Dual Doctorates: Mother, Daughter from Texas Want to Inspire Teen Girls

March 12, 2013 / by / 0 Comment

By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau 

Geraldine Davis knows all about the challenges facing teenage mothers as they try to continue their education.

More than 30 years ago, she was that teen mom.

After Geraldine gave birth to her daughter, LaTonya, she refused to give up on college or a career. Her parents in Tulsa, Okla., cared for the girl while Geraldine earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from Oklahoma State University, graduating in 1983. Mother and child moved within a year to the Dallas area, where Geraldine found work teaching children with learning disabilities.

Doctoral learners LaTonya (left) and Geraldine Davis expect to receive their degrees together late this year.

She’s still there, teaching at Robert T. Hill Middle School in the Dallas Independent School District, and what a story she has to tell.

“It was difficult, but it can be done,” says Geraldine, 52, who went on to earn master’s degrees in education administration and special education from Grand Canyon University and is tracking to receive a doctorate, also from GCU, in organizational leadership this summer.

And little LaTonya? Now 34, she has a bachelor’s in business administration from Texas Southern University and a master’s in leadership from GCU and is on pace to receive the same doctorate as her mother from GCU in the summer.

If you’re keeping score, that’s two women, six doctoral residencies, four degrees from GCU — and one huge inspiration to us all.

“We basically grew up together,” Geraldine says of their close bond. Both are members of the Southwest Dallas County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a predominantly African-American sorority of college-educated women.

There’s more. Geraldine married LaTonya’s father, Charles Davis, in 1986, and their two sons — Eric, 24, and Deric, 20 —  also know the meaning of hitting the books. Eric graduated magna cum laude from Morehouse College in kinesiology, health and physical education and is taking pre-med classes toward becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Deric is studying criminal justice and playing football at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

“Education is so vital to success,” Geraldine says. “It determines your livelihood. … My inspiration was my children. I had to be a model for them, so that they’d be even more successful than me. I was the first of five siblings to graduate from college.

“We’re beginning a legacy.”

To hear them tell it, Geraldine and LaTonya are just getting warmed up. Their goal is to launch a nonprofit organization that will provide services and support for teen mothers.

“The vision has a three-point thrust of career, health and education,” Geraldine says. “We want to motivate and encourage them to pursue their dreams and goals.”

LaTonya, who is on the staff of St. John Church in Grand Prairie, Texas, where Geraldine also is a member, says the women have observed an aching need in the Dallas area and plan to start locally.

“We see teen pregnancies every day,” she says. “They don’t know what to do. They need the moral support, someone as an example. Their mother may not have been a teen mother.

“(A college education) may not be for everyone, but everyone needs to have a successful career to be able to provide for their family.”

Geraldine acknowledges that she benefited from the assistance of her parents, Gerald and Mary Reynolds, who recognized that their daughter was destined to go places in life. LaTonya says there’s no better mentor for young women who are at a crossroads than one who has been at that difficult place herself.

“My mother is such a wonderful example to all three of her children,” LaTonya says. “She’s a tough act to follow.”

Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or doug.carroll@gcu.edu.


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