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Class of 2001 includes mother, daughter

May 21, 2001

Class of 2001 includes mother, daughter



By GEOFF BROWN / Staff Writer


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Mother Kathy and daughter Laura Sholl never planned their Shepherd College commencement for the same day. But there they were Saturday, smiling widely, accepting diplomas at the same ceremony - Kathy's a Bachelor of Science in communications, Laura's a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education.

It looks like a happy coincidence, two women pursuing their education in fields they love - writing for Kathy, teaching reading for Laura - for quite different reasons. They just happened to be mother and daughter graduating the same day.

For Laura, 23, there was never any question: "I knew I wanted to be an elementary school teacher almost from the time I was born."

The Sholls moved from Poolesville, Md., to Shepherdstown when Laura was a junior in high school specifically because she planned to attend Shepherd's teaching program.

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But chance played the key role in Kathy's education. "I had trouble adjusting to the move at first," she said. Then she landed a part-time job in the Shepherd registrar's office. She took some classes. One was in composition, and that was all it took to convince Kathy that writing was her calling.

"I thought, 'I'm going to go for a degree while I'm here.'"

Five years later, mother and daughter stood side by side in cap and gown.

Laura now is pursuing her master's degree from Radford University in Virginia. When she graduates from that program next year, she doesn't know yet whether she'll start with a classroom teaching job first to give her some broader experience before becoming a reading specialist. But there's no question that teaching reading is what she wants to do.

"I think reading is the most important thing to learn from the beginning," Laura said. "If you can't read, you won't do well in math or science because you won't be able to read the words on the page."

Laura has volunteered as a reader for first-graders in the Jefferson County school system's Read-Aloud program. She especially enjoyed sharing stories from pioneer author Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose "Little House" and other books inspired her as a girl. She even dressed as a pioneer and brought photographs from Wilder's Missouri home, which the family had visited.

"The kids just absolutely loved it."

Kathy smiles. The story reveals a connection.

"We named Laura for Laura Ingalls Wilder. I used to read (Wilder's) books to her."

For Kathy, who'll turn 50 on July 4, her education has opened up a new world for her in writing and public relations. She's turned a college internship at the C&O Canal National Historical Park headquarters into a full-time position as a public affairs assistant, writing press releases and feature stories, and she loves it.

Her education has also allowed her to embrace an independence she says she didn't feel before.

"That's one thing that Shepherd taught me: That you can do it. I didn't think I could get a degree later in life."

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