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For this mom and daughter, graduation day meant DOUBLE the excitement

Like any proud mom, Debra Carver can’t say enough about her daughter, Megan Shelton, who graduated from East Tennessee State University over the weekend.
“It’s every parent’s dream to see their children finish college, and she’s gone through a lot to get here,” Carver said. “It seems like just yesterday I was getting her ready for kindergarten.”
But unlike that day so many years ago when Carver sent her daughter off for her first day of school, college graduation day was different. This time around, Carver, 45, went with her.
Both mom and daughter were among the 1,300 individuals to earn diplomas at Saturday’s ceremonies.
“I was a high school dropout. I dropped out my sophomore year and that seemed to stick with me all my life,” Carver said. “So I decided to change that.”
Carver received her GED, the equivalent of a high school diploma, in 1995, and shortly thereafter, began taking college courses. She earned an associate’s degree first, from Northeast State Community College, and then moved to ETSU in 2007.
“I have raised three children and worked two jobs while, at the same time, putting myself through school,” Carver said. “Is it easy? No. But if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”
Shelton, Carver’s oldest daughter, grew up watching her mom chip away at a bachelor’s degree, taking classes whenever she could fit them in.
“I never dreamed we’d be graduating together. I’m just so proud of her,” Shelton said. “It wasn’t easy, but we did it. We were kind of each other’s support system.”
Shelton, a 2006 graduate of David Crockett High School, was in her first semester of college when she discovered she was pregnant and her baby had a major heart defect.
“His doctors all told me there was no way I could continue with school, but I didn’t want to quit,” Shelton said. “My son had his first open heart surgery at three days old. There have been a lot of times I’ve had to do finals at the ICU, in his room with him.”
Despite her son’s health problems, which include a stroke at age 2, Shelton managed to stay on track, earning her bachelor’s degree in early childhood development just one semester later than she originally planned.
With just 17 credit hours to go before the start of last semester, Shelton’s mom decided to finish her schooling at the same time as her daughter, making one last push for the finish line.
With a degree in cross disciplinary studies and a minor in social work, Carver hopes to soon get a job doing some kind of social work. But even if she doesn’t, Carver already considers her journey a success.
“If I never worked a single day using my degree, I’m still satisfied because I’ve got my college education,” Carver said. “It just goes to show you, you never get too old to learn.”