Thessalonika Arzu-Embry and her mother, Wonder Embry, get up at 5 in the morning most weekdays to go to school together.
Unlike most 14-year-olds, however, Thessalonika isn’t off early in the morning to the local high school. She’s going to Chicago State University.
Thessalonika is putting the finishing touches on a college career that started three years ago at College of Lake County and will end next month with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Chicago State.
“My college experience is a traditional college experience for me — it is just that I have completed it faster,” Thessalonika said. “I am very excited about joining others in having the opportunity to contribute to society in a significant way.”
After their early wake-up, Thessalonika and her mom pray and work on Bible studies, then work out at a local fitness center before starting their hour-and-a-half commute from their home at the Great Lakes Naval Station near North Chicago to Chicago State, located on the city’s South Side. Wonder Embry is a classmate of sorts at Chicago State, where she’s a graduate student in clinical psychology.
During the commute, Wonder and Thessalonika study theory together and chat about their homework assignments. Thessalonika said her mother keeps her motivated.
“My mother is a strong inspiration to my success. She is a veteran of the United States Navy, and when she finished her tour, she home-schooled my brother and I,” Thessalonika said.
Thessalonika’s mother said that for her part, she was just doing right by her daughter.