Webster's first African-American graduate underwent struggles with the Catholic community as well as national segregation…
A mother’s milestone
Non-traditional student Shannon Hicks and her daughter graduate in the same year
At 32, Shannon Hicks was finally ready to attend college. As a working mother at 18, Hicks’ part-time pay didn’t suffice for college tuition.
“I had my oldest daughter my senior year of high school, it was really hard to go to school and work part time to maintain financial stability,” Hicks said. “I didn’t rely on public assistance, so I had to put (college) on hold until I was able to attend and still earn a full-time wage.”
Hicks felt she had defaulted on her dream of going to college, but didn’t want having a baby stop her from achieving a degree. She decided to attend Webster University in 2008 because she wanted to make a better life for her and her children, and have a career instead of a job.
“I also want to accomplish walking across the stage in my cap and gown, something I did not get to experience when I was in high school,” Hicks said. “I want my girls to see that mommy put her best foot forward and accomplished a goal, no matter how hard it has been or how my circumstances have played out.”
Graduation day on May 12 will be a special one for Hicks, not only because she graduates with a bachelor’s degree from Webster, but because her daughter Demi Lewis will have already graduated from Kirkwood High School. Her graduation ceremony is on Saturday, Dec. 19.
“I believe that things happen in God’s timing and that she and I graduating together will also have a great impact on my youngest daughter (Indea, 13),” Hicks said. “Maybe she and I will graduate together as well if I decide to get my master’s.”
One of Hicks’ biggest cheerleaders is the person who grew up with her, her 17-year-old daughter. Lewis works part time at the Magic House, is a member of the National Honor Society and wants to attend Howard University to study medicine.
She’s happy her mom graduates around the same time she does because it’s more of a rea son to celebrate.
“I’m very proud of my mom; she’s been working hard at this for a while and never allows school and work stop her from being a supportive and involved mom,” Lewis said.
During the work week Hicks’ day starts at 7 a.m and doesn’t end until midnight. This schedule leaves little time for her daughters and even less time for a social life.
Hicks credits her supportive parents that help out with her daughters during the week.
“The girls get out of school and go to my parents’ house, where both grandma and grandpa are there, so Demi doesn’t have to take on the ‘adult’ role after school because there are adults there,” Hicks said. “I try not to place the ‘look after your sister’ role on Demi, but she does it naturally, because they are each other’s constant.”
Hicks said she chose Webster because of its great communications reputation.
“At the time, Webster University was the only school locally that I could obtain my bachelor’s degree in media communications and still be able to work full-time to provide for my family,” Hicks said.
Hicks took two semesters off to work as a public relations and logistic coordinator for Missouri Institute of Mental Health’s Girls Holla Back! Program, an HIV, AIDS and substance abuse prevention program. The grant-funded program runs under University of Missouri-St. Louis’ School of Medicine and Research. The group serves African American girls ages 12 to 17 in the St. Louis area and their adult female family members.
She enjoys helping girls who are the same age as her two daughters and giving back to the community through education. Because she took two semesters off, Hicks had to move back her graduation date.
“It is somewhat bittersweet,” Hicks said. “I had to take a break earlier this year due to conflicts with my full-time job’s programming scheduling. I am happy that the memory will be shared and will likely have a greater special effect about the importance of getting an education.”
Hicks feels she will appreciate getting her degree more now that she is older and wiser because of her life experiences.
“I think graduating with a degree means more to an older individual who has lived a little, than it does to someone that hasn’t experienced the hardships of the world without a degree,” Hicks said.