Tonya Jones said she couldn't have received a better Mother's Day present than seeing her daughter Jackie graduate with a degree in history from the University of Kentucky.
Tonya had a front-row seat. She also received a degree in history from UK on Sunday.
"I decided I wasn't going to let her finish before me," Tonya said, laughing, during a party for friends and families prior to the 144th commencement held at Rupp Arena. Tonya attended four different schools over the past 28 years to earn her degree.
"I made up my mind I was going to finish," she said.
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The mother-daughter effort began in the fall of 2009 after Jackie graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, then went to Bluegrass Community and Technical College before transferring to UK.
Tonya had a variety of credits from schools in Lubbock, Texas, and Tucson, Ariz., when she decided to finish up her degree in Lexington with classes at BCTC and UK.
Jackie said her mother has "drive and determination."
Tonya and Jackie had four classes together.
"It was so much fun. But sometimes it might have been distracting for the professor with our side conversations," Jackie said. "It was really nice to have a built-in study friend. We could share book costs, notes and answer each other's questions."
This past year has been especially busy for Tonya, who took a second job to help with the family finances, working 40 hours at two part-time jobs on the weekend — at the Inn on South Broadway and DoubleTree Suites on Richmond Road.
Jackie wants to pursue museum studies when she starts graduate school this fall at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. "I would love to work at any kind of museum to help preserve history and teach it to a future generation," she said.
Tonya plans to continue in the hospitality field, but would eventually also like to get a job at a museum, even in a volunteer capacity.
"Kind of the same thing Jackie wants to do, preserving history," she said. But she added, "If I don't do anything with (the degree), I graduated from college."
This past year has been a team effort on the part of the entire Jones family, as daughter Holly, 13, and Tonya's husband, Dwayne, have not seen much of her. "I leave Friday morning and wouldn't see anybody till Monday," she said. "I feel during the weekends I am really disconnected."
"They have been very supportive," Tonya said. So has her mother, Charlotte Christman, who lives with the family and pitched in, taking Holly to track meets and preparing dinner. Dwayne did the grocery shopping and laundry.
For Charlotte's part, she said, "It's the best Mother's Day I could possibly have — a daughter and granddaughter graduating from college on the same day."
Another graduating mother-daughter duo on Mother's Day was Debbie Montgomery Savage and her daughter Kasey Hall of Lexington, with degrees in art studio and architecture, respectively. Savage plans to pursue freelance photography and Web design; Hall eventually wants to return to school for a master's degree in architecture.