Students at the John Carroll School in Bel Air, Maryland raised money for a food drive recently. At least, that's what one of their fellow students thought the fundraiser was for ... until they gave him the surprise of his life.
Mike Tertsea had moved from Benue State, Nigeria when he was 14 years old to attend the John Carroll School as an international student. The 6’10’’ Tertsea jumped at the chance to play basketball in America. Unfortunately, that also means that he hasn't been able to return home, or see his mother, in four years.
Months before his graduation, some of his fellow students decided that she should be present for this once-in-a-lifetime occasion. They worked together day and night to secure the visa and other travel documents required to bring Mike’s mom, Felicia Ikpum, to the ceremony. The students got everyone involved, eventually raising $1600 toward their goal. They almost came up short, but a teacher who had been following their progress helped them find the last $500 they needed. All the while, Mike had no idea what was being plotted around him.
The students weren’t the only ones putting in an incredible effort. Even when all the arrangements had been made, Felicia had to travel for over 12 hours just to make it to the airport from her village. The journey included passing through some pretty dangerous areas of the country, and at some points, she even considered giving up. Fortunately, she persevered and arrived in the U.S. after a 11-hour-flight.
The pair were reunited at the Baltimore Washington International Airport. After four years, Felicia was shocked at how much her son had changed. She described him as, “big, bigger, too big … I didn’t recognize him he was so big and he put on weight.”
Mike was blown away by his classmates’ kindness. Their efforts truly paid off big when he spotted her wearing bright yellow in the crowd at the ceremony.
“I’m the tallest, so, I saw her standing there [at graduation] and recognized her immediately,” said Mike. “It was great to have her there to see me move onto the next level, which is college.”
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