MILWAUKEE — As 23-year-old Miles Jett from Milwaukee prepares to graduate from Cardinal Stritch University, he has been filled with mixed emotions.
Right before his senior year, he lost his close friend Andrew, his brother Avery drowned, and then his hero and mother Lisa died from colon cancer.
"Hearing her sing gospel songs, it’s everything to me," Jett recalled. "It was like a never-ending nightmare. I didn’t know how to get through it."
Jett painfully remembered the day his mom passed away and how the pandemic kept them apart.
"I just told her, 'Hey mom I love you. I’ll be back,'" Jett said as he remembered making a run to a store for her.
As he fought through immense grief, Jett found solace in running and support from his friends, along with the faculty and staff at Cardinal Stritch University, who checked in on him often.
"Where I come from it's kind of hard to trust anyone nowadays, and the fact that I found people who really care, it's like a family here. They really showed the true Franciscan value of establishing a caring community," said Jett.
Despite these tragedies, Jett persevered through school and for the first time, got straight A's for the semester.
Jett also leaned on Teon Austin, the university's Assistant Dean of Students-Diversity Initiatives, who previously taught his dad at Cardinal Stritch. Jett considers Austin an uncle.
"You always wish you could do more. You always wish you could kind of take away the pain. You always wish you could support them more," Austin said. "From the first time that his dad brought him to my office and introduced him to me, I could tell he was going to be successful."
As Jett prepares to accept his college degree, which will be the first interdisciplinary studies degree the university issues, he hoped his story will inspire someone watching.
"I encourage everyone to continue to stand up to their trials and tribulations because our life isn’t guaranteed, but what do you do in this moment right now is," Jett said.
Cardinal Stritch University will hold an in-person commencement on Sunday. Miles said it will be different without his mom there, but he knows she is watching.