Many graduating students can expect to be cheered on by their family members during commencement, but it is less ordinary for a child and parent to walk across the same stage on graduation day. College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) alumna Gerri Young (BS Computing & Security Technology) completed her degree this winter and will be walking at this week's commencement ceremony. She will get to share the unique experience of graduating alongside her daughter, Candace Young (BS Architectural Engineering). We interviewed the mother-daughter duo to learn about how meaningful it is for the pair to share this celebratory event together and find out what’s ahead for each of them.
Tell us about your family connection to Drexel – how did you both decide to attend?
GERRI: I've worked for Boeing for over 20 years. They offered 100% tuition payment to complete my bachelor’s degree, which I’d started over 10 years ago. Drexel was close enough to commute to while raising my family, and accepted the credits I’d already earned, making it possible for me to complete my degree.
CANDACE: I decided to attend Drexel due to encouragement from my Mom’s boss. Drexel was in a prime location close to home and I knew I would get a quality education after seeing my Mom’s committed loyalty to the University for so many years. When I took a tour of Drexel’s campus I knew right away that I belonged here.
You’re both finishing STEM degrees. How did you gravitate toward computing and engineering?
GERRI: I’ve always been intrigued with computers and technology. From when I was a young girl, I saved up my money to buy my first computer, which was a Commodore 64, to teach myself programming in BASIC.
CANDACE: I originally wanted to be an OB/GYN growing up, until I was in high school. I attended an after-hours engineering club at my Mom’s job where I found out what engineering truly was and I was amazed by all that I learned during the club meetings. After attending that club for four years, I felt that engineering was the right path for me and I am truly thankful to the engineering staff that ran the club.
What does it feel like to be graduating with a family member?
GERRI: I knew I had to complete my degree to be a strong role model for my children. I wanted them to see that it is possible to complete something, no matter how long it takes. As my children were growing up, they witnessed my persistence and hard work through my continuous efforts to obtain my degree. I wanted them to know that perseverance, sacrifice, dedication, and a love for what you are doing will lead you to success. It is an honor to know that I am simultaneously obtaining my degree along with my daughter, who has followed and even advanced the example that I set for her.
CANDACE: It’s a bit surreal to me. Growing up I’ve always seen my mom juggle so much, including raising two children on her own, maintaining her full-time job, and going to school. Her motivation to press on has encouraged me to continue trying when things get tough. Seeing my Mom’s endeavors come to fruition at the same time as my own is truly a blessing.
What advice do you have for young women who might be interested in STEM fields?
GERRI: I would advise young women going into a STEM field to pursue their passion with enthusiasm no matter what obstacles they may face. I would advise them to partner with other women in their fields who can motivate them. They should seek out mentorship early and maintain those connections throughout their careers.
CANDACE: I would encourage young women not to compare themselves to others. I would like them to know that everyone has their own unique path to success. Go at your own pace and take the time every so often to allow yourself to be inspired. When things get tough, reach out to people for help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions for fear of looking unintelligent. Don’t sacrifice your own success for the sake of how you may appear to others. Accept who you are and have confidence in your ability to succeed.
What are your plans for after graduation?
GERRI: I will continue working in Configuration Management for Boeing, and I plan to use my degree to advance my career opportunities. As an alumna, I have joined the Drexel University Black Alumni Council (DUBAC) to give back to other minorities attending my alma mater.
CANDACE: After graduation, I will be working at a consulting engineering company. I would also like to explore opportunities to give back to my community and be part of a program that encourages young people to go into STEM related fields.