’s doing.
    p.s. if I see her around campus, I’m surely going to give her a huge hug! 🙂

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