Family Affair

Candace Yow and Samantha Whitley

Neither Candace Yow nor her daughter Samantha Whitley planned to graduate together. Or work in the same field. Or at the same organization. It happened quite naturally, with both women inspiring each other.

Yow, 46, earned an associate’s degree in respiratory care in 2002 and frequently considered returning for her bachelor’s. However, the single mother of three worked two full-time jobs and had trouble finding the time. When her daughter started as a freshman at UNC Charlotte, Yow knew there was no time like the present.

Whitley, now 21, enrolled at UNC Charlotte with plans to pursue a law degree. That quickly changed when she began working in the Pediatric Department at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. Like her mother, she came to love caring for others.

On May 13, Yow received a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy, and Whitley was awarded a bachelor’s in nursing. Following graduation, both women will begin work at Levine Children’s Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center.

Yow and Whitley prepare for their commencement ceremonyIt’s no coincidence they understand how vital their work is. Yow has a congenital heart defect. She’s had multiple surgeries and has an artificial mitral valve for proper blood flow. Seeing the impact health care workers had on Yow’s life, it’s no surprise both women are so dedicated to their field. In fact, Yow’s youngest daughter, Alexis Whitley, will attend UNC Charlotte this fall also is considering a career in health care.

Decorated commencement capsIn what has become tradition, mom and daughter decorated their graduation caps. Featuring pinks lungs and a red heart respectively, they proclaim to “never take a breath for granted” and to “let the journey begin.”

Check out the their interview with the Charlotte Observer.

Photos: John Simmons