Debora Sydnor and Kadmiel Siler: Mother and Daughter, Best Friends—and Classmates
By Nuala Lincke-Ivic

"Losing houses, losing cars, losing marriages. / We made it through the hard times./ We’d light candles and keep on going when they turned out the lights."


This past fall I realized that I was guilty of a mistake that teachers make sometimes: teaching to specific students, focusing on them rather than the class as a whole. When you, as a teacher, see bright eyes focused on you, you tend to orbit those eyes, like a moon circling a planet; the gravitational force of those listening eyes seems inexorable. Frequently during the fall semester, I had to stop myself from walking over to the left side of my large classroom, where Debora Sydnor and Kadmiel Siler habitually sat, and teaching just to them.

As students, Debora and Kadmiel are very focused, intent on learning. To teachers, this kind of student is immediately noticeable. Of course, other students in the same class last fall were very intent on learning, too—and all of them deserved my equal attention. But Debora and Kadmiel seemed extra-special to me. Early in the semester, I had come to know—and be moved by—their story.

Debora and Kadmiel are mother and daughter—best friends as well as classmates. In these roles, they encourage each other to excel academically, each woman giving the other the courage to strive to be the best that she can be. Their kind of love is rare and precious, even between a mother-daughter team.

What I like about them particularly is that they epitomize the LACCD: the older and younger student, working side by side in the classroom to achieve their academic goals.

Here is their beautiful mother-daughter love story, told in brief through their answers to my questions.

Interview Questions:

Nuala Lincke-Ivic: Debora, you and your daughter Kadmiel made the conscious decision to go to school together—to encourage each other to achieve a college degree?

Debora Sydnor: Yes, we did. We had both started an interior design and event-planning business together, and it we were very good, but people were not paying us what we deserved because we did not have those degrees behind our names. That’s when we decided that we needed to go to school.

NLI: How old were the two of you at the time you made this decision?

DS: I’m 57 now, and it was six years ago. I was 51. Kadmiel was 29 at the time; she’s 35 now.

NLI: And you’re both full-time moms?

DS: (Laughs.) I’m a full-time granny. I have eight grandchildren. Kadmiel has two children, and my son has six.

NLI: Debora and Kadmiel, why did you decide to take this step together—to the point of enrolling in the same classes together. You were both students in my fall 2012 English 21 class.

Kadmiel Siler: Honestly, we couldn’t afford separate books for different classes, not to mention we only had one car, and couldn’t do different schools because we both have jobs and other obligations.

NLI: You have full-time jobs?

KS: I have four part-time jobs, and my mom has a full-time job.

NLI: How did it work out? Debora, how was it sitting with Kadmiel—your daughter—in class?

DS: Oh, it’s good, because if I miss something, she catches it and vice versa. We help each other out, keep each other focused.

NLI: Kadmiel, did it help you to have your mother next to you—emotionally—telling you, “You can do it.”

KS: Yes. It’s security in a way. When I would get discouraged, she would always say “Get to it!” It kind of snapped me back in and made me focus more.

NLI: I envy you; I wish that I could take classes with my mother. Has taking classes together made the two of you understand each other better? Kadmiel, do you see your mother as a woman now—not just a mom?

KS: I always saw her as a woman, not just a mom. I never took her for granted. I watched her do so much while I was growing up: working, school, two kids…and a single mom!

DS: And they didn’t want for anything! They had a good life.

KS: We did.

NLI: How did you manage that?

DS: My son had to go live with his dad for a while, but Kadmiel and I struggled through the hard times together.

KS: Losing houses, losing cars, losing marriages.

DS: We made it through the hard times. Chicken pot pie, 10 for a dollar, and we lived on Taco Bell for two years. We’d find change around the house, and we’re still finding the money to make it through the hard times.

KS: We’d light candles and keep on going when they turned out the lights. Even when I took real sick and couldn’t walk from 12 until 21, my mom carried on for me, working full-time. She was always there for me when nobody else was.

DS: Except God!

DS and KS: Except for God.

NLI: So today is no different; you have each other’s backs.

DS and KS: Yes. Always.

Love, Debora (Mom)


Our road to seek our educational goals has been long, hard and fun. We have a long way to go still, but I’ve learned that you’re never too old to learn.

For the past six years, we have worked together at starting a business, too. I love working with you, even though we have strong disagreements sometimes. We always work it out. With your event-planning perfectionism and my eye for interior design and space planning, we have become a great combo. However, I knew it would take more than our talent for us to succeed: We need college degrees.  Four years ago I came to you with a plan for us to earn a degree in Interior Design and Architectural Drafting at the Art Institute, and you agreed that the plan was a good one.

Having the same goals and both of us wanting to take all our classes together has helped me so much. I know you’re very smart when it comes to book knowledge, and that helps me when I can’t get assignments sometimes. At work and at school, I watched you go from a shy little girl to a powerful woman who can take care of business.

Life hasn’t always gone our way. But going to school together to earn a degree has strengthened our relationship even more. I couldn’t have found a better partner for school and business. I know we have more school to finish before we each earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree, and sometimes it becomes very hard to maintain our full-time jobs, children and social life, with what little we have and my failing health, but the lemons life gives us…we make them into lemon meringue pie. I got your back, and you got mine.

When we walk across that stage together to accept our degrees, that journey will be the beginning of a new journey together, and I will be so proud of you.

People always ask me what it’s like taking classes together. I tell them, “I remember you’re grown and have to experience life your way, but you remember that I’m your mother.”


Love, Kadmiel (Your Daughter)

Who would have thought that starting school would be filled with so many tragedies and triumphs? But through it all, you’re still my classmate.

       When I lost my job, home, car, and marriage, you were there to take me into your home and help me start over again. After deciding to start our own business, you were the one who suggested that we further our education so that we don’t walk blindly as businesswomen. I was single with two children, working part-time, and attending to my children’s needs, and you were working a full-time job for a very small salary, and supporting us all. The idea of attending school seemed very far-fetched. But with a prayer, we went to the Art Institute to pursue our dream of being interior designers with some architectural drafting skills. Surprisingly to us, we got in! We scheduled all our classes together because we had one car, limited money, limited time—and taking classes together saved us money on book costs, too. Then, we were hit again when you lost your house during our fourth semester, and you experienced continual stress with court dates and other details involving the house, and you were so much older than I. You could have given up, but you didn’t, and you didn’t let me give up, either.  

When everything in the world seems to press against us and try to discourage us, we keep pushing each other to keep moving forward.

When the day comes and we both cross that stage to accept our degrees, I will look back on everything and be so glad that I was able to share this time in my life with you as my classmate and mother. I love you to life.


Editor: | West Los Angeles College | 9000 Overland Ave, Culver City CA 90230 |
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