With graduation approaching, a Keene State College family prepares to receive their degrees together.

Senior Taylor Daigle and her mother Debra Williams will both be receiving their bachelor and master degrees in Safety and Occupational Health and Applied Sciences at the commencement ceremony this coming Saturday, May 7.

Williams said her education has been a journey because it took her almost ten years to finish her bachelors in management. “I graduated in 2009. All my college work had been done part time, most of which as a single parent,” Williams said. “I decided in 2013 after exploring the MBA at Plymouth State University to continue with my education.”

Williams said, “It was not really a decision to come back, but the desire to continue my education. I am a first generation student and once I got the bug to learn, I just could not get enough. I started working at KSC in the mailroom in 1991/92, and I took that job because I thought it was the only way I could afford college. I started taking classes one at a time, sometimes two. I took some time off to have my babies and then started back again. The desire to learn along with the desire to make a difference for others is what lead me to safety.”

Tim Smith/photo editor

Tim Smith/photo editor

While following her desire for education, Williams said that she had to balance her time not only between motherhood and academics, but also a full time job.

“I just do the best I could. Sometimes we had mac and cheese for dinner because they had to go to bed and I had to get back to the books. We all sacrifice things along the way,” but for Williams she mostly neglected sleep. She said throughout her schooling family always came first, and education was second.

She continued, “One would say I do my best work under pressure, and sometimes I would have to agree. I just make my list and plow through, not getting much sleep. Sometimes my house was not as clean as I would like, but I have two very amazing girls, a wonderful, loving husband and his three kids that support me and help me whenever they can. My family always comes first and that is how I will always live my life.”

Daigle said she idolized her mother for her drive to learn and do well in school. “She always wanted to give my sister and I the best life she could,” Daigle said. “She knew that continuing her education was a good way to do that.”

Daigle said she is very proud of her mom because not many people can be a full time employee, mom and student while excelling in all. Daigle said that her mom amazes her.

In terms of receiving degrees in the same major, Daigle said that she and her mother find themselves attending the library and studying together. “More often than not, it is just bouncing ideas off of one another,” Daigle said. “She did help edit quite a few of my papers.”

Daigle said she feels like the luckiest person to be able to embark on her college journey while having her mother at the same school.

“So many people talk about how they miss home. For me, my family is my home and my mom is my best friend. Any crappy day, I know that I can go visit her in her office. My sister and I are in there at least 3-4 times a week if not more. Keene State has always been a part of our life, so it is like home,” Daigle said.

Assistant and Clinical Professor for Safety and Occupational Health and Applied Sciences Jaime Ingalls, who according to Williams and Daigle, has been an amazing support system for the two of them, said that she met Williams in the summer of 2011 when she took over the Administrative Assistant role for the TDS Department. A year later, Ingalls said that Williams started taking classes and her daughter was moving into Fisk Hall.

Tim Smith/photo editor

Tim Smith/photo editor

“It has been a pleasure to watch the two of them complete their own journeys through the Safety and Occupational Health Applied Sciences programs. Taylor has done a fantastic job representing the local community of Keene High School graduates to go on to KSC and be successful in undergraduate programs like Safety,” Ingalls said.

Ingalls added that Williams is a spectacular example of how a determine parent can serve as an excellent role model to her children to continuously strive for educational excellence by completing her Master’s degree in Safety.

“Education is truly a family affair and begins in the home. Deb and Taylor are authentic representatives of this,” Ingalls said.

With commencement five days away, Daigle said it’s hard to put into words the feeling she has toward graduating with her mother.   

“To graduate with my best friend is amazing. To see her complete a journey that she has worked so hard on is a blessing, never mind being able to share that day with her. It is awesome to be able to say that I graduated college with my mom,” Daigle said.

Daigle said the most rewarding experience is having her mother to lean on throughout this journey, but also letting her do things on her own.

“She never hovered, she let me make mistakes and learn from them, but never failed to be there when I needed help back to my feet. I am beyond grateful to share this experience with my favorite person,” Daigle said.

Brogan Wessell can be contacted at bwessell@kscequinox.com

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