The ecstatic celebrations of graduation day sometimes obscure the harrowing struggles students and their families endure to make it to the finishing line. For Kayden Carelse, receiving an honours degree in logistics on 14 December was an emotional day. With him on stage was his mother Leane Kirk who had the honour of capping her son as his name was read out.
Kirk, who works as a personal assistant at Governance Function Support in the Registrar's Division at Stellenbosch University (SU), played a crucial role in her son's success. As a single mother, Kirk has made considerable sacrifices to support Carelse throughout his studies.
The mother-son duo was beaming with pride after the ceremony. “My mom has been a pivotal figure in both my journey in life as well as in academia," Carelse said. “Being on stage with her today was the result of her support and belief in me. She is the reason I'm here today."
Achieving this milestone is a testament to Kayden's resilience and determination, Kirk said. “I'm so proud of him. It's been a rough few years, but he pushed through."
Like many students who faced unexpected challenges during the Covid 19 pandemic, Carelse had to dig deep to find motivation and discipline to stay focused on his studies. He embarked on his academic journey in 2019, pursuing a BCom degree in economic and management sciences. In his second year, tragedy struck as Kayden's grandfather, Dennis Carelse who was like a dad to him, succumbed to Covid during his June exams. His family made the difficult decision to withhold the news until he completed his final exam the next day. The revelation left him devastated and it took all his strength to stay on course. In 2021, Carelse faced further sorrow with the passing of a close uncle and cousin.
Adversity has taught him to become strong and resourceful, Carelse says. “The many hardships throughout my life have shaped my character. My stubbornness to succeed is a trait that has contributed substantially to getting through my studies and doing my best, and being resilient is a product of this trait. I always kept sight of my end goal which was to carry my family name to new heights."
The consistent support from his family contributed substantially to sustaining his emotional and mental needs during taxing times such as exams and general burnout periods, Carelse says. “It was a constant reminder of why I am studying and what my goals are."
Carelse also credits the friendships he formed at Huis Visser for shaping his character. “Huis Visser was a place that became my home and a haven in the fast-paced and stressful environment at SU. I formed strong bonds with many of the other residents and the sense of brotherhood contributed strongly to my character development, instilling traits of being a team player and leader."
Carelse says he will always treasure the friendships he formed at SU. “The diverse environment at the University has allowed me to interact and network with people I will have a relationship with for a very long time to come."
When he started his honours degree, he was mentally and emotionally drained, Carelse says. But the help and encouragement he received from one of his lecturers, Heinrich Freiboth, made a massive difference. “His door was always open, and he helped me overcome a lot of doubt in my honours year."
Next year Carelse will start working as a fleet manager and he plans to build his experience in the field of logistics so that he can later return to SU to complete a master's degree. “The field of logistics is rapidly growing. What drew me to the discipline was that I can contribute to an aspect of business that was not traditionally deemed as important, but now forms an integral part of business success. During my undergraduate studies, my ability to grasp concepts in logistics made it even more attractive and interacting with logistics-related literature and work was energising and impactful for me."
PHOTO: Ignus Dreyer SCPS photos