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ISU grad crosses stage with pride knowing her late mother is watching

Mother’s Day has a different meaning for one Illinois State University student who crossed the stage this weekend without her biggest supporter by her side.

“She used to say this thing like ‘ta-da’ all the time, so she’d be saying that I think,” ISU graduate Elizabeth Rice said.

Rice got her master’s degree in Communications and Science Disorders on Friday, an accomplishment that will allow her to be a practicing speech-language pathologist. Though her road to the finish line was disrupted by tragedy when she suddenly lost her mom.

“He broke into her house when she was gone and he was waiting for her when she got home and he came out and he killed her,” Rice explained.

Rice was just 19 when her mom, Melissa Rice, was killed by an ex-boyfriend in her home.

“At that moment my brother fell to the floor in my dad’s arms and I was against the wall and I slid down it and I kept saying not my mommy, not my mommy,” she recalled.

After her mother’s death, Rice spent weeks on her grandmother’s couch. She says she found the strength to continue through her mom’s advice.

“[She would say] you go to school, you do what you can do, just make sure you’re able to meet the needs of your own self and don’t rely on anyone else. I knew if I didn’t … she would slap me across the head and be like what are you doing,” Rice said.

She became a Redbird after attending community college because ISU was the only university she visited with her mom.

“She’d be yelling at the top of her lungs ‘you go Elizabeth’ because she would so proud,” Elizabeth’s grandmother Sue Davis said.

Commencement at ISU always falls on Mother’s Day weekend and though Rice’s mom was not there physically, she says she knows she is watching from above.

Rice encourages anyone dealing with domestic violence to reach out for help. For a list of resources in your area visit the Illinois Department of Human Services website or call 1 (877) TO END DV or 1 (877) 863-6338.

Stephanie Rodriguez

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