When Michael Tertsea was 14, he was offered the opportunity to get an education and play basketball at the John Carroll School in Bel Air, Md.
To pursue his dreams, he left his village in Nigeria and his mother, the Washington Post reports.
Four years later, the towering 6-foot-10 teen, who has received a full scholarship to play Division 1 basketball at the University of Rhode Island, was set for graduation and holding on to hopes of making it to the NBA so that he would be able to bring his mother to the United States.
As it turns out, Tertsea’s classmates were one step ahead of him. They had decided that his mom, Felicia Ikpum, should be here for his big day and raised money to fly her all the way to the U.S. to see her son, whom she hasn’t seen in four years, graduate.
According to the Post, the amazing gesture was meant to be a surprise, but Ikpum let the secret slip in one of her weekly phone calls with her son. However, Tertsea was still in awe when he finally got to see her arrive at the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on May 20 and give her a hug.
“I was so happy to see her,” Tertsea said. “I’ve changed a lot … she’s been amazed at the person I’ve become.”
The senior class had successfully pulled together some $1,600 for the trip, while a school coordinator worked with Ikpum to make sure she could get her visa on time. When it was finally confirmed, the school’s faculty put up another $500 to pay for the trip.
According to the Post, Ikpum had to travel some 12 hours to Lagos, Nigeria, to board her flight to London, from where she would then fly to Baltimore. It was Ikpum’s first time on an airplane.
Mother and son have been enjoying each other’s company since her arrival last week, the Post reports. Ikpum had pasta for the first time and is in awe of her son’s life in the U.S., from the paved highways to the computerized school her son attends. Tertsea plans to take her to Washington, D.C., to see the monuments and the White House before she returns to Nigeria next week. He also plans to take her to Ocean City, Md., to walk the boardwalk and see the beach, and even to Baltimore to see the National Aquarium.
Tertsea, according to the Post, is thankful for his friends for making his graduation so special. He said that the best part of his life in the U.S. is “seeing a lot of people who show love and care towards me.”
It “makes me feel at home,” he said.
“I think America is great, with wonderful people,” his mom added. “No wonder everybody wants to come here. And I thank the people that have made it possible for me to be in this wonderful place.”
Read more at the Washington Post.