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Mother, daughter finish journey together
Pair graduates from Georgia Southern May 5
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Alicia Deal, 23, left, and mother Bonnie, 55, catch up with each other after commencement at Georgia Southern. Bonnie returned to college after a 30-year hiatus and graduated with her daughter last Saturday.
Bonnie Deal graduated from Georgia Southern University last week after a long college career. It took her a while to achieve her degree in special education because marriage and children interrupted her educational pursuits, but Deal, 55, went back to school after her children grew up and eventually attained her goal.
    What made it even sweeter was being able to graduate with her youngest daughter Alicia Deal, 23.
    Both mother and daughter walked across the stage at Paulson Stadium May 5 to accept their diplomas. It was a proud moment for the family; Bonnie and Alicia joined the rest of the family in securing a college degree.
    Alicia received a Bachelor of Science in communications arts with an emphasis in public relations. She is currently living in Charlotte, NC - NASCAR country - and is working as an intern at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
    Bonnie is a paraprofessional at Statesboro High School and hopes to become a teacher in the special education field.
    Graduating together wasn't planned, Alicia said.
    "It just happened to fall that we were going to graduate at the same time," she said.
    Bonnie said being in college the same time her daughter was attending classes helped her.
    "She was a good resource," she said. "We spent a lot of time fighting over the computer at home, but she helped me with all the modern stuff."
    Alicia said she and her mother rarely ran into one another on campus, as their classes and schedules were different.
    Bonnie began her college career just after high school in 1971. She attended classes for a while, but when she married Lamar Deal  and children followed, she took a break from school to raise her family.
    She raised more than just her own. After keeping children in her home, and working in the child care profession, she opened Northside Preschool in 1988, and helped raise a number of children in a secure, family-oriented environment. When she sold the business in 1992, she still kept some children in her home.
    But in 2003, Bonnie returned to school and secured a two-year degree at East Georgia College before transferring to Georgia Southern University in 2005.  At that time, Alicia was going to classes at GSU as well.
    "It was really neat (to be going to the university with her daughter)," Bonnie said. "It was fun for me. We spent a lot of time talking about classes."
    Alicia said she was happy to share the experience with her mother.
    "I am so proud of her - it made (graduation) that much more special," she said. "I was excited for her."
    Bonnie attended the university through the Destination Teaching Program, which helps paraprofessionals achieve teaching degrees, she said. Now, she looks forward to teaching.
    And Alicia hopes to remain at Lowe's Motor Speedway as a public relations employee. She loves racing and enjoys the excitement of the business.
    "I love it. It is so much fun, and different - much more than people think it is. There is so much more that goes into the races, and it is an interesting field."
    When she and her mother graduated, they added to the variety of degrees the Deal family holds.
    Oldest daughter Karen Deal Miles, 33, is a nurse practitioner. Son Ken Deal, 30 is a teacher; Joe Ben Deal, 26, is in theater in New York.
    Bonnie becomes emotional when she talks about finally graduating and being able to do so with Alicia.
    "It was really nice," she said. "I don't know how to describe it. It's something I've worked on for a long time."
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