Forty years after last attending college, Smallwood resident Ramona Gray needed some extra courage going back to school. She found plenty in her son Trevon. After two years of attending SUNY Sullivan and taking many of the same courses, Ramona and Trevon Gray walked across the stage together at the College’s commencement May 13, both earning associate degrees in Business Administration and beaming with pride at their shared journey and accomplishments.
“It was scary to go back at 55, but having Trey with me made it so much easier and eventually super comfortable and even great,” said Ramona. “I wouldn’t have had that much courage to go back without him. It was nerve-racking to begin with but doing it with my son was extraordinarily exhilarating”
“We are pretty close and going to school together was unlike the usual mom-son relationship,” said Trevon or “Trey,” a Monticello High School graduate, who was also a guard for the men’s Generals basketball team. “We were mom-son friends and classmates. We did assignments and homework together, and if either of us struggled, we could really help because we were both in it.”
Trey said attending college with his mom pushed him to work harder and do better. Ramona said her son made the experience less daunting.
“She showed me how to hand in quality work, push myself beyond the norm, and think outside my comfort zone,” said Trey, who added that he’s especially proud of his mom for graduating with honors. “I’m proud of myself but beyond proud of her! Graduating with my mom was extra amazing.”
“Being with Trey helped me feel young again and not out of place or awkward,” said Ramona. “I’ll be forever grateful, and I will hold this time close to me when he leaves home for the first time ever in August for his next chapter.”
The Grays both earned Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees in Business Administration. Ramona earned her degree with honors. Trey is heading to Morris College in South Carolina next fall on a full basketball scholarship and plans to complete his business degree. “It’s over-the-top exciting,” said Trey, adding that he plans (after playing in the NBA) to open his own sports management company.
While she had been aiming to become store manager at her job at Dunkin Donuts, Ramona said her SUNY Sullivan degree and courses have empowered her to aim higher.
“My plan for the future is to become an HR manager,” said Ramona, who took a Human Resources Management course as part of her degree program.
Trey and Ramona said their favorite professor was Simon Clement, an assistant professor at the Catskill Hospitality Institute and an assistant coach for the men’s basketball team. The Grays took courses together with Clement in each of their four semesters. “He really helped us both out so much,” said Trey.
Clement said it was unique and inspiring to see a mother and son working towards their degrees and furthering their education at the same time.
“Both Ramona and Trevon were the type of students a teacher could get excited about teaching; they would work well in groups together, but individually they also brought conflicting views to the classroom that would initiate passionate and entertaining debates on different topics,” said Clement. “Early on in my classes, I would notice many of the younger students referring to Ramona passionately as ‘mother’ when working together or getting advice, but I was completely surprised when she told me that Trevon was in fact her son and not just a fellow student who looked up to her. It was great to see them push each other to do better and take a similar interest in each other’s education and success.”
Ramona also wanted to acknowledge Liberal Arts, Sciences & Health Sciences Professor Amy Colon. “She was our history teacher for two different history classes, and she and I really hit it off and related to one another,” said Ramona. “She made me feel super comfortable and welcomed me sharing my wisdom and experiences with her students, some of who I tutored. She is amazing.”
Catskill Hospitality Institute Director Justine Hoskin said that the Institute offers many in-person classes throughout the week and also many online courses to accommodate students’ individual needs and busy schedules.
“The programs within the Catskill Hospitality Institute are created to keep the thought of ‘ongoing education’ in mind,” said Hoskin. “Whether you just graduated high school and know you want to start at SUNY Sullivan with a hireable and transferable degree, or you have decided to pick up classes to further yourself once you have entered the workforce, we are here for just that. We have many adult learners in the program who are here on their own accord or through their employer, supporting their growth.”
The Catskill Hospitality Institute at SUNY Sullivan offers courses, programs of study and degrees in Business and Entrepreneurship, Hospitality and Tourism, and Culinary Arts. Two of the Institute’s courses, Human Resource Management and Principles of Management, are among many courses being offered during Session 2 of SUNY Sullivan’s Summer Sessions, which begins July 11. For more information, visit sunysullivan.edu/summer2023.
Registration for Fall 2023 is also underway. Classes begin August 30. Learn more about courses, admissions, and financial aid opportunities at sunysullivan.edu. Established by the Sullivan County Legislature, the Sullivan Promise Scholarship provides eligible Sullivan County residents who earn a high school diploma or GED in 2023 the opportunity to receive free tuition and fees at SUNY Sullivan for up to two years of full-time study. Learn more at sunysullivan.edu/sullivan-promise-scholarship.
About SUNY Sullivan
SUNY Sullivan is the leader of innovative higher education and a catalyst for workforce development throughout the Sullivan Catskills and beyond. Our diverse community cultivates personal growth and professional advancement, preparing students for success in a sustainable and interconnected world. A forward-looking, top-tier community college in New York, SUNY Sullivan offers over 40 degree programs, certificates, and micro-credentials for learners at all levels of their educational goals. We value critical inquiry and creativity while supporting our students in a culture of inclusion and respect.
June 22, 2023