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Mother, daughter working toward degrees at each other’s side

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It’s not unusual for a daughter to follow in her mother’s footsteps, but most don’t follow as closely as Adrian Harden has to her mother, Davida Jo Harden.

The two have been college students together since moving to Columbus in 2011.

They will celebrate Mother’s Day today by going out to eat after church and spending time relaxing together after a hectic weekend, including a celebration of Davida Harden’s graduation from IUPUC on Saturday.

Next year, as the mother finalizes plans to earn a master’s degree after completing a first year of teaching, the daughter will complete her degree in communications and begin taking steps toward a career in human resources.

And this Mother’s Day, Adrian Harden is counting the blessings her mother has given her — including one quality she doesn’t see in herself.

“I’m horrible at math, but she really knows how to do it,” she said. “Guess that gives me an in-home tutor.”

Davida Harden describes their relationship as very close — very special. And that relationship played into her career choice of teaching.

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl,” Davida Harden said.

After giving birth to Adrian, watching her head off to school and helping out in her daughter’s classes, Davida Harden became more determined to achieve a teaching degree.

“I wanted to be an example for Adrian,” she said, adding that she also wanted to make a difference in children’s lives.

She will begin her teaching career next fall in a sixth-grade classroom at Clifty Creek Elementary School.

Harden was one of 34 recipients of the prestigious IUPUC and IUPUI 2014 William M. Plater Civic Engagement Medallion, which recognizes exemplary commitment to the community and an ethic of civic-mindedness.

For three years, she has served as the community engagement facilitator for IUPUC’s Science Saturday workshops for youth in kindergarten through Grade 6. She also organized Project Based Learning Space Camps, attended by children from

10 surrounding counties.

Inspiration to daughter

But no accolade from any institution means more to Davida Harden than the respect and admiration she receives from her daughter.

“Having the ability to balance her work and education with life is something Mom could always do extremely well,” said Adrian Harden, who will turn 21 next month. “I strive to be like her.”

Adrian Harden also expressed great pride that her mother finally fulfilled her lifelong goal of becoming a teacher.

“I hope my life has taught my daughter to never give up on your dream,” Davida Harden said. “It may be hard and we have to make sacrifices, but it’s worth it in the end.”

It was a dream that was put off for decades due to what the mother called “life’s little detours.”

“I’ve seen how Mom has sacrificed her education so I could have the best in my life,” Adrian Harden said. “She’s my inspiration.”

Mother and daughter were full-time students at IUPUC until December, when Davida Harden completed her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education with a concentration in math. She graduated with high distinction.

She is also busy with a church fellowship as the wife of Shiloh Baptist Church minister Ancel Harden.

Davida Harden’s dream of becoming a teacher goes back to her childhood in Louisville, Kentucky, when she coaxed five male cousins into make-believing they were her students while playing school for hours in her parents’ attic.

“I had the boys do all their math before I’d let them go out for ‘recess,’” the mother said.

“Yep, that’s my mom,” her daughter said, with a laugh.

After graduating from high school in northern Kentucky, Davida Harden worked 13 years in print advertising. After Adrian entered school, her mother began volunteering as a classroom assistant where she “fell in love with the kids,” she said.

Although her desire to further her education continued to grow, the family didn’t stay in one place for long, making that difficult. The family moved from Louisville to Harrison County in Indiana and then to Scottsburg.

Besides home and work responsibilities, Davida Harden busied herself with the duties of being a minister’s wife, something that is a full-time job in itself, her daughter said.

“People come to our door at any time, and it is the responsibility of both of my parents to help them,” Adrian Harden said. “But Mom always finds the time and also handles her church duties with extreme grace.”

Once Adrian was in high school, Davida Harden began planning a way to make her dream a reality. She felt becoming a teacher was God’s will for her life. So after the family moved to Columbus in 2011, she became a full-time student.

Independent streak

A year later, Adrian began her college career not only with her mother’s determination but also with a streak of independence. She moved out after getting two minimum-wage jobs and refused to ask her parents for help.

“For a while, I tried living on my own, paying my own rent, bills and utilities, and I felt miserable,” Adrian Harden said. “It forced me to go to school only part time, and that nearly killed me. I kick myself when I look back in my time.”

Although the mother could see her daughter was struggling, there were no lectures or finger-pointing. Instead, Davida Harden said she allowed her daughter to make her own mistakes, waiting until she was ready to return home to welcome her back.

Adrian Harden said the experience provided her with some hard-knock lessons in life.

“First of all, I learned to value what I have,” the daughter said. “It also taught me you have to fall before you get to where you need to be. Mistakes is how we learn.”

Now that she’s a full-time student living with her parents again, Adrian Harden said she’s also discovered how much of a blessing it is to have a support system, including her mother, close by her in life.

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