In everything that Anastasia Roura pursued, her mother Helena was always there with words of encouragement.
“She has been with me every step of the way,” said Anastasia, 24, of her mom, 44.
This week, the two of them will take one more step together, walking side-by-side into Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium as they graduate from Stony Brook University.
For Helena, this moment was a long time coming. The Mastic, Long Island woman fell in love with a Navy man as a teenager. They were married and moved to Japan when Helena was just 19. She put her college plans on hold. She was the mother of two children, Anastasia and Xavier, by the time she was 21.
“I made the decision that I was going to be all in for my children,” Helena recalled. “I promised my parents that I would return to college someday. I just didn’t know when.”
Finally, with both kids off to college, she decided the time was right to chase her lifelong dream of studying anthropology. As Helena sent in applications, Anastasia teased that there was only one way it could go.
“It just made sense for us: for me to go [to Stony Brook], then for us to be here together, and finally to graduate together. It was only a matter of time,” Anastasia said.
Helena was impressed by the University’s Anthropology department in the College of Arts and Sciences, which she said would allow her to learn from world-renowned professors at the top of the field while staying on Long Island. Relishing the chance to explore all her academic interests, she chose to double major in Anthropology and Sociology.
Anastasia also spoke highly of her professors, who she said helped her to grow while challenging her to consider new perspectives.
“Everyone in the [WGSS] program was amazing. They showed me how to think about things in a different way. Being in the program made me take off my rose-colored glasses.”
Since both women studied in the College of Arts and Sciences, they were able to share several classes and study together.
“Anastasia is such an inspiration to me,” Helena said of learning beside her daughter. “I’m taken aback by her confidence and self-esteem, and the way she can command a room. Her achievements make me so happy.”
The Rouras have both earned bachelor’s degrees, but this isn’t the end of their journey at Stony Brook. Helena plans to pursue a double Master’s in Nutrition and Public Health. As for Anastasia, she’s finishing the last prerequisite courses she needs to apply to the Nursing program. In the future, she hopes to specialize in midwifery.
“My mom has set an amazing example for me. She’s shown me that you really can [achieve your goals] and have it all,” Anastasia said. “It’s really inspiring, and I’m so proud of her.”