The Crowley ISD wants to brag about its grads and two high-profile members of the Class of 2021.
Lyndsae Benton and Mia Hall are trustees on the school board. And, they can now add Ed.D. to their resumes. Both women graduated this month from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton with a Doctorate in Educational Leadership.
"We just decided to do it together, and it was really awesome to have somebody that's walking alongside on that journey," Benton smiled.
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"I always say if it hadn't have been for the cohort, the roommating with Lyndsae, because we would room together when we went down for classes on the weekends, they inspired me. They helped me get across the finish line," Hall said.
Benton and Hall both saw a doctorate in their future years ago, and it began to take shape as they stood in line to register for a board conference. Benton had already been accepted at UMHB, and Hall was exploring another university. The conversation led to the first day of class together and every weekend thereafter.
"This was the hardest thing I've endeavored upon. I've taken on a lot of challenges but I grossly underestimated the doctorate. It's three years of nonstop commitment and dedication," Hall said.
"It's just been a great experience for me even though it's been the hardest thing I've ever done," Benton said. "It's a lot of work. writing a dissertation is no joke."
Both women are veteran educators with time as a principal. When their careers moved them out of classrooms and into higher leadership roles, each felt a void.
"There were these holes" when Benton wasn't at work, then her daughter left for college. So, Benton got a dog, ran for school board and started the doctorate program.
"As a principal, you are used to spinning plates constantly. So you're always putting out fires and people are coming at you a mile a minute. So when I came to central office, the work is different. And while there are different responsibilities, you don't have all these plates and balls in the air. So, I was like, this is a great time to endeavor into a new challenge," Hall explained.
The women have full-time jobs, families at home and serve their community. They persevered through three years of classes and a pandemic to earn the title of doctor. Now that they're on the other side of the challenge, each looks back on it with appreciation and admiration.
"I'm 47 years old and just graduated with my doctorate, and I learned so much and I feel so much more informed and with a better world view," Benton said.
"I learned a lot. It reinvigorated me. It inspired me. I've been doing education for 20 years, and it gave me a lot of words and theories to go along with the things I had experienced," Hall said. "It challenges you, and it inspires you to want to do more and be more impactful with the time."
Hall is a central office administrator in Fort Worth ISD and was elected to the Crowley ISD board in 2015. The dual experiences have helped her see where she wants to go next.
"It made me want to take that next leap and I knew I needed the doctorate to do that. Ultimately, I think, I want to become a superintendent," she smiled.
Benton, too, remains committed to public education. She's a longtime former Crowley ISD educator who joined the board in 2016.
"I am a lifelong educator, 25 years in education, and that will continue to be what's next for me. I did not pursue this doctorate because I need it for something else or I was trying to get a promotion. None of that. I did it because it was something I wanted for myself," she said.
As the women pursued their degrees, their children did, too. Benton's daughter just graduated from college and Hall's son will get his high school diploma in a few weeks.
"Mom" is a title they both cherish, but "Doctor" sounds pretty sweet, too, even if now, it seems surreal. As they shared their experiences, they each offered a few nuggets of knowledge.
"Whatever your goal is, you can do it. Perseverance just makes the difference. Set that vision of what you want for yourself and work hard to accomplish it, whatever it is," Benton said. "I want people to know that if you want to get more education, just do it, even at the age of 47. you can do it."
"To not stop climbing. To not stop dreaming. And even though it may be hard, it's worth it and all you gotta do is keep moving forward and eventually, you truly do reach the finish line," Hall said. "And they'll be times you wanna quit, but keep moving forward. And, I will also say, rely on the people around you. Your village is really important. And, the people that you lock arms with, they definitely make a difference."