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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Mother of 10-Year-Old Twins Will Graduate with a 4.0 Grade-Point Average

By Irvin B. Harrell

Since moving to the area in August 2018, Kasey Byrd appears to have mastered the art of school/life juggling. The 32-year-old mother of two will see her hard work pay off this semester when she graduates on Dec. 14 with a 4.0 grade-point average in medical laboratory science (MLS) at Old Dominion University.

"It was harder for the entire family not having me around all the time," she said. "So I felt like I owed it to myself and them to do the best I could in school."

Byrd, her husband Nathaniel, and her twin 10-year-old boys, Alexander and Oliver, landed in North Suffolk by virtue of the Navy. Nathaniel has been in service for 18 years, and his latest assignment took him to the Newport News Shipyard. The family recently moved to Smithfield.

Once the Byrds arrived in Hampton Roads, Kasey started scouting for education opportunities in medical laboratory science.

"I love the science of health care, but I didn't really know what kind of job I would get with biology," she said. "So, I started Googling and found that a lot of folks with biology degrees went back to get their MLS."

Byrd said without a solid support system, going back to school would have been very difficult.

"It was really stressful," she said. "But my kids and husband were very understanding. The kids - being older now - knew that I had to study. My husband has a bit more flexibility with his job, so that helped, too."

As for school, Byrd raves about her experience at the College of Health Sciences. The MLS program was rigorous but came with a support system, she said.

"The program is small," she said. "There's about 20 people and we're all in the same classes together. You form a strong bond with your classmates, and it's nice to have that."

Barbara Kraj, the director of the MLS program, says it's students with Byrd's work ethic that make teaching worth it.

"They keep you on your toes as they ask questions that make you think again and maybe revisit what you thought you knew," she said. "It is a joy to have someone like Kasey in the classroom - I believe other students looked up to her. Her respectful attitude and craving to do well were contagious. The whole class benefited from this."

Byrd's parents didn't attend college, but her grandmother, an elementary school teacher, went to State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz. The MLS degree will give Byrd a shot at a "grown-up" job, she said. Byrd has been doing a residency at the Hampton VA Medical Center, where she is planning to work as a medical technologist specializing in microbiology and blood bank.

"It's important work," she said. "It's important for doctors to have the full clinical picture. (Medical laboratory scientists) are not always as visible, but we're just as important as a doctor or nurse to patient outcomes."

This semester Byrds' hard work paid off with an added accolade from the American Association of Clinical Chemistry. She was named Clinical Chemistry Student of the Year.

Past the honor, the perfect grades and career on the horizon, time at home was sometimes less than perfect, she confessed. Her advice to mothers contemplating school and a family:

"You can't expect to be perfect with everything. There have been nights when my kids ate corndogs for dinner. Just be ready to commit. Don't go at it half-heartedly or you're just going to end up frustrated."

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