Brittany, Matt, and Amanda Lavery at Commencement

Class of 2019 Success Stories: Mother-daughter pair graduate together from BGSU

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By Kandace York

On August 17, two graduates among about 1,000 candidates who earned diplomas and certificates from Bowling Green State University share a special bond; they are mother and daughter, collecting degrees at the same ceremony.

Amanda Lavery earned the graduate title of Specialist in Education, offered through the College of Education and Human Development (EDHD). Her daughter, Brittany Warren, earned a bachelor's degree in social work through the College of Health and Human Services.

Enrolling at BGSU was a choice mother and daughter made with care, even though Dr. Matthew Lavery, Amanda's husband and Brittany's stepfather, is an assistant professor of education in EDHD.

Within the field of education, Amanda Lavery said, "BGSU has a program that is second to none," while daughter Brittany described the University as "an all-around good school" with instructors who helped shape her talents into a role the community needs.

Warren had completed previous college coursework in Florida, but she said she has preferred her experience at BGSU. When she first enrolled here, she wasn't sure of her major, but that changed with an Intro to Social Work class taught by Dr. Peggy Adams.

"I thought, 'Yes, this is what I want to do,'" she said. In the last half of her coursework, Matthew Molnar was among her favorite instructors.

Completing a practicum this summer at Lucas County Correctional Treatment Facility reinforced Warren's choice.

"I was a teacher at the high school where Brittany graduated," she said, 'and now Matt is an instructor at the University where she and I are both graduating."

"I shadowed case managers, working with people who are in sobriety and recovery programs," she said. "In some ways it was challenging, because they didn't want to be there; it wasn't their choice. But they did want to change, and that made it deeply rewarding."

She also has some advice for prospective and current students.

"Find a support network," she said. "The people you surround yourself with, whether it's your roommates — your family, your friends or people in student organizations — you need to know who they are and you can't be afraid to reach out to them for help when you need it."

Warren has accepted a job offer as case manager with A Renewed Mind, helping high school students with their mental health needs. Her degree represents three years that have strengthened her resolve to help others, although her journey has been anything but typical.

"I was already married, and my husband and I lived off campus," she said. "I also have a daughter who turned 10 months old just before commencement."

But Warren already had a role model in balancing coursework and parenting: her mother, Amanda Lavery, had completed her bachelor's degree when Brittany was just 6 years old.

As a new BGSU student, Lavery had 17 years' experience in the classroom, and she knew that she wanted to continue teaching and learning. Most of her classes at BGSU, then, were online.

"I started in 2017 and I'd take one or two at a time through the school year; then I'd take four during the summer," she said.

After graduation, Lavery starts teaching English at Start High School in Toledo, "and I start my doctoral program," she added with a laugh. "I'm looking forward to that."

Dr. Matthew Lavery presented diplomas to both of them at the August 17 ceremony. This continued a remarkable family tradition; when Brittany graduated from high school, it was her mother, Amanda, who presented her high school diploma.

"I was a teacher at the high school where Brittany graduated," she said, 'and now Matt is an instructor at the University where she and I are both graduating."