Mom brings daughter onstage to accept her graduate degree

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Anyone visiting the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business graduation may have noticed a tiny visitor making her way across the stage to accept a degree.

This week, five-year old Nyah Matovu joined her mother, Divinity Matovu, at the ceremony, accepting her mother’s MBA on her behalf.

The two can be seen smiling from ear-to-ear during the special mother-daughter moment, while the audience in Philadelphia gave a powerful round of applause.

“I knew that I wanted her to be there and walking across the stage with me,” Divinity Matovu told theGrio in a phone interview.

“This was a proud moment,” Matovu said. “She wasn’t shy at all. She was very confident, and this is one of the things I’m trying to instill in her.”

Nyah will be graduating from Pre-K this year. She has become pretty well-known at UPenn due to her frequent walks around campus with her mother. For Matovu, the reality of being a single mom while taking grueling quantitative courses at a top-tier business school wasn’t easy.

But some of her hardest moments came before even starting her MBA program, when her 48-year-old mother, Barbara Goss, committed suicide with a gunshot to the head.

“I thought about deferring for a year because I was a wreck,” Matovu said.

She says up until that point, her mother seemed both healthy and happy.

“I don’t know what was going on in her mind. I do know depression is real. My experience with my mom gave me a green light to let go of the stigma associated with mental health issues.”

Matovu says she started going to therapy while in school to deal with the trauma and grief of her mother’s unexpected death and found inspiration to start her own businesses to support other women.

She created an online platform that gives resources to working moms pursuing higher education, and Watotolly, an app that aims to lower the cost of childcare by connecting parents with other trusted parents for playdates.

Although it was bittersweet to celebrate her achievements without her own mother there, Matovu wore her ashes in a locket around her neck at graduation.

Now, the young entrepreneur is looking forward to a bright future, hoping to land a job in technology or private equity industries.

Matovu says her young daughter being by her side has been all the inspiration she needs to keep going.

“She grabbed my cheeks,” Matovu said. “She looked at me. She just said, ‘I’m proud of you mommy.’… I was very joyful. Very happy.”