At 78 years old, Geneva Patterson isn’t the typical rapper.
Patterson is the guardian of her 10-year-old grandson Anthony, a fifth-grader at Guyton Elementary School. She comes up with fun ways to help Anthony with his homework, including making up a rap or some other type of song.
“I would rap it, and he always remembered it,” Patterson said. “When I didn’t do that, he didn’t do as well. It works.”
It’s a technique she learned last year through the inaugural Parent University-Effingham, in a course on motivating children to reach their potential.
The second year of Effingham County’s Parent University began Saturday with recognition of some of its top participants from the first year. Patterson and 10 others donned caps and gowns and received their diplomas as the program’s first class of graduates.
“What a wonderful day for Effingham County,” said Franklin Goldwire, dean of Parent University-Effingham. “Graduating the first class really brings it to the point we were working toward, and that was to provide something for the county that was needed and would provide a real service to the parents and students of the county.”
Parent University is a partnership between the Springfield Central High School Association and Effingham County School System to promote parental involvement in education. The graduates earned 15 course credits by attending Parent University sessions and volunteering at school events during the 2012-13 academic year.
Eva Cross took it a step further, earning 25 credits. For that, she was recognized as Effingham’s first honor graduate.
Asked why being involved is so important to her, Cross gave a simple answer: “I have an 11-year-old son.”
Cross initially participated in Parent University to learn more about the Effingham County School System’s curriculum. She said the coursework for her son Nathaniel, now a sixth-grader at Ebenezer Middle, became more difficult than they expected as new evaluation standards were implemented each year.
“We are in competition with the global world, and because of that, they had to do harder core classes for him to take,” Cross said. “They are really hard, and I wanted to know so I could help him with his homework.”
While some of the Parent University graduates hadn’t worn a cap and gown in decades, Lena Dobson donned it in 2010 when she received her bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Voorhees College. Going back to school and earning a degree meant a great deal to Dobson, whose son had dropped out of high school years earlier.
Dobson said she stressed the importance of education to children she taught at a daycare center in South Carolina before she moved to Effingham. Her youngest daughter Ayanna is now a junior at Effingham County High and, Dobson said, is very committed to making good grades.
“I encourage any child to keep their mind set on finishing school,” Dobson said. “The worst thing you could do is drop out of school. Even if you don’t go to college, get the high school diploma — because, if you don’t get that, you’re just done.”
Cross is setting an example for her son — and other students — by not resting on her laurels. After receiving her diploma, she was right back in the classroom to begin another year of Parent University.
“It was an accomplishment for which I’m not through,” she said. “I’m going to go to more classes this year, and next year, because I want to be able to help him. I’m not stopping.”
Parent University graduates
Petronia Addison, Judith Beauchane, Loraine Claxton, Eva Cross, Kathy Deason, Lena Dobson, Brandi Lee, Geneva Patterson, Crystal Russell, Tracy Russell and Juanita Williams.