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Cousins Who Didn’t Know They Were Both NLU’ers To Graduate Together They didn't realize both were attending National Louis

Jannae Jenkins and Darlene Cook

Jannae Jenkins Simmons, left, and Darlene Cook are first cousins, but were unaware they were both attending NLU until a surprise meeting. They will graduate together in the same Commencement ceremony June 20.

Darlene Cook went to National Louis’ Commencement Fair on May 27 to get information about the graduation ceremony and have her picture taken in a cap and gown. While she was waiting in line for the photo, however, she got a huge surprise.

“I looked up and there was my first cousin,” she exclaimed.

After a joyful hug, they figured out that cousin Jannae Jenkins Simmons had walked past the Veterans Lounge, where Cook worked as a student worker, many times on her way to the fourth floor computer lab at the Chicago campus. The two hadn’t caught sight of each other.

“I was very excited,” Jenkins Simmons said. “I had no idea. I had to double check to make sure that was her, because the last time I saw her face was many years ago.”

Cook’s dad and Jenkins Simmons’ mom are brother and sister, and the two NLU students shared many happy times together as children.

“Her dad is the last of my living uncles, so this is very important,” Jenkins Simmons said.

Jenkins Simmons has earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Management. She had earlier earned an associate degree in general business and has worked in accounting. With her bachelor’s degree, she hopes to work in management, possibly in the events planning area. She has also been working on starting a non-profit organization, Helping Others Maintain Existence  (HOME) to help homeless college students on their journey to pursue a degree.

Cook has earned her B.A. in Criminal Justice. She heads her own non-profit organization, Organization HELPP, and has many success stories of being able to help individuals leave the criminal justice and find jobs and independent, self-sufficient lives.

“I want to be a juvenile probation officer,” she said. “I feel if I can catch them before they go to the penitentiary, maybe I can help them so that they don’t become repeat offenders.

“It’s good to do service work. God takes care of you in the process.”