Moms get all kinds of gifts on Mother’s Day. From finger paintings, to flowers and chocolate, to jewelry, there’s no wrong way to show mom love. But for some North Texas moms, Mother’s Day 2018 will be memorable for a one-of-a-kind gift they’re giving themselves: a UNT degree.
Mother’s Day happens to fall on the same weekend as UNT’s Spring Commencement ceremonies this year, making it an extra special weekend for the thousands of moms who will be in attendance as guests to watch their children walk the stage. But in some special cases, those roles will be reversed as mothers hear their own names announced over the speaker and look out to see their children cheering in the crowd.
For some moms like Terry Juneau (right), setting an example for their kids serves as a primary motivator to finish their degrees. Terry originally started college in 1998, but quickly became overwhelmed trying to balance two jobs and school. Without family support, she walked away from her dream of a college education. After she became a mother, she realized that making that dream a reality wasn’t just something that she wanted for herself, but also something she wanted for her two daughters.
“I wanted my girls to know that you can always right your wrongs and change your path,” says Terry. “You may not be able to rewrite your past, but you can always fix your future. I wanted them to see you can always pick up where you left off.”
And although she admits the journey required a lot of work and balance (and unending support from her husband, Chris), Terry says becoming a mother actually better prepared her to come back to school.
“Moms are used to doing 15 things at once—laundry while doing homework, making dinner and packing tomorrow’s lunches while trying to take a test online,” says Terry. “We’ve got this built-in skill set to figure out how to get it all done in little snippets of time.”
After two years of college dorm life at Central Michigan University, Nicole Savage (right) moved back home in 1994 to care for her mother. But Nicole was similarly motivated by her children to finish her degree. As a full-time administrative coordinator for UNT Facilities, Nicole took advantage of the university’s Faculty/Staff Educational Scholarship to return to school, but balancing class work with a full-time job and motherhood wasn’t always easy.
“It was tough coming home some nights to a dark house after everyone had already gone to bed,” says Nicole. “Sometimes I was so immersed in my studies, I couldn’t always keep up with how my kids’ days went.”
But with the full support of her husband, Lee, and her boss, Dave Reynolds, reminding her that her children would learn from her example, Nicole has earned her Bachelor of Science in integrative studies with concentrations in family studies, sociology and emergency management. And while this will certainly be a special Mother’s Day for Nicole, she will also be remembering her own mother, Jacqueline Warner, who passed away in 2001.
“I think often of how proud she would be of me for not only finishing my degree to better my life, but to better the lives of my kids,” says Nicole. “I have become a wife, a mother and now a UNT graduate while she watched from heaven.”
For Linda Parker (right), motivation to finish her degree came not only from her children, but her grandchildren as well. Linda started her college career in 1968, but soon became overwhelmed as a first-generation college student.
She would try to return every so often throughout the years, but it wasn’t until her daughter, Teresa McKinney, accepted a position as Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at UNT that she would finally finish her decades long journey.
“My daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren and niece have all supported me in this endeavor,” says Linda. “They helped me navigate the campus, learn how to use Blackboard and identify supplemental learning tools. They also selflessly rearranged their personal or professionals schedules on many occasions to accommodate important dates or deadlines that I had to meet in order to help me succeed.”
Teresa says after witnessing her mother’s strength, courage and conviction through the loss of Linda’s husband and son, her family couldn’t be happier to see her walk the stage to earn her Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences.
“My husband and our children are proud to have been able to give back in any way to support my mother’s pursuit of her lifelong dream to obtain her college degree,” says Teresa. “On May 11, we will proudly witness her evolution and transition to becoming a college graduate and proud UNT alumna.”