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Single mom of 4 earns PhD from North Carolina A&T

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- It was Mother’s Day weekend when Sharita Mathis-Lawson experienced the moment she worked three years to achieve.

She earned a doctor of philosophy in leadership studies from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

“We got on the stage and they gave me my hood and I got my certificate and I was just like, it’s done, I’m done,” she said.

Earning a Ph.D. is quite the achievement considering the demanding workload and time commitment that’s required.

Lawson’s achievement is inspiring others also because she earned her doctoral degree as a single mother raising four daughters – ranging in ages from 3 to 19.

She was divorced and experienced a failed relationship afterward.

Lawson says education has become a way for her to rebuild herself.

There were times when she felt guilty balancing being a Ph.D. student with being a mom.

“My girls have been in cheerleading for years and this was the first time that I missed competitions,” Lawson said.

When her daughters sat in on her final dissertation defense, she could see the payoff in her sacrifice.

“One of my daughter’s says, ‘I don’t know anything they’re talking about, but I know they’re really smart,'” Lawson said.

“She [says], ‘I want to be just like them when I grow up and because they’re African-American and I get to see it.’”

Lawson hopes other women will be motivated to pursue their goals no matter where they are in life and she remains encouraged by what a mentor once told her.

“No one can ever tell them that something is impossible because they saw you do it and it’s not a myth, it’s not a theory, it’s not a story. This is what they lived. They lived their mother doing what seems to be impossible.”

Lawson is an adjunct professor in the College of Education at North Carolina A&T.

She earned her Ph.D. without any debt. It was covered with scholarship money and a stipend.