Mother, Daughter Graduates Share Experiences at Claflin University

May 09, 2015

Mother and Daughter Pose togetherNearly two years passed before graduating senior Tyler Breland discovered that her mother was also attending Claflin University.

Tyler, a member of the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College, said there were signs – she just didn’t put the puzzle together.

“I saw her car a couple of times on campus, but I didn’t think much of it,” she said. “But when I looked back and connected all of the dots, it just made sense.

“It was a shock at first, but it’s been a really cool experience.”

Katesha Breland, of Charleston, S.C., said she felt like she was interfering in her daughter’s life when she began taking classes at Claflin.

“I just wanted Tyler to be able to enjoy college life and not watching over her shoulder to see if I was on campus,” she said. “So I just attended classes until the time came that I had to let her know. Because I was coming to the evening school, we kind of missed each other. I would see her, but she wouldn’t see me. But then we both joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, so at that point, I had to tell her. And she was extremely shocked.”

On Saturday, May 9, Tyler Breland will graduate summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and her mother will graduate magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in organizational management during Claflin University’s 145thCommencement Convocation, set for 11 a.m. at the South Atlantic Seventh-day Adventist Worship and Convention Center in Orangeburg. This year’s speaker will be Marc H. Morial, president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League. A ticket is required for admission to the ceremony.

After graduation, Tyler will begin working in the marketing department at Charlotte, N.C.-based Snyder’s-Lance, Inc., the second-largest salty snack maker in the United States. Her mother will continue operating her business, Sweetgrass Realty Group, in Charleston.

“Going back to school was something I wanted to do, but the time just never seemed right,” said the elder Breland, who had quit Francis Marion University in Florence, S.C., years ago, when she found out she was pregnant with Tyler.

“She became my focus at that point. My career became my focus,” Katesha Breland said. “I’ve been in the real estate business now for almost 17 years, and I absolutely love it because it allows me to be the mom that I always wanted to be. It allows me flexibility for whatever they need me for.”

However, she said that she decided to return to school through Claflin University’s Center for Professional and Continuing Studies because, “I felt like I didn’t just want to continue telling them what to do. I also wanted to be an example for them.”

Tyler Breland had no problem finding her way at Claflin. She said while it wasn’t her first choice of school, a conversation with Honors College director and Claflin first lady, Alice Carson Tisdale, and President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale helped change her mind.

“Mrs. Tisdale motivated me to run for leadership positions and be involved on campus, and that made me feel like this is where I belong,” she said. “We call her ‘Momma T’ because truly, on campus, she is your mom away from home. I’m extremely thankful for that.”

In addition to being a member of the Gamma Nu Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. with her mom, Tyler has served as freshman class representative on the Student Activity Board; Student Government Association sophomore class president and junior class senator; public relations coordinator for the Black Executive Exchange Program (BEEP); marketing coordinator and president of Phi Beta Lambda business fraternity; Friends of the Earth photographer; and member of Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society and the American Marketing Association. Through it all, she managed to earn a 3.98 GPA.

“I’ve done a lot, but I think the most rewarding experience I have had was being a mentor for the Honors College. I have a pretty awesome mentee, who is also a soror,” she said. “My biggest accomplishment would be reviving the business fraternity here, Phi Beta Lambda. Through my time as president of the organization and working as its marketing coordinator, we were able to make people more aware of the fraternity and bridge the gap between continuing education students and the students on campus.

“I think my campus involvement really shaped the Claflinite in me. I’ve met a lot of people, made great friends, joined a sorority – it’s been a great four years. Now, I want other people to come here so that they can understand what Claflin University is all about.”

Katesha Breland said while she wasn’t nearly as involved in campus life as her daughter, she, too, is walking away from Claflin with a sense that there’s something special about the University.

“I’m a firm believer in doing what you love to do, and I’ve had a lot of professors here who really enjoy what they do,” she said. “I met professors who absolutely enjoyed their job. You can tell they’re so passionate about their subjects, and that gets you excited and you enjoy it so much more.”

She cites joining AKA with her daughter as a highlight of her overall experience. “It was something I always wanted to do, and to be able to do it with Tyler made it even more meaningful,” Katesha Breland said.

“Knowing that this is going to be our alma mater, I couldn’t be happier,” she added. “I got a little tearful last week, counting down the days to graduation. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m looking forward to Saturday.”

But theirs isn’t the only graduation that the Brelands will be celebrating this year – 17-year-old Teonna Breland, daughter and sister of the duo, will graduate from the Charleston County School of the Arts on June 4.

“She’s very proud of all that we’ve accomplished,” Katesha Breland said of her youngest daughter. “Teonna is her sister’s biggest cheerleader, and she’s been very supportive in all of this. There were times when I just didn’t know how it would work out, because sometimes I’m at Claflin four nights a week, but Teonna has been a trooper. She’s maintained and done what she’s supposed to do.

“I’m extremely proud of both of my daughters. I really am.”

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