After hearing their classmate’s inspiring story to graduation, a school comes together to give him a surprise visit.
Mike Tertsea was a sight to see, standing at 6 feet 10 inches tall. The Nigerian teenager traveled to Maryland to fulfill his life-long dream of becoming a basketball player. The opportunity to attend the prestigious John Carroll School came with a catch. Mike’s student visa would prevent him from leaving the U.S….for four years.
Mike took the plunge and spent four blissful years playing the sport he loved. When it was time for the high school newspaper to conduct end-of-they-year senior interviews, classmates learned of his unique journey to the U.S.
The student explained he hadn’t seen his mother, Felicia Ikpum, since he was 14. His family struggled with money, sometimes unable to put food on the table. To guarantee a better life for her son, Felicia spent every last penny she had sending him to Maryland.
Learning of their classmates’ inspiring story, the senior students came together to create a surprise for Mike. Using pretend fundraisers as a guise, they collected over $1,600 to fly Felicia Ikpum to Maryland. The woman would be present for her son’s graduation.
Felicia drove 12 hours just to make the 5,000 mile flight to Maryland. Mike picked her up from the airport himself, seeing her the first time in four years. Later that month, Felicia accompanied her son in the graduation processional, wearing traditional Nigerian clothing. Tears streamed down both their faces. With his mother in the audience, Mike walked across the stage and received his high school diploma.
He now has a basketball scholarship to a D1 school. The “gentle giant” couldn’t have been more grateful to the students and teachers that made it all possible. Summarizing the experience, Mike said it best.
“Seeing my mom there,” he says, “… was the greatest moment of my life.”
See the joyful moment when the mother and son lock eyes at his high school graduation ceremony.