2 mothers getting masters degrees when their kids get BAs

MONROE, La. (AP) — Two women are getting graduate degrees from a Louisiana university on the same day their children are graduating.

Shannon Dozier Ballew, of Monroe, and Krisha Williams, of Many, each received a Master of Arts in teaching on Saturday from the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Ballew’s daughter, Gabby Ballew, and Williams’ son, Tavier Williams, earned Bachelor of Arts degrees — Gabby Ballew in communication and Tavier Williams in psychology, according to a news release Friday.

Both mothers had the same advice: “It’s never too late.” Both children say they have learned the value of perseverance from their mothers.

Shannon Ballew married at 19 and became a stay-at-home mother at 22, when the first of her three children was born. The youngest, a boy, has autism. When he went to kindergarten, she became a paraprofessional at Kiroli Elementary to help with his transition.

“It wasn’t long after I started working at Kiroli when I thought, ‘I have missed my calling.’ I was supposed to be a teacher all these years,” she said.

Then came divorce. While working full-time, Ballew enrolled as an undergraduate. She was 37; Gabby Ballew was in second grade.

It took Shannon Ballew 11 years of night school and online courses to get her bachelor's degree.

Gabby said her mother "has been the inspiration I needed to get through my bachelor’s degree. I’ve learned from her particularly that I’m going to have my tough days. I’ve learned from her to push forward and to finish what you start.”

Krisha Williams, a mother of five, was a volunteer substitute teacher before she earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern State University in 2019. She now teaches 7th grade math at Many Junior High, where she was named Teacher of the Year for the school and Sabine Parish Middle School Teacher of the Year last year.

“It’s never too late," she said. "There are many resources available. There are professors who are willing to help.”

Tavier Williams, on the academic dean's list, is staying in school to get a master's degree in psychology with an eye toward becoming a counselor for student athletes. One of three Division I student athletes in the family, he will continue as a defensive back for the football team.

He said that his mother, who often brought her iPad to the football stands to do homework, models the importance of good mental health.

“I’m really proud of her for finishing,” Tavier Williams said. “I try to follow her lead. She’s always stressed that athletics can be taken from you at any moment, but what you learn in your mind can never be taken from you.”