Siblings support each other from one dorm room away

Kayly (left) and Hunter (right) pose for a portrait in their dorm holding gifts that remind them of their dad in Beddow Hall on Oct.21 in Mount Pleasant.

Sitting in her room trying to focus on her classwork, Waterford freshman Kayly Fougner struggles to finish her assignment. Memories of her dad rush through her head. She reaches out to her brother, Waterford sophomore Hunter Fougner, for support.

Most students would need to call, text or FaceTime their siblings if they need to talk. All Kayly has to do is walk a few feet down the hall and knock on Hunter’s door.

Kayly and Hunter's father, Jayeson Fougner, died March 19 of a heart attack. He was 47.

For Hunter, going back to school after his father's death and leaving his mourning family was difficult. 

For Kayly, starting college this year without her dad’s support — knowing he wouldn't be there to help her through the transition — was difficult.

Kristine, Hunter, Kayly and Jayeson Fougner (left to right) pose for a picture. Photo courtesy of the Fougner family

"When something is taken from you abruptly like that, you just want to hang-on to whoever is  closest," said their mom, Kristine Fougner. "When you have siblings going to school together, they wanted to be next to each other."

With the siblings coming back to school this fall and starting a new school year, they thought it would be easier on both of them if they remained close – right next door to each other.

“I think this past year put into perspective how our family is and how important it is to be close with them because you don’t know how much time you have with them,” Hunter said. “It’s good to be close with them at all times and that’s one of our main reasons for why we room next to each other.”

Kayly said that she and her brother have had a good standing relationship for a while. Everyone comments on how close they are and how they wish they were close with their siblings like they are.

They play video games and board games together and enjoy watching movies. Kayly said that it doesn't matter what they are doing because most things they do together are fun just because they love each other's company.

Sometimes it's hard to find time to hang out but Kayly and Hunter see each other almost every day. 

Hunter has been able to help Kayly start off her new school year by showing her around campus, eating meals with her, helping her reach out to new people and showing her how to be successful. 

“He is also my RA and that’s just another thing,” Kayly said. “I feel protected because he’s right next to me, so if anything happens I go to him. It’s really nice.”

Along with helping Kayly through her freshman year as her RA, Hunter has also been there for her when she needed it.

"Just for the emotional stuff, I kind of needed him next to me or I would go insane," Kayly said.

Being at school instead of being with family at this time has been hard on both of them, but they said they know it is best for the two of them to be at CMU.

“Late at night when I am doing assignments and I am feeling hopeless, I get really emotional and I can’t believe I am doing this,” Kayly said. “I am doing this to make my dad proud and to make everyone around me proud.”

Kayly’s goal is to go to medical school. She has wanted to be a doctor ever since fifth grade after discovering her love of helping people and saving lives. 

At an early age, Kayly went through endoscopy, a process when doctors send a camera into a person's body to observe. She said the anesthesiologist made her feel safe before going under and now Kayly wants to do the same for other people going into surgery.

Photo courtesy of the Fougner family

Her dad has been supporting her in this goal since the beginning by buying her prep books for the SATs, comforting her if she was crying from frustration and reminding her constantly that he would always be proud of her. Kayly said she knows her dad is still supporting her and she couldn’t ask for anything better. 

Kristine said that she and her husband always told their kids to live life with goals and dreams. 

Hunter wants to work in the finance field after college because of the intellectual and monetary rewards along with the ability to support his family with a career in finance, which is Hunter's most important goal.

“We would always have a plan, no matter what it was and if something altered the plan, it would still be executed in a different way, but the goal would still be reached,” Hunter said. “I think now he would still want it the same way.”

Kristine said she feels better that they are one door away. 

"It's not a one-sided field; we also need (our mom) at the end of the day as well," Hunter said. "She still shows us the ropes and helps guide us through life even though things have changed."

Even though she is living alone in Waterford, Hunter said his mother has adapted well. He thinks they have grown closer with her.

“I am two hours away but they know that I will drop everything and come there," Kristine said. "But I think they have been using each other to lean on, and that gives me peace.”

Kristine said that even before their dad passed away, Hunter was trying to get Kayly to attend CMU because he wanted his best friend with him. 

"They've always had each other to lean on, to confide in, simply just to be a best sibling and best friend," Kristine said.

Kayly and Hunter constantly check-in on each other and take care of each other. From living in the same house to now living next door in a dorm, makes things easier.

“They had already talked about how it would be cool if they lived near each other just because they have been best friends for 18 years,” Kristine said. “When they lost their dad, they knew they needed each other the most to try to get through life now.”