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Mother and Son to Receive Ashford University Degrees on Same Day
Mother will receive graduate degree while son will receive undergraduate degree

May 5, 2013 will be a day to remember for Joseph Lightfoot as he receives a bachelor’s degree in sports and recreation management from Ashford University. Sitting in the audience of that morning’s commencement ceremony will be his mother, Claudia Cattage. Five hours later, their roles will be reversed as Lightfoot watches Cattage receive a master of arts degree in education with a specialization in early childhood education at that afternoon’s commencement ceremony. Both the 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Ashford ceremonies will be held at the i wireless Center in Moline, Ill.

“I think it is absolutely amazing, just a blessing to be graduating from college the same day as my mommy,” the Kankakee, Ill. student said. “It’s really special to me because she was the one who instilled in me as a young boy that I would graduate from college and make great things for myself, so to be doing it with her is unbelievable. I just thank God. I am so proud of her and all her accomplishments.”

And, of course, Cattage is equally as proud of her son. “As a parent, I’m very proud of Joseph and what he has accomplished. During this educational experience, I watched in amazement as he matured. Joseph’s faith, audacity, resilience, and hard work speak to who he is as a man. Standing beside him to celebrate our successes is nothing short of wonderful,” she said.

Lightfoot transferred to Ashford University’s Clinton, Iowa campus as a junior to play on Coach Oliver Drake’s men’s basketball team. “Ashford started off for me as just about basketball,” he said. After graduating from a community college, he said he “began to be recruited by the coaching staff and decided to come (to Ashford), but what kept me here was the close knit relationship feel you get on campus. Just about everyone knows each other and looks out and supports one another.”

“College basketball was an experience that I will never forget,” he said. So many relationships were formed from going through good times and adversities that came along the journey.”

His mother chose Ashford’s online program to earn her master’s degree. “I chose to attend Ashford University because the program offered quality courses that were relevant to my major,” she said. “Online classes offered me the benefits of a flexible schedule, networking with a wide range of classmates, and learning through innovative strategies.” She completed her degree in 18 months.

“I feel that my educational experience at Ashford has prepared me to be a leader in the field of early childhood education,” she said. “As a result of the notable instruction, rigorous course work and shared learning experiences, I believe that I’m able to take initiative in promoting high quality early childhood experiences for children.”

Cattage, who lives in Chicago, said her children – Joseph, 22; Joi, 19 and Ashleigh, 15 – were her greatest supporters during her educational experiences. “My three children go above and beyond to encourage me; an example of their supportive strategies is the time they collectively saved their allowances to send me to a spa resort for some relaxation during winter break!”

Cattage is employed by the Ounce of Prevention Fund as an Early Head Start lead teacher. The early child care center is located in Chicago's Grand Boulevard neighborhood and serves approximately 150 at-risk children from birth to kindergarten age.

“Education has always been a huge part of our family’s mission, vision and values. In my opinion it’s not enough to convey the importance of education to my children in word,” said Cattage. “I made a personal commitment to continuous improvement and mastery of learning, to serve as an example for my children. Earning my degree will allow me to explore new opportunities to positively impact the lives of young children and families. More importantly, my accomplishment will improve the lives of my children and future generations.”

Lightfoot also knows the importance of education and will continue his after receiving his undergraduate diploma on May 5. “After graduation I plan to join the online master’s program with Ashford while pursuing the career of being a coach at my former high school back home in Kankakee (Ill.)”


About Ashford University

Ashford University is defining the modern college experience by combining the heritage of a traditional campus with the flexibility and effectiveness of online learning. The University provides a vibrant learning community where high-quality programs and leading-edge technology create a dynamic, immersive and stimulating learning experience. The University offers practical and progressive associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs online, as well as bachelor’s degree programs at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. Ashford University – where heritage meets innovation. For more information, please visit or call Shari Winet Rodriguez, vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.