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Mother’s struggle to achieve inspires daughter as both graduate from Gaston College

Going to the same college together challenged a Charlotte mother and daughter.

Both had full-time jobs and plenty of other demands, including a relative on dialysis. Also, the classes were in Gaston County.

But Tammie Davis, 43, and daughter Brittani Manning, 22, had visions of a better life and saw education as the key to getting there.

They carpooled to the Dallas campus of Gaston College. Between classes, they met for breakfast or lunch. Manning tutored her mother in math. Both encouraged and supported each other. They shared a difficult but rewarding journey.

Tuesday, mother and daughter will receive college diplomas during Gaston College’s 2013 Spring Graduation Ceremony at Bojangles’ Coliseum.

“When I’m on stage, I’ll be thinking: ‘I finally did it,’ ” said Davis, the mother of eight children. “And I’ll thank God for giving me the strength and determination to do this. There were a lot of obstacles along the way, but I jumped every last one of the hurdles – and I’m still jumping.”

A high school dropout, Davis earned a GED at Gaston College before embarking on a two-year degree program in human services technology. Currently, she manages a dry cleaner’s, but plans to become a social worker. She’s already working on a bachelor’s degree at Pfeiffer University.

On May 7, her 25-year-old daughter, Demetrish Buie, earned a GED from Gaston College.

Manning, current student government president at Gaston College, will be getting a two-year degree in early childhood education. She plans to attend UNC Charlotte and wants to become a second-grade teacher.

During her time at Gaston College, Manning served as student government secretary and vice president before being elected president this year. She also was on the board of trustees.

“She’s made a real impact at the college through her leadership,” said Gaston College President Patricia Skinner. “She and her mother are both very motivated. I’m really excited for them about being able to accomplish their goal. They’re role models for each other and for others as well.”

Tutoring in math

At the 7 p.m. graduation ceremony Tuesday, Manning’s thoughts will flash back to 2009 when she graduated from East Mecklenburg High.

She was the first person on her mother’s side of the family to get a high school diploma.

“The whole family was there,” Manning said. “It was a big deal. Like a dream.”

Manning’s mother, who’d dropped out of Harding High School in the ninth grade when she’d gotten pregnant, saw to it that her daughter stuck to her studies.

“She said, ‘There are no missing days, no sick days,’ ” Manning recalled, “ ‘If you wake up, you go to school.’ I never goofed off.”

Missing that graduation night was Manning’s father, who’d died six months earlier from a massive heart attack.

He’d also pushed her to stay in school.

“Graduation was bittersweet,” Manning said. “I wished he was there.”

After high school, Manning had no college plans. She wanted to take time off and relax – a few months, maybe even a year.

But her mother had other ideas.

“Mom said there’d be no relaxing,” Manning said. “She told me, ‘You’re going to Gaston College.’ ”

By then, Davis was already getting her GED at Gaston College.

Seeing how hard her mother worked motivated Manning to be a better college student. She encouraged her mom to hang in and go after an applied associates degree.

“I helped her in math,” Manning said. “Math isn’t her thing. The algebra part gets her. But she tackled it. She wasn’t easy to tutor. I’d say, ‘Oh my gosh, mom, why don’t you get it?’ ”

While attending Gaston College, Manning worked two jobs – as a food/beverage supervisor at Carowinds and as an after-school counselor at the YMCA on West Franklin Boulevard in Gastonia.

Mutual respect

For Davis, succeeding in college was a must. She thought of her own mother, who’d done the best she could without any education. And she remembered leaving school as a teenager with plans to someday return – plans that never seemed to work out.

At home, Davis was a caretaker for her second husband, who was diabetic and on dialysis. The dry-cleaning job was demanding. But once she got into college, Davis planned to stick with it.

“I kept saying, ‘I’m doing this,’ ” she recalled. “ ‘I won’t stop until I finish.’ ”

Davis said she made it to graduation thanks to her husband’s “love, patience and support.”

Sharing the college experience has increased mutual respect between mother and daughter.

“We were already close,” Davis said. “But this has brought us even closer.”

DePriest: 704-868-7745
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