Thursday, June 22, 2023 Osceola Gazette
While the Class of 2023 celebrated the accomplishment of graduation earlier this year, the support of their families always shows as they walk across the stage. However, a most special aspect of graduating occurs when you get to graduate with the ones you love.
Mother and daughter duo Joni Dougherty and Jacklyn Dougherty got the honor of graduating at the same time.
Joni graduated from St. Thomas University of Miami with her doctorate in Education, while Jacklyn graduated from Valencia College with her associate in arts degree in General Studies. Jacklyn will pursue her bachelor’s degree at the University of Florida in the fall. This was the year that their education paths finally aligned. Joni, 48, graduated high school in 1992 in New York, and went straight into the work force. “College was not an option. I had to get a job to work for myself,” she said. “When I was in my late 20s, I moved back to Florida, and I gave birth to Jacklyn. It wasn’t until she reached the second grade, where we talked about going to college.”
Jacklyn said she recalled, “Our talks as we walked to the Kissimmee downtown library, to study.”
Joni enrolled at Valencia at age 29, graduated in 2012, and went on to UCF via DirectToConnect and earned a Bachelor degree in 2015 and a Masters degree 2019. To hear Joni tell the story, it was a team effort.
When I started Valencia, I didn’t know what I wanted, I just knew that I always wanted to get my Doctorate in education,” Joni said. “I just didn’t know how to do that. When I got my bachelor’s degree from UCF, I continued with my master’s in nonprofit management. I was on the fast road. It seemed like it was a long time, but I kept going even if it was hard. My daughter helped me. We would read books together, doing each other’s schoolwork, going to the local library, and just getting it done.
“After my Master’s degree, I got into the Doctorate of Education program. This was really hard. I had to write a dissertation paper, plus take classes. It was a lot of work. But I had Jacklyn read out my papers to see what needed to be fixed. It was like the odds were against me. But my daughter and I made a pact that we were never going to quit. She kept me going. And when I passed my classes, we would celebrate those little milestones. We work as a team together, and it’s exciting.”
Jacklyn graduated from Osceola High School in 2020 — the year COVID-19 interrupted everything.
“I will never forget that. I wanted to start at Valencia; I always follow my mom’s path in a sense,” she said. “She got her associate degree from Valencia, and now I got mine from there too. Now that I’m done, I’m going to get my bachelor’s degree, because my mom got her Doctorate. We are both thrilled she did it to become the Doctor she dreamt of becoming.
“So, she’s setting the bar higher, so now I have to achieve my Doctorate’s degree. But I’m going to accomplish it with my mom by my side.”
Jacklyn, who plans to major in management at UF, said her and Joni are a matched set.
“Me and my mom actually vlog together. We are always together,” she said. “She’s always there by my side, encouraging me with my ideas. And that’s all about me.
Joni said it’s been thrilling for the two to graduate together this year.
“Some people reach milestones by themselves, and that is exciting. But the fact that we’re reaching this milestone together, I think that it’s the most exciting for us,” she said. “We keep talking about this being the year for us. We are just excited, to the point we bought graduation jewelry in pairs from Pandora. We were able to buy everything in two.”
Jacklyn called it “a dream come true.”
“I always calculated when we would graduate together. This is the first and only one that landed together,” she said. “I checked my degree audit like a hawk just to make sure that I got everything together, so that I can graduate with my mom. After calculating for a long time, we finally reached the milestone together!”
Both said their journey brought them closer as mother and daughter, and they can’t wait to achieve more together.
Congratulations to those two, and congratulations to the Class of 2023