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Chynekqua “Chae” Lott (left) and her mother, Orlando Davis, will graduate together from Thomas University on Saturday, May 11.


Mother, daughter overcome challenges to graduate together

By Joshua Barrett, Student writer

It’s not every year a mother and daughter graduate together from college. This year Thomas University students and Thomasville natives Orlando Davis and Chynekqua “Chae” Lott have done that. The duo – both veterans and nontraditional students – will graduate May 11. Davis will receive a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology Degree. Lott will receive a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.

Davis graduated from Thomasville High School in 1988. She then joined the U.S. Army. After her military career ended, Davis worked and raised a family. Her long hours of work made her realize it was time to go back to school for better job opportunities.

TU’s location made it a convenient option for Davis. Once on campus she realized what TU had to offer.

“The people I met at TU were wonderful,” Davis said. “I could name a long list of individuals who helped me through it all.”

Especially helpful to Davis was Stephen Ferguson, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management.

“Stephen Ferguson was a God-send,” Davis said. “He helped me with raising funds that would eventually pay for my tuition so I could attend TU.”

In the beginning, being a TU student wasn’t easy. Classes were difficult. Davis struggled after being out of school for a long time while serving in the military, but a few faculty and staff kept her focused and on the right path, she said.

“I used to sit down and have heart-to-heart conversations with my academic adviser, Jen Silva,” Davis said. “Without her guidance, I wouldn’t have known what classes to take. She took time out of her day to sit down with me and walk me through it all.”

Dr. Steve DePaola, Professor of Psychology, was one of Davis’ professors. He said he knew there was something special about Davis when she first walked into one of his classrooms.

“The word that reminds me the most of Orlando is perseverance,” DePaola said. “Orlando had all sorts of obstacles thrown at her during her education, but still she still forged ahead. She is a sociable and gregarious individual who makes everyone around her feel welcome and important. It was a pleasure to have her as a psychology student.”

Davis’ family also helped her along the way.

“Without them none of this would be possible,” she said. “Once I was working and my computer crashed. I believed all of my stuff was gone, so I went to work and began to panic. I got home from work, and my two daughters had come together and purchased me a brand new computer so I could get back to doing my schoolwork. At that exact moment, I knew I would never give up. I was going to finish my degree.”

Davis currently works at the Apalachee Center in Tallahassee, Florida. After graduating, she plans to continue her education by pursuing a master’s degree.

Graduating in the same Commencement ceremony with her daughter adds to the celebration.

 “I am ecstatic to graduate with my daughter,” Davis said.

Lott said she is excited to graduate with her mom. Her original plan was to graduate last year, but everything worked out so that now she will graduate with her mother.

Lott, who also graduated from Thomasville High School, attended another university after high school for a year and then decided to join the U.S. Air Force.

After medically retiring from the Air Force, Lott said she was nervous to return to school, but being in the military prepared her. That’s where she learned patience and time management. 

While juggling being a full-time student, Lott also ran her own business and worked as the team manager for the TU Men’s Basketball Team.

 “She is an amazing human being,” said Head Men’s Basketball Coach Brenton Crews. “Chae is still serving our country proudly. She does so much for the community and people around her. She has a huge heart and loves everyone. We need more people like her in the world to make it a better place.”

Mina Haretos, Instructor of Business, taught many of Lott’s classes.

“Not everyone follows the same traditional path to education, and Chae is no exception,” Haretos said. “She has persevered and worked hard for her degree. Her involvement with the TU basketball team also speaks to her motivation to be a part of our university community. Her military experience set her apart and owning her own business now is impressive!”

Lott combined her love of children and love of dance into a business, Dance-A-Lott Studio in Thomasville.

Lott said she struggles with PTSD and depression after leaving the military ,but she hasn’t allowed them to stop her. The faculty and staff at TU helped push her through.

“I would sit with Coach Crews and Professor Haretos for hours and talk,” Lott said. “They listened and didn’t judge me. It helped me get through all the hard times while I pursued my degree.”

Haretos said, “I'm very happy to see Chae graduating, especially alongside her mother! I know family means a lot to her, and this will make the day even more significant and meaningful.”

After graduation, Lott plans to put her degree to work.

“The lessons and information I learned will help propel my business to the next level,” she said.

Both mother and daughter said they benefitted from TU’s commitment to military veterans.

“This school is a school for veterans,” Davis said.

When it comes to pursuing a degree, Lott gave this advice.

 “Don’t ever give up,” she said.

TU’s Commencement ceremony will be held at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, May 11, on the Forbes Campus.

Education that Engages... Empowers... TRANSFORMS

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