As graduation approaches, students are excited to receive their diplomas and add their degrees to a list of lifetime accomplishments. For the Ashley family, this year’s graduation is especially exciting because both mother and daughter will adorn caps and gowns together.
Lauren Ashley, graduating in secondary education, is completing her degree at the same time as her mother, Kathy Ashley, who has finished through independent study at home in Florida.
“It’s like the icing on the cake,” Kathy said in an email. “We didn’t even realize that it was a possibility until about a year ago. Since then I’ve been working at a pace that would allow me to finish with her, and I can’t believe it’s really going to happen.”
The Ashley family places high value on education, which in part motivated Kathy to return to school and finish her degree.
“Not finishing college has always been something I’ve regretted,” Kathy said. “I also wanted to be an example to my children of the importance of education and following our church leaders’ counsel to pursue post-secondary education.”
Kathy said the hardest adjustment of returning to school was her ability to remember things.
“The most difficult part of being a student again is probably having fewer brain cells to work with at my age,” Kathy said. “I couldn’t believe how difficult it was for me to remember things I was studying.”
Alex Patrick, CES coordinator in Tampa, Fla., has been helping Kathy for the last few years as she finished her degree. He proctored her exams and said Kathy always did very well.
“She never once had to retake an exam and I believe she got A’s on nearly every single exam I proctored for her,” Patrick said in an email. “In fact, early on out of curiosity I would ask her how she did on the previous exam and the response was always ‘an A.’ So I stopped asking.”
Lauren said she and her mom have supported each other in their schooling, calling each other frequently and often talking about homework, essays and studying.
“It’s really cool to see that my mom is a good student,” Lauren said. “It helps me feel more motivated thinking that I should be a good student too.”
Lauren said watching her mom face challenges has helped her realize her mother’s tenacity.
“Especially this last year I’ve seen exactly how strong my mom is,” Lauren said. “Growing up, I think you tend to underestimate what your parents are capable of … It’s really nice to have her to lean on in life and in school.”
After graduation, Kathy said she plans to earn money and save so she and her husband can one day serve a mission and be prepared for retirement. Lauren said she plans to stay in Utah for another year, but sometimes worries about the unknowns of post-graduation life. She said talking to her parents helps ease her worries.
“After talking to them it’s like, you know what? Life’s crazy and you can handle it,” Lauren said.
Lauren said her mom’s decision to go back to school has helped her realize life is a constant process of self-discovery.
“I love thinking that no matter how old you get, you can always discover more of who you are,” she said. “Every change requires something else of you, so you have to keep changing.”