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Victorville Mother, Son, Grandson Graduate – Together

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Cal State San Bernardino graduates 3,000 students

By Chris Levister –

When Karen Diane Ready walked across the stage at Cal State University San Bernardino Saturday to receive her bachelor’s degree in English-creative writing, she earned an induction into the rare air of achievement.

Not only did the 67-year-old Victorville mother graduate with honors she shared the stage with her son and grandson. They didn't plan it this way, but life events brought all three to the same college campus, from which they had the coincidental delight of graduating together.

Her son Garrett Leighton Willis, 29 received his degree in environmental studies from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Ready’s grandson, Gerren David Willis, is on track to receive his computer science degree from the College of Natural Sciences in December 2011. Both Gerren and Garrett were granted special permission to walk during Ready’s ceremony in the College of Arts and Letters.

“I’m thankful, blessed, it’s exciting … It’s incredible to have three generations walking at commencement the same day. This is truly a family affair,” said Ready who is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

More than 3,000 students received their degrees during graduation ceremonies which began Thursday at the college’s Palm Desert campus concluding Saturday with two ceremonies at Coussoulis Arena in San Bernardino.

Ready’s journey across the commencement stage came with its share of twists and turns. She retired as a registered nurse in 2005 to spend time with her husband Burley.

Unfortunately she says, “God had other plans for me and my family. Burley passed away shortly after I retired.”

With no desire to return to work, Ready went back to college at San Diego State University in 2006. She transferred to CSUSB after the family moved to Victorville.

“I discovered that I loved to write.” She plans to write books that shed light on the history of people of African descent. “There are significant historical misconceptions in English and American literature.

Africans and Black people throughout the world have a responsibility to tell their own stories, celebrate and promote their cultures and achievements.

This, in my view will contribute to changing people's perceptions and attitudes towards people of African descent.” Ready says she plans to pursue a master of fine arts degree in writing at CSUSB.

“It's a motivating experience to see my mother get her degree,” Garrett Willis said.

“Education has always been important in our family. I never doubted she would graduate, but I could not have dreamed that we would be walking the commencement stage together. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this incredible journey.”

He says while he plans to pursue a graduate degree in environmental science, his immediate goal is to plunge into the rise of vertical farming. He says the concept of growing crops in urban skyscrapers would use less water and fossil fuel than outdoor farming, eliminate agricultural runoff, and provide fresh food.

Gerren Willis plans to pursue his graduate degree in computer science. His career has already gotten a kick start. He and several classmates are developing a video game for the X-Box 360.

“As a family we believe the trick in life is to decide what’s your major aim – whether it’s to become an environmental scientist, fly a plane or become the world’s best father,” he said.

“Once that’s settled, you can get on with the happy orderly process of achieving it.”

Tonia Willis-Shaheed, Ready’s daughter and Gerren’s mother is a special education teacher at Werner Elementary School in Rialto.

“She was our biggest cheerleader. She always believed we could do this,” said Gerren.

While some children go to college to escape their parents, Garrett Willis said he and his nephew enjoyed having Ready on campus.

“Mom not only inspired us to achieve, she taught us to fall in love with learning. She fine tuned the art of parenting and teaching from the heart. I guess that would make her a Superwoman.”

“It’s nice to have your son believe in what you’re doing,” Ready said. “I don’t know how many mothers and sons have that kind of relationship where we’re like good friends rather than just mother and son.”

“I’m blessed, I really am,” she said. “I think most would agree this is a life changing moment, a testament to believing in you and what you can do. You have to believe in the goals that you strive to pursue. With your special talents and unique gifts you have the ability to make your dreams come true.”

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