Texas Tech University

Candace in a mustace face mask and Makayla in a cat face mask
Candace transferred Makayla to TTU K-12 as a result of the pandemic.

Mother-Daughter Duo Take on High School Together

Candace and Makayla attend a Texas Rangers baseball game.

By Leslie Cranford, Section Manager

Candace and Makayla attend a Texas Rangers baseball game.

High school senior Candace Cox is on a mission to prove something to herself, her daughter and anyone else watching. She and her ninth-grade daughter Makayla are diploma-bound, both enrolled in Texas Tech University High School.

Makayla has been enrolled in online school through TTU K-12 since seventh grade. Candace was not ready to send her back to public school so soon after Texas dropped its mask mandate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Having had COVID twice, I thought the mask mandate was lifted too soon. I searched for online schools for her and found TTU K-12,” Candace explained. “Also, my uncle went to school at Texas Tech University a long time ago and I thought it would be cool that they both went to Texas Tech.”

For her own experience so far with Texas Tech High School, Makayla has learned some things over and above academics, and she has had the freedom to help with family needs.

“Aside from the coursework, I've learned to be more responsible for myself, to manage my time better and to be more independent,” Makayla said. “That I can do my assignments anytime and still have time to help my mom with my nephew Elijah is a bonus.”

Courtney McKnight, a TTU K-12 teacher, said both Makayla and Candace work extremely hard to stay on track in their respective programs, and McKnight ensures they stay connected.

Daughter Makayla, ninth grade.

Daughter Makayla, ninth grade.

“I meet with Makayla regularly and she is just a wonderful student. Her first questions to me every time we meet are asking about my day and how I am feeling,” McKnight said. “She very much enjoys cooking and is extremely excited to take her culinary arts class this semester.”

Having dropped out of high school herself, Candace had been paying attention to what Makayla was able to learn and accomplish, even as a teenager. 

“We all make choices in life, some good and some bad, and the decision to drop out of high school was one of the worst ones I have made,” Candace admitted.

Then, in the fall semester of 2022, TTU K-12 received a grant from the Texas Workforce Commission to offer a free adult education program for adult learners to either finish a high school diploma or earn a GED. Candace knew what she needed to do.

“This program has given me the chance to make the right decision; I decided to get my diploma because I wanted to prove to myself that I can finish something I started and move on to the next step,” Candace said. “That next step is to go to college and get a degree in business or marketing.”

Rachel Draper, the grant director for the TTU K-12 adult learning diploma program, met Candace at the beginning of the enrollment process.

“Candace was the first student to enroll in our new adult learning program,” Draper said. “In speaking with her about the program, my excitement grew when I heard her daughter was also a student in TTU K-12. Her story is like so many who faced challenges as a teenager and chose to drop out of high school. I could hear in her voice deep regret of this decision she made many years ago, but her desire to graduate is on fire.”

Mom Candace, senior.

Mom Candace, senior.

In a traditional high school, going to class with a parent would be awkward at best, humiliating at the very least. But since TTU K-12 is entirely online, that doesn't seem to be an issue for Candace and Makayla. Quite the contrary.

“It's actually not bad at all,” Candace said. “Because it's all virtual, it's OK, but if we were in an actual school setting, I'm pretty sure Makayla would think it a little weird if I took classes with her.”

Candace said they have had many ups and downs, from assignments to finals and everything in between.

“This has been a learning experience for both of us, and it has not been easy,” Candace said. “But it's a great experience. I would not take this back for the world. I get to spend the most time with her and it's awesome.”

As her adviser, Draper agrees that for Candace, becoming a student again has not been easy as a full-time working mom, but she is willing to make the sacrifices to complete what she started.

“Candace not only wants to feel the joy of completion for herself but to show her daughter that you must never give up on your goals. I am very proud to be a small part of this story,” Draper added.

Reflecting on the past, Candace mentioned something a lot of other families may have experienced.

“When we become parents, sometimes we put our lives on the back burner because our children become number one, but there comes a time when our kids should be able to do their own stuff while you do yours,” Candace said. “I love the fact that I get to learn with my daughter. It might seem weird and a bit crazy, but what's normal anymore? It's a new trend we can start with our kids, I guess! As a parent you want to spend as much time with them as possible, and if this is how I can do it, I would do it over and over again. This experience has been awesome.”

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