Claudia Cattage

Claudia Cattage

Master of Arts in Education, Early Childhood Education specialization, 2013

“It’s helped me set new standards for my children, my family, and future generations.”


The feeling of earning a Master’s degree alone would have been enough to have Claudia Cattage, 43, beaming on her commencement day. But adding to her immense pride was the fact that her son Joseph Lightfoot, 22, was also graduating from the same institution. They were both able to accept their diplomas on May 5, 2013 at the Ashford University
commencement ceremony held in Moline, IL near Ashford’s Clinton campus.

News of this mother and son graduating together caught the attention of major news outlets, including the Seattle Times and WQAD channel 8.

“It just so happened that Joseph came to play basketball at Ashford University,” Claudia explained. “And at the same time I was looking for a program to pursue my Master’s degree. So we both chose Ashford. And it just so happened we graduated on the same day. It’s really wonderful.”

While Joseph attended classes at Ashford’s campus in Clinton, IA, Claudia never had to leave her home in Chicago. “Online was better for me, because I was able to work full-time and take care of my responsibilities. And Joseph, at this time in his life, he was playing basketball, so he was able to be on campus. But I think we both accomplished what we set out to accomplish, and I think Ashford really was the venue for us to get the job done and do it well.”

“I had taken online classes before,” she continued, “but I really enjoyed Ashford’s way of doing things. I found it very easy to navigate though the system. I found the professors to be very helpful and the coursework rigorous and challenging, yet accessible enough for me to understand and become more knowledgeable in the field of early childhood education. So I really felt like it was a good and rewarding experience for me.”

Claudia will remain teaching at Head Start, but to further enhance her Master of Arts in Education, Early Childhood Education specialization, she is now earning a certification to work with students who have autism and other special needs. “Pursuing a degree from Ashford and accomplishing that goal will help me better serve the children and families of the Chicago community.”

As Claudia looked back on the stage she’d just walked, she noted with emotion that she believes having earned a Master’s degree will become part of her family’s legacy. “It’s helped me set new standards for my children, my family, and future generations.”

Read more about Joseph’s story and see a video about his Clinton campus experience here.