Unusual Classmates: Mom, Son Succeed in College Together

By Keith Sharon - Orange County Register - Published: June 8, 2020

Son, Danny Limon and Mom, Lorraine Limon, Saddleback Graduates - Photo credit Mark Rightmire for Orange County Register/SCNG
Photo credit: Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG


The champagne waits.

They haven’t cracked it open yet because it’s hard for them to believe the deserve it. They’re in almost-celebration mode. Almost believing what they’ve done, which is really unbelievable.

Someday soon, Lorraine Limon (52 years old) and her son Danny (29) are going to pop the cork on that bottle and toast each other together. This mom and son duo answers the question: Who in their right minds would do this?

Answer: They would. Two people who thought they were broken. Lorraine has been married three times. Her older son died at 21. Danny got kicked out of Huntington Beach High School and never graduated. They live together in a one-bedroom apartment in Mission Viejo.

 
They are two people who had almost given up on themselves. Two people who needed a push.

From each other.

Lorraine and Danny Limon just earned their associate of arts degrees from Saddleback College. Lorraine wants to pursue psychology, and Danny wants to go into environment law. They are now set to transfer.

Together.

They disagreed. They bickered. They had mother-son meltdowns on campus. “Gnarly fights,” Danny called them. They took three classes together in three years. One of their professors proclaimed, “I would NEVER go to school with my mom.”

Maybe they’ll crack open the champagne when their last decision is made. Which four-year school are they going to attend?

They want to do it together.

But it’s not that easy.

'Never thought about college' 

Lorraine calls herself “Lucky 7” because she’s the youngest of seven sisters.

She was born in Mexico, the daughter of a migrant worker. Her father, David Herrera, brought his family to Los Angeles as part of the Bracero Program, in which Mexicans could live and work in the United States.

Lorraine was 2 when most of her family came in 1969. Her father worked in corn and strawberry fields. Later, he got a job as a maintenance worker at Mile Square Golf Course in Fountain Valley. That’s when he moved his family to Orange County.

Lorraine had a falling out with her father when she attended Valley High in Santa Ana. She was an athlete, playing volleyball and basketball. But he wouldn’t let his daughter play sports.

“I was crushed,” she said. “It really hurt me. My grades fell apart.”

She dropped out of Valley, eventually getting a General Education Development diploma from a continuation school.

“I never thought about college,” she said.

‘I didn’t fit in’

Lorraine had two sons, Christopher in 1989 and Danny in 1991.

Chris was a smart kid. He could set up any computer system. But he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“I loved him and looked up to him,” Danny said.

In 2011, Chris died in his sleep at the age of 21. He was on so many different medications that Lorraine said she didn’t know if his death was accidental or intentional.

She calls him her angel.

It was after his death she first had the idea to become a counselor for young people.

“I can help kids,” she said. “I don’t want any more of them to die.”

Danny had problems of his own. He was at Huntington Beach High when he decided to “check out.”

“I remember not giving a (expletive),” he said.

Two weeks before graduation, his grades an his attitude were so bad, he got kicked out of high school. He never got his diploma. “My transcript must have been a hot mess,” he said.

“I was Latino and gay and I didn’t fit in,” he said. “I gave up on myself. I never really thought about college.”

‘We pushed each other’

Lorraine worked in a cosmetic surgeon’s office. She sold real estate. Danny worked as a home nurse. He later got a job with Greenpeace, the environmental group.

But neither of them felt satisfied with the direction their lives were heading.

In the fall of 2017, Danny got an idea. He was 27 years old, and he wanted to go to college. He chose Saddleback Community College.

“It’s my comeback tour, like Beyonce,” he said.

Suddenly, he was the motivated student always raising his hand. He was committed. In three years, he got two B’s.

“I was so proud,” Lorraine said. “I saw he was so excited. I thought my son is growing up.”

During his first semester, he came home with a message for his mother.

“You gotta go, girl,” he said. “I pushed her.”

“I jumped in,” Lorraine said.

The mother-son duo were living in Riverside at the time. They would bicker during their 67-mile (one way) commute. Lorraine is constantly finishing his sentences, and he’s constantly reminding her that he needs more time to finish his thoughts.

They took a 7:30 a.m. class together. That one was rough.

But they made it through.

“We pushed each other,” Danny said. “We get on each other’s nerves.”

“It’s tough, but it made us stronger,” Lorraine said.

They were both on the college honor roll … and the national honor roll … and the international honor roll.

Danny had a 3.9 grade point average, he said.

“He beat me,” Lorraine said.

Stay together?

Now they’ve got an issue.

Danny was accepted by the University of California, Berkeley and UCI.

Lorraine got accepted at UCI, but she is still waiting to hear from Berkeley.

Berkeley is Danny’s dream. But if his mother can’t go …

“I don’t want him to miss his favorite school because of me,” she said.

‘We want to stay together,” Danny said.

They are supposed to hear from Berkeley on July 1.

“We’re going to Berkeley,” Danny said. “She’s going to make it.”

And if she doesn’t, he might wait a year to give her a chance to reapply with a different major.

“I’m willing to wait for my mom,” he said.

And wait for the champagne.