COLUMBIA — Experienced hands gather a thick set of braids examining the ends of Tyus’ new plaits. In the background, sizzling chicken and corn cook for a household of women — two of whom, Tyus and Tori, daughter and mother, laugh and dance while listening to music.
The family moved to Columbia from Memphis a year ago. Tori Monroe, a single parent leading the household, decided to make the move to provide a better education for her children — in particular, her eldest child, Tyus Monroe, 14.
Although Tyus is Tori’s daughter, she plays a huge part in running the household. Tori leads, and Tyus negotiates the relationship with her mom. It’s a balancing act between the two that makes each other indispensable.
“My momma don’t play,” said Tyus, referring to her mother’s unyielding persona. “I really do choose a lot of characteristics that are of my mom for myself. She is a strong woman, and she’s made me who I am today.”
Education and hard work are things the two women understand.
“I’ve been through a lot of struggle in my life, and I want Tyus to have the opportunities I was not given. That means getting a good education,” Tori said.
Tori explained this is a transition year for the family, a time to get grounded and focused. Tori, a nurse’s aide at MU hospital, is also in school working on a nursing degree.
“I want to do this for myself,” she said, “but I also want to make sure that I have the finances to fund Tyus’ college education.”
Tyus is an incoming freshman at Hickman High School and took a half-credit keyboarding class this summer to gain a head start on her academics. An ambitious and driven young woman, she hopes one day to attend Harvard University and become a prosecutor.
Tyus held her first part-time job this summer at Nora Stewart Early Learning Center, where she received minimum wage caring for children. At age 14, Tyus is employed under the city’s CARE program. She wishes to continue working during the school year; however, her mother decided against it so Tyus can focus on her studies.
“I love my daughter,” Tori said. “She has no option but to do well in school, and I make sure to work for her success. Anything for Tyus.”
Supervising editor is Alli Inglebright.