Mother and daughter share many parts of their lives but rarely do they share the same graduation.
For Cherrice and Jessica Dotson of Dayton, that special occasion happened on Monday during Western Nevada College’s commencement ceremony at Marv Teixeira Pavilion in Carson City.
“Mother and daughter graduating at the same time is rare,” Cherrice said. “We enjoyed having each other for support, homework help and just to vent about the ups and downs that come with each semester. I am so proud of Jessie!”
Jessica enrolled in WNC’s Jump Start program while attending Carson High School, giving her a two-year head-start on a college education compared to most high school seniors. She can now continue her education or put her associate degree to work. Meanwhile, Cherrice plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“I may not stop there,” she said.
A life-changing event steered Cherrice toward higher education, but it wasn’t easy.
“I was a stay-at-home mom for 24 years before the divorce,” she said. “After the divorce, I only had a part-time job and had to sign up for welfare. I had no college degree or work experience to help me find a good job. The unemployment rate was very high and the job market was very tight, but I was determined to make a better life for my children and myself.”
In 2012, Cherrice enrolled in WNC with the help of her son, Tim, who was attending UNR at the time. After earning an Associate of Applied Science Accounting degree at WNC, Cherrice started working at the college in 2015.
“For three years, I worked three part-time jobs and attended school full time,” Cherrice said. “We had months, usually October through December, that we had to go to the food bank because it was the time of the year that I was making very little money, which also meant that my kids received very little for Christmas. My kids understood the situation and were just happy to be together, but I struggled. This was the hardest three years of my life.”
However, the struggles that Cherrice worked through provided Jessica with the foresight to use education to better her own life.
“I believe that experience impacted Jessie, which motivated her to sign up for Jump Start and knowing that she would have a college degree before graduating high school was a plus,” Cherrice said. “Her inspiration was: ‘If mom can do it, so can I.’ My children are my rock!”
She understands the plight of single parents trying to better themselves. Her experiences as a single mother inspired her to create a scholarship for single moms through WNC’s Foundation.