December 19, 2014  

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Mother, Daughter to Graduate Together at Southern Miss

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Amanda McKay, left, and Tracy McKay.

With commencement quickly approaching at The University of Southern Mississippi, two students, Tracy and Amanda McKay, have a unique story about their experience together at the university. The two are mother and daughter, respectively, working on a degree in tourism management and will graduate together Dec. 13.

Tracy and her husband moved to Picayune, Miss. from San Diego in 2006 through his job in the military. Tracy and Amanda both studied at Pearl River Community College (PRCC) at different times and later Tracy’s husband, and son, graduated from the school together.

“There was a point all five of us were in college at the same time,” said Amanda. Tracy added: “It was very stressful in our household during finals.”

Tracy began at Southern Miss in 2011. With encouragement from her husband to finish her degree, Tracy met with Dr. Catherine Price, a casino, hospitality and tourism management professor, and she said, “you are either going to have your degree in two years or you are not.”

“That’s when the light bulb went off and I decided to come back to school,” Tracy said.

Later Amanda would join her at Southern Miss, and the two drive an hour from Picayune every day for class.

Amanda began as a psychology major, but after completing most of her basic classes in her major, she met with Price and decided to switch to tourism management with her mother.  “She was born to be in this major,” Tracy said as she looked at her daughter. “She is so hospitable and has this bright smile that lights up a room.”

Though it has not been all smiles for them throughout the past two years, they shared their secret to finishing the semester strong. “This semester has been the hardest, but I have my mom and she is what got me through,” said Amanda.

As a full-time student, Amanda is taking eight classes and working five days a week as a server, all while eight months pregnant with her first child, a girl she will name Ayla.

She says every day is the stressful routine of school, work, and then homework and studying. Tracy says Amanda has an “unbelievable work ethic” and “thrives on the stress.”

“It is going to be worth it to tell her [Ayla] what I went through to get here when she is born. I want to be a good role model,” said Amanda. “I want to tell her ‘don’t quit and finish what you start.’”

Their favorite quote that has helped get them through the semester is “suffer now and live like a champion later,” which they repeat that to each other whenever things are tough.

Tracy always says, “You can’t help how you feel about things, but you can help what you do about them.”

“I have pushed myself through so much already; quitting is not an option,” said Amanda. “Not in our family. McKays don’t quit.”