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Supporting Role

Mother and son graduate despite dealing with loss

If Sheldon Duporte could have been there in person to watch both his wife, Thylia Duporte, ’18, G’22, and son, Tyzaire Duporte, ’22, collect their diplomas on the stage at Gillette Stadium, he would have been beaming with pride.  

Sadly, Sheldon died last year, but Thylia knows her husband was there in spirit as she and their son took part in Bridgewater State University’s commencement ceremony.

“He was always supportive,” she said.  

Prior to the big day, Thylia received an email with information about her transcripts and upcoming graduation. The email was sent on May 10, Sheldon’s birthday. Thylia saw it as a sign.  

“It left me bawling, but I know he’s still here,” she said. 

No one would have blamed either mother or son if they took a break after losing someone so close. However, both were determined to stay in school and earn their degrees. 

They turned to each other for support, as Thylia worked toward a master’s degree in social work and Tyzaire pursued a degree in public health.  

The times when she did falter, Tyzaire was there to push her forward.  

“I told her, we’re pretty much at the finish line. Last year was a very difficult time for us, but I knew we could finish and I’m glad we did,” he said.  

Thylia found she could also lean on BSU faculty and staff. That support, she said, was immeasurable as she grieved.  

“Sometimes we are too ashamed or worried to reach out and ask for help, but I was able to build relationships with my professors. I really appreciate the support I received. They showed me a lot of grace,” she said. 

The newly minted double Bear hopes to support others, to help them find their voice.  

“I’d like to help others advocate for themselves,” Thylia said. “I want people to know they can ask for help. I want to show people that they don’t have to shy away from asking. You don’t know what you can do until you try.” 

Meanwhile, Tyzaire is currently interning at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he works with a team of biostatisticians analyzing and organizing data.  

He is considering following in his mother’s footsteps and going to graduate school to study public health.

One thing is for certain: As they continue to move forward, the Duportes know they have each other, no matter where the journey takes them.  

“Despite all the adversity we faced…to be able to focus, and graduate with honors…it’s been a unique time for me,” Thylia said. “It was an emotional year, but we did it.” 


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