Mom, 3 kids set to graduate within weeks of each other after pushing through tragedy

CHARLOTTE — This spring, a mother and her three kids are all set to graduate within weeks of each other.

Kendra Butler put her life on hold to raise her family. Now, she will be graduating from college with her two daughters, and her son is graduating from high school.

When you walk into Butler’s Charlotte home, the photos on the wall show she puts family first. She even dropped out of college to take care of her four children and support her husband.

But after her eldest daughter, Joselyn, took her own life in 2015, Kendra enrolled again in college -- 26 years after she dropped out, and right at the start of the pandemic.

“It was deferred for a little while but it didn’t mean it was denied and that it wasn’t going to happen,” Butler said.

This week, she’ll earn her associate degree from Central Piedmont Community College. But it doesn’t come without challenges, or heartbreak. She lost her father to COVID and then battled a health condition herself.

Despite all of that, Kendra will walk with a purple graduation cord that signifies she earned a top GPA. What makes the accomplishment even sweeter is she won’t be alone.

Also graduating from CPCC is her youngest daughter, Erin, who’s planning to become a dentist. Another of Kendra’s daughters, Angel, will graduate from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte this weekend. And her son, David, will graduate from Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology in June.

As for Kendra, she’s honoring her daughter, Joselyn, by helping others and working to become a certified therapist.

“It opened my eyes to the grief and the trauma that people can experience,” Kendra Butler said.

Joselyn’s artwork still hangs in the family home, and Erin is reminded her big sister is watching the milestone.

“I think she would like to see we’re all doing what we like to do,” Erin said.

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