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Shepherd University grads keep it all in the family

Mackenzie Frampton and her father, Christian Rawcliffe, share the same philosophy when it comes to looking for a career

July 13, 2013|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU | arnoldp@herald-mail.com
  • Christian Rawcliffe, left, and his daughter, Mackenzie Frampton, graduated from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va. Frampton earned her bachelor's degree in sociology and Rawcliffe earned his in social work.
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HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. — Mackenzie Frampton graduated from Shepherd University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in May, but hasn’t been able to find a job in that field or a full-time job in any other.

To her, that’s not necessarily a problem yet.

What’s important, Frampton said, is that she doesn’t let a not-so-wonderful economy push her into a not-so-wonderful job.

“My friends are getting jobs and I was bummed,” said Frampton, 22, who lives in Harpers Ferry.

“But a lot of people I know work contract jobs. That’s a lot of times temporary. A lot of people don’t want that, but they can’t find anything else right now. A lot of people are still working retail jobs and graduated three years before me. And I know that’s not what they want to do.

“There just isn’t a lot of jobs out there right now. I think when you get desperate enough, you kind of do what you need to do,” she said.

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For now, Frampton isn’t at all desperate.

She does work a lot — just not in jobs that require a college degree or that are what she wants to do long term.

Before she graduated in 2008 from Jefferson High School in Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., she began working in an ice cream and hamburger shop. Then, while taking classes at Shepherd, she held as many as four jobs at once, working her way through college as a cashier, a cook, a computer lab aide and other positions.

Now, she’s busy with the hourly job she’s had for more than a year, working as many as 44 hours per week as an in-home caregiver for senior citizens.

“It’s a lot of Alzheimer’s and dementia care,” she said. “I definitely love what I do. And I totally love old people.”

But she’s not sure how to match that love with her degree, and then, with the current economy.

Working as an in-home caregiver “isn’t what I want to do forever,” she said. “I’m stable. I’m taking care of my bills. I’m not in a huge rush to find anything, but I will.”

All in the family

In this economy, Frampton is like a lot of recent graduates who haven’t been able to use their degrees to advance their career aims.

But it’s both a lesson in life and a matter of good-natured family rivalry that sets her story apart.

In May, Frampton’s father, Christian Rawcliffe, walked across the same Shepherd University stage, receiving the same sort of graduation accolades, on the same day as his daughter.

Rawcliffe, 42, earned a bachelor’s degree in social work, a more specialized field of study than the sociology degree she earned.

And Rawcliffe graduated magna cum laude — with high honors.

“He got, like, all ‘A’s and one ‘B,’” Frampton grumbled good-naturedly, admitting she graduated “without honors.”

The unusual juxtaposition of father and daughter attending the same college at the same time came after a personal tragedy for them.

Frampton’s mother, to whom Rawcliffe was never married, died unexpectedly while her daughter still was in high school.

Rawcliffe, who was working in Texas at the time, came to Jefferson County, taking jobs ranging from working in a bed-and-breakfast, to working as a cook and a housecleaner, to “basically whatever I could find,” to pay the bills that he and his daughter were facing, he said.

Even when his daughter decided she wanted to go to college, Rawcliffe said, he had no plans to seek that for himself.

In fact, he said, as a teenager, he had run from academics, leaving high school shortly before he would have graduated and, further disappointing his parents, spurning their offer to pay his way through college.

Why did he bail out?

“I was making too much money at a pizza place,” he said.

The decision to quit school eventually led to a lot of high living in Texas, a strained relationship with Frampton’s mother and then, when she moved to Maryland and later West Virginia, not being able to support the young family after his daughter was born.

Seeing an opportunity

It wasn’t until the day in 2008, when he accompanied Frampton to Shepherd’s campus for an event welcoming new students, that Rawcliffe realized college might be a life-changing opportunity for him, too.

All of a sudden, he felt a strong desire to go to college. He already had earned a GED and now realized that with a college degree, he could become a social worker, helping special-needs people, he said.

He said he had a brother with disabilities who died when he was 12, “so that is my draw to the special-needs clientele.”

He also had a job years ago caring for a boy with disabilities. He also worked in a camping and respite program for children and adults with severe disabilities or medical conditions.

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