Katherine Davis is a poster child for the importance of going back to school.

Literally.

Needing more than a high school education to advance from a teacher into childcare administration, Katherine enrolled at Randolph Community College in the late 1990s. She earned an associate’s degree in early childhood education and a small measure of local fame when her face went on a highway billboard advertising the college’s academic offerings and her own career success.

As it turned out, that was just one highlight on Katherine’s educational journey. The latest one happened this month when she walked across the stage to receive her UNCG bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

This achievement was many years in the making. It began back in 2007 when Katherine was busy serving as director of Growing Place Child Care in Asheboro and being the mother of two young children. For her childcare center to be certified as a five-star facility, she learned, she needed to earn 18 more credit hours to bolster her own credentials as director.

“So when I finished those credit hours at UNCG, I thought I was finished with school,” Davis says. “Then my supervisor and my staff encouraged me: ‘Now you’re halfway to your bachelor’s degree. Why don’t you just finish this?’”

Earning a college degree at UNCG or anywhere else had never really crossed Katherine’s mind. She was, after all, the only one of seven children in her family to earn a high school degree. Her mother’s education had ended in fifth grade.

“In my family, work was important first, then education,” she says.

But Katherine’s family had instilled in her a strong work ethic that she’d nurtured ever since her first job in a chicken house at age 15. Earning her UNCG degree put that ethic to the test.

“With how hectic it was working full-time and being a mother and caring for my mom when she was really sick, there were lots of times I wanted to quit,” she says. “There were plenty of times I had to lock myself in my bedroom to get my homework done. But UNCG was just great about being flexible and giving me the time I needed to do this. And so many people were supportive of me, especially my husband, Rayvon, and my supervisor, Janet Smith.”

“She’s earned every bit of everything that’s come her way,” says Smith, who has known Katherine for about 24 years. “She has a lot of determination, and we’re so proud of her.”

Katherine’s path to a degree grew easier when UNCG’s extensive online offerings made it possible for her to do her last two years of study from home. The deeper she got into her classes, the more valuable her new knowledge became for her work at Growing Place, where she oversees 66 children and 22 staff members.

“I really loved the education classes,” Katherine says, “because with each of them I was able to bring something – usually a lot of things, actually – back to the Growing Place to share it with my teachers and put to use myself. It was helpful for all of us.”

She’s also proud of the example she’s setting for her children, now ages 13 and 10, about the value of education and the sacrifices it takes to earn it.

“There’s this overwhelming feeling of excitement, and, more than that, a real feeling of accomplishment,” Katherine says. “This has been a true challenge that lasted for eight years. Getting to the end is amazing!”

 

 

Story by Stephen Martin, contributor

Photography by Martin W. Kane, UNCG University Relations