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9 Sep 2023
Kara Nelson

NextImg:3 generations of women from the same family are all heading to this Wisconsin college | CNN

CNN  — 

Instead of calling your family to tell them how college is going, how about meeting up with them on campus after classes? These four women can do just that.

Carthage College welcomed three generations of women on campus this fall semester, a grandmother, a mother and her two daughters.

Samantha Malczewski, a sophomore nursing student at the Kenosha, Wisconsin, school, said people have already started asking her the million-dollar question: “Does your grandma go here?”

“And I’m like, ‘She does go here!’” Samantha said. “It’s been a good icebreaker.”

Not only does her grandma, Christy Schwan, share the lakeside campus with her, but so do her mom and younger sister.

It’s the first time three generations of the same family have attended Carthage at the same time, a school spokesperson said.

The two sisters are roommates in a dorm, which brings an extra layer of familiarity since they shared a room growing up.

“I could just come in and do whatever I want because I know she’s not going to judge me,” Samantha said.

“It’s kind of bringing a piece of home with you, and it’s a great support system,” said her sister Mia Carter, a freshman marketing and accounting major.

A childhood picture of Mia Carter, center, holding a Carthage banner.

The Carthage campus was a familiar place for the girls, even before they were accepted into the school.

“I’ve been coming here since I was 5,” Mia told CNN.

“Actually, since you were born,” her mother, Amy Malczewski, said.

Amy, representing the middle generation of the family tribe, has worked at the college for over 20 years, and “can’t get enough” of Carthage’s culture, she said.

She serves as a graphic design instructor and a career specialist for students.

“I have so much school spirit,” Amy said. Even with all of her commitments to the college, she still felt, “I need to find more ways to be on campus.”

“I had a space to fill on Tuesdays and Thursday nights, and I thought maybe I should get my master’s degree now,” Amy told CNN.

And who else would be a better study partner than someone you’ve known your entire life?

Amy Malczewski, left, with Carthage College's Firebird mascot, and Christy Schwan are pictured on campus.

“When Amy suggested going together, I thought, ‘Well, yeah, why not?’” said Christy Schwan, Amy’s mother – and Samantha and Mia’s grandmother.

Christy needed to locate her records from her freshman year at Valparaiso University in 1969 before applying to Carthage.

“I’m like, ‘Gosh, do they even have those records from back then?’” Christy said. To her surprise, the records existed. “Fortunately, everything’s electronic now,” she said.

As of this fall semester, the mother and daughter are first-year graduate students at Carthage, both pursuing a master’s degree in business design and innovation.

Although she is sharing the campus with her two granddaughters, Christy wants them to be independent and experience college for themselves.

“I’m not a helicopter grandma,” Christy said.

While they don’t run into each other often on campus, Amy’s office in career services is a common spot for the three generations of women to meet up.

The girls said they visit the office between classes, or “usually when they want money for Starbucks,” Amy noted.

There have been families where all of the children have attended Carthage, “and they have parents and grandparents who have attended,” said Ashley Hanson, the school’s vice president of enrollment. “But never at the same time.”

“For the fall semester of 2023, we have approximately 70 students that had a former family member attend Carthage,” Hanson told CNN.

The college is relatively small, with 2,600 students, and has established a culture of closeness. “It’s a very tight-knit community,” Hanson said. “Our staff, our faculty, they’re always bringing their families to events.”

Christy going back to school after retiring is motivational, said Hanson. “I hope it inspires more people to want to do the same thing.”

“Age shouldn’t be a barrier, as long as you keep learning throughout your life,” said Christy.

“I just might go for Ph.D. when I’m 80.”