Student determines to be the first college graduate in her family
A 17-year journey concluded triumphantly when Crystal Davis walked the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. The first in her family to earn a bachelor’s, she’d determined to finish college, despite giving birth to her daughter one week before she began college classes.
Taking courses continually on a part-time basis since high school, Davis compares her journey to a long-distance race.
“Just like when you run a marathon, when you get tired you see somebody pushing you along, saying, ‘Girl, you’re almost there,’” she said. “Somebody was always there.”
Whether it was her professor at College of the Mainland, where she began taking classes, offering to watch her daughter or a friend giving her a ride to school when she didn’t have a car, she found help when she needed it. Their help enabled her resolution to continue her education – while juggling parenting and a full-time job – for her daughter’s sake.
“I had to set a foundation for her,” she said. “I was a mother and I had to show my baby … the way.”
Since the beginning, Davis’ daughter, Meghan Coleman, has traveled the journey with her. As she grew older, she and Davis helped each other with homework, reviews and flashcards.
“It was like getting up and brushing your teeth,” Davis said. “It was routine. We’ve been doing this together for years.”
Their efforts paid off when Davis earned an associate degree in general studies from COM.
“I set a goal for myself, and I knew what I really wanted,” she said. “When I got my (associate) degree, my mom was so excited. She had it framed before I even saw it.”
Davis didn’t stop at an associate degree. Realizing she was ready for the next step, COM advisor Theo Moody helped her apply to UHCL to continue her education.
“Mr. Moody helped me get through my transition,” Davis said. “He connected me to the right person.”
At UHCL, she flourished and discovered that what she loved about criminal justice – after working in the prison system for 10 years – was talking to inmates and guiding them to better choices. She chose to major in behavioral sciences to gain qualifications to become a family counselor.
Even after transitioning to UHCL, however, she returned to COM for advice and help with writing assignments. Student Support Center staff Tamara Hoodye and Robert Arenas cheered her on and encouraged her to keep going, and a tutor at the center, which is open to the community, continued to proof her papers.
“They went beyond,” she said. “When you need that extra push, you’re not in it by yourself. That’s like my family.”
Her educational success is mirrored in her daughter, who is now in 10th grade, taking AP classes and looking ahead to college. Davis plans to take two years off before pursuing a master’s degree to help her daughter navigate the next step in her education. Meanwhile, she’s proud of her accomplishments and the legacy she is creating for her daughter.
“I really had no reason not to finish other than (lack of) determination,” she said. “I did it, and I’m still smiling.”