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Family Dynamics

Jaden Hood (left), of Huntingdon, and her mother, Shana Mark-Hood, also of Huntingdon, pose in their graduation regalia outside of the Mount Aloysius College main administration building. Courtesy photo

When Jaden Hood graduates from Mount Aloysius College this weekend, the experience will be particularly special: Her mother, Shana Mark-Hood, will graduate alongside her.

“Not many people can say they’re graduating with their mom, so it definitely is a special experience,” Jaden said.

Shana is graduating with a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in health and public policy administration, while Jaden is earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in health care administration. Both are graduating with honors.

Studying in similar areas brought them together in a way much different from the typical mother-daughter dynamic.

“We were definitely more friends at school than mom and daughter,” Jaden said. “A lot of the classes we were taking went together, so it was nice to lean on each other if we needed help with anything.”

This isn’t the first time a parent and child have graduated from the college together, but “it has been several years at least,” according to Sam Wager, the college’s associate vice president of marketing and communications.

“We’re proud to be an institution that serves nontraditional students, and we have had a number of parent-child graduate pairs throughout the years,” Wagner said.

“We are thrilled that the Hood family has earned this success and we look forward to joining them in celebration on Saturday,” Mount Aloysius President John McKeegan said. “We are proud that the Mount is continuing its legacy of offering opportunities for excellent education across generations.”

Achieving this milestone in tandem was an arduous process, too. Jaden — also an athlete — had no shortage of responsibilities outside the classroom.

“Jaden was a full-time student managing (a job) and she played collegiate lacrosse,” Shana said. “There were days where she had practice at 6 a.m. and had barely enough time to get a shower and then would have to head to class. She was juggling things, too.”

Jaden’s extracurricular involvement also included being president of the business club and a member of the Athletic Honor Society and the National Society of Leadership and Success.

Like her daughter, Shana had a lot on her plate beyond academics. With a full-time job as a health care executive, she seldom had free time.

“There’s a lot of time management that goes into being able to do that, and dedication,” Shana said. “I’ve made a lot of sacrifices over the last two years to be able to do this because I work in State College and I live in Huntingdon, so I’d drive an hour to State College and then drive an hour to Cresson and then it’s an hour home, then I’d study in the evenings and on weekends.”

In spite of the challenges, it was worth it.

“The payoff is already showing in the fact that I was able to develop relationships with my professors,” Shana said. “It’s been really incredible that way. I’m not sure it’s for the faint of heart to do that full time, but I got done in two years and it feels amazing to cross that finish line.”

Jaden said she chose her major in part because she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Shana inspired her throughout their college journey together, particularly as she balanced school with a career.

“I definitely saw her tired at times, but it was incredible to watch her do that and it inspired me to know that if she can do that then I can do anything,” Jaden said. “I’m super proud of her.”

As for what comes next, Jaden is pursuing a career as a licensed practical nurse or something in the health care administration field, while her mother will return to Mount Aloysius as adjunct faculty.

Shana is looking forward to returning to the college in a new capacity.

“I’m very excited (to teach),” Shana said. “I wanted to further my career to have that and (teaching) has really been a passion of mine.”

For Jaden, the experience came and went quickly.

“It’s a little crazy that college flew by that quickly,” Jaden said. “But we’re definitely excited and looking forward to the future.”

Mirror Staff Writer Andrew Mollenauer is at 814-946-7428.

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