"You really don't understand how much this meant to me," the student said.
To teach health sciences is not the only agenda this professor has when he steps into his classroom at Lincoln University. He hopes to go beyond the syllabus and show up for his young students in ways that a professor typically would not do.
The professor, Dr. Aqeel Dix from the health sciences department, refused to let one of his students, Imani Lamarr, miss class because she couldn't find a babysitter to take care of her child. Imani had just returned back to class after taking a semester off to give birth to her baby boy.
Things were already tough for Imani as she had a premature birth, after which her son had to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for months.
"It was really hard. Every day going to the hospital, seeing him and not being able to help him, it was hard," Imani told 6abc Action News.
After taking some time off, Imani returned to university but still had to juggle between caring for her newborn baby as well as her studies. One day, she experienced a life-defining moment after telling Dr. Dix that she would have to miss class because she couldn't find a babysitter.
"No.' He told me no. And I was just looking at him like, no I can't miss class? I don't have nobody to watch my baby," Imani recalled. For Dr. Dix, his student missing class was not an option he could accept.
"I'm not going to have one of my students miss my class because they have no one to watch their child," Dr. Dix said. "That's just not an option for me." So Dr. Dix told Imani to bring her son to class, and he would take care of the rest.
"That's my character," said the professor. "I don't mind helping my students wherever they need me."
The professor's heartwarming gesture meant everything to Imani. Seeing her son comfortably sitting in Dr. Dix's arms assured her that she would be able to give her studies the required attention and graduate from her HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) with a bang.
"I've always wanted to go to an HBCU. So, I decided what's better than the first, so I chose Lincoln," Imani said.
After giving birth to her son, named Christopher Murphy after her father, Imani felt all her doubts about graduating fade away when she sat in class and took notes while Dr. Dix gave his lecture with her little one in his arms.
"I never thought that it would come to that, and to have somebody who's there for me... who really cares and genuinely wants to me finish and finish strong, it meant a lot," Imani said.
About a year and a half has passed since the touching moment took place in Dr. Dix's classroom. And now, 21-year-old Imani finds herself just a few months away from graduating college. She is grateful to her 2-year-old son and her supportive professor for helping her get this far.
"You really don't understand how much this meant to me," said the happy young college student.
Cover image source: 6abc Philadelphia/YouTube