Dillard University awards diploma to graduate in hospital after she delivers a baby boy

Criminal justice major Jada Sayles welcomed a baby boy and a diploma at a New Orleans hospital.

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After four years at Dillard University in New Orleans, Jada Sayles was ready to walk across the stage and receive her diploma when life took a slight detour.

“I thought I was gonna walk across the stage to get my degree, instead I got my baby,” Sayles wrote in a Twitter post on May 15.

The college graduate and now new mother thought she had it all planned out. She would attend graduation that morning and by the end of the day, she would deliver her baby. But the baby had other plans.

“I was in denial and I didn’t think it was real because I had plans to attend graduation,” Sayles tells theGrio. Adding, “I had already ironed my cap and gown.” 

Since she couldn’t make it to the stage, Dillard University President Dr. Walter Kimbrough decided to take graduation to Sayles.

“We had been talking leading up to this because we had some idea that Jada probably won’t make the ceremony,” Kimbrough told theGrio.

Sayles described the moment as “surreal,” telling theGrio, “the moment felt even more special than actually attending the graduation because I was able to have my son.”

Dillard president Wayne Kimbrough, Jada Sayles. (Used with permission)

It was Kimbrough’s last commencement as president of the university and he wanted to make the moment special for Sayles, who he says has an amazing story of survival.

“Part of Jada’s story is that she finished high school early and came to college because she was essentially homeless,” Kimbrough says.

Sayles told WDSU, “I graduated high school at 17 and didn’t have a place to stay and I said I would go to college because they have housing.”

As a new mother, Sayles said she was overwhelmed with emotion after the birth and graduation because of the obstacles she endured. Now a college graduate with a degree in criminal justice with an emphasis in pre-law, Sayles has aspirations for law school but for now, she will spend time bonding with her new baby. She’s grateful to Dillard University and President Kimbrough, who said taking graduation to the hospital was a no-brainer.

Jada Sayles with her degree and her newborn son. (Used with permission)

“To me, it seemed like the most sensible thing to do and I believe it went viral because people were probably surprised that I would go and this was extremely rare,” says Kimbrough.

Kimbrough said it was all part of the job and what he believes is the mission of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

“We have roughly 1200 students at Dillard and it’s very easy for students to develop close relationships with administrators and staff,” says Kimbrough. “We are a tight-knit community of people and I would have done this for any student,” he added. 

Meanwhile, Sayles emphasized that she received two blessings on May 14 — her son and degree. The new mom told theGrio that she and her baby boy will forever be bonded over the special day. 

“Oh he’s never going to hear the end of this,” she said.

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