Wendy and Nicole Renfrow have been competitors, consolers and comrades over the past few years.
On Saturday, they'll demonstrate the true meaning of "like mother, like daughter." Wendy, 56, and her oldest daughter, Nicole, 27, will earn their first college degrees at the same time, on the same stage, during Pikes Peak Community College's commencement ceremony.
They're so excited, they can barely contain their emotions.
"Hopefully, we won't get in trouble, giggling or anything," Nicole said, glancing at Wendy. "
They both giggle.
It's been a long road, and they look back and wonder how in the world they did it. But now, the duo are ready to take on the world.
"It's a big deal," said Nicole, who will be receiving an associate's degree in business, en route to her goal of becoming a Certified Public Accountant. "And to be there with my mom is amazing."
Wendy has the same thought.
"The fact that Nicole is going to be there is huge," Wendy said.
Nicole took extra classes this semester to make sure she and her mother could walk together at graduation.
Neither figured they'd ever become college graduates. Nicole, who was born in Canon City, dropped out of high school and earned a high school diploma equivalency, the G.E.D. College was never on her radar, she said.
But after becoming a mom herself, Nicole said she realized she wanted to give her daughter, now 5, a better life, and the way to do that was through higher education.
Nicole didn't see how she could swing it. She was bartending full-time for Concept Restaurants, which owns Jose Muldoon's, Ritz Grill, and Flatiron's, among others, and raising a child. Her employer promoted her to bookkeeper, and she realized she had a knack for numbers and loved the work.
After her mom enrolled at PPCC in 2009to get a paralegal degree, Nicole said she saw how someone could have a full-time job and still go to school.
"They make it easy - there are so many options: nights, weekends, online," she said.
Three years later, in January 2012, Nicole decided to go for it. She started with two classes, then went full-time, once she realized she could "manage it all." Both did a combination of online and traditional classroom instruction.
"It was a lot of work," Wendy said. "But well worth it."
Wendy attended one year of college after high school, then dropped out to do "the family thing." She said she regretted not going back ever since.
For the past six years, she's worked as a paralegal. She's currently a senior paralegal for Exelis Systems Corp., a local defense contractor. She researches labor and tax laws in foreign countries for lawyers.
"I've been doing the job; I just didn't have the degree," Wendy said.
Now, not only will she have the piece of paper and the formal education, she's also getting a raise.
The pair, who say they have always been close, encouraged each other, kept tabs on their homework assignments and engaged in some friendly competition.
Both are graduating with honors. Wendy has a 4.0 grade point average and Nicole, a 3.93.
"It was because of that one B in calculus in the whole two years," Nicole said, gritting her teeth.
Nicole has received scholarships and will attend the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in the fall. She's now an accountant for Concept Restaurants and said she will stay in the job while she earns a bachelor's degree in accounting, then a CPA license.
"I want my daughter to have all the opportunities in the world," she said. "It's been good for her to see mommy going to school and doing homework and now graduating."
"It's never too late," Wendy said.