Mother, daughter share learning, graduation experience at ULM
by Matthew Hamilton, The News-Star
The 25-year-old and the 52-year-old have grown accustomed to one another’s opinions through the hours of drilling on course materials. Before big exams, The McMillans would play the respective roles of professor, write mock tests for each other and always offer critique and encouragement afterward.
“I have no problem telling her, ‘Maybe next time we’ll study a little harder,’ and she did the same for me,” Reva McMillan said. “We’ve studied so much together, I feel like I could be a nurse, like I’m practically receiving half of her degree.”
On Saturday, both mother and daughter graduated with degrees from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, two of more than 450 students who received diplomas at the ULM fall commencement at Fant-Ewing Coliseum, Reva McMillan received he bachelor’s degree in sociology and Maria McMillan received the bachelor’s degree in health sciences she needed to become a registered nurse. In her
commencement address, UL Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Elsie Burkhalter mentioned the mother and daughter as an embodiment of learning as a lifelong pursuit.
“What a wonderful example of education transcending boundaries and stereotypes,” Burkhalter said.
Burkhalter, the first woman and the first African-American to head the UL Board of Supervisors, told the graduates what she said she had always told her students when she was a classroom teacher: Education opens doors to their future.
She applauded the graduates for their degrees and joining elite company.
“Only 20 percent of Louisiana citizens hold a higher education degree,” Burkhalter said. “Less than 7 percent hold graduate degrees.”
She encouraged graduates to continue to learn even after graduation and to use their knowledge to improve their community despite the long odds they might face.
“While you’re improving yourself, you have to be an advocate to others and help them,” Burkhalter said. “Give the world the best you have, and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.”
Reva McMillan said she hopes to continue her education at Grambling State University and eventually become a social worker. She’s not sure yet what that work will be, but she has an early interest in helping high-school dropouts get degrees.
“I just want to make a difference, especially with young people,” Reva McMillan said.
Before Saturday’s ceremony, she said watching her mother would be an inspiration to help people pursue their education.
“To see her walk, it means a lot,” Reva McMillan said. “It’s not only another college student. It helps me to understand that although she’s my mom, she can learn from me while I learn from her and it never stops.”