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Father, daughter earn degrees together

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Benjamin Watters Photo Fredrick “Roy” Sosa and Tiffany Anderson, a father-daughter duo originally from Roswell, don their caps and gown for their shared graduation from St. Leo University in St. Leo, Florida.

After supporting each others’ dreams of returning to school, a daughter and her father are celebrating an accomplishment of both earning bachelor’s degrees together.

Fredrick “Roy” Sosa, father, and Tiffany Anderson, daughter, both graduated on April 27 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in psychology from Saint Leo University, in Saint Leo, Florida. Anderson also was distinguished with honors.

Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University writer and media relations spokesperson, said there were two ceremonies that day with 1,520 degrees total and 600 presented at Sosa and Anderson’s ceremony.

“Our educational journeys intertwined in a true relationship-mending, educational, spiritual, mental and emotional chapter in both of our lives,” Anderson stated in a press release from the university.

At the ceremony, Anderson, 34, said she and her father sat together and walked together to get their diplomas. Sosa, 54, said he felt “humbled and blessed” to share the experience with his daughter while earning a respectable grade point average.

As they lined up to receive their diplomas, Anderson recalled Sosa commented that it was appropriate that she would walk in front of him, because he had followed her throughout this journey. Sosa said he couldn’t have had a more fulfilling experience for him and his daughter to accomplish their dreams together.

Anderson is an academic advisor for adult education at St. Leo. Along with recruiting and enrolling, she said her job is to “minimize obstacles” for adult students who may need evening, weekend or online classes.

“I think the main thing is that there is no wrong way or wrong time to complete your education,” Anderson said. “And I think that, if we can serve as a success story, then we might get a whole lot of people on board to finish something that they started that they may have given up on.”

Both formerly locals of Roswell, Anderson graduated from Roswell High School with honors in 2003 and Sosa graduated from Goddard High School’s Class of 1981. Anderson and Sosa now live in Lakeland, Florida, and visit family in Roswell from time to time. In their own educational journeys, Sosa and Anderson both started college after high school, but work, marriage and children took priority.

Anderson grew up in Roswell with her mom and four brothers, while her father moved to Florida — and remarried — where she would visit. Sosa has four children, including Anderson and two of her brothers, and Anderson has one son.

After dropping out one semester shy of his associate’s degree at Eastern New Mexico University, Sosa moved to Florida in 1986 and Anderson moved in 2003 on scholarship at Florida Southern College. Sosa expressed his interest in being a counselor after college and elaborated that the purpose of his recent degree is to eventually counsel in a nondenominational ministry setting. Sosa and Anderson are also licensed and ordained ministers.

Anderson described Sosa as optimistic, amicable and willing to grow even when his beliefs were challenged. Sosa said Anderson was “concise and eloquent,” exhibited professionalism and could be relatable to people of all ages and all situations. They also described each other as passionate and thoughtful speakers.

When Anderson shared her plan to return to school to finish her degree, Sosa said his daughter “called his bluff,” when she asked if he wanted to accomplish their educational goals together.

“It kind of hit a nerve,” Sosa said, saying that he had been out of the classroom for 30 years. “How many fathers, how many parents, get an opportunity to go to school with their child and graduate and earn that degree together? So that is really what inspired me to go back …”

Some of the challenges Anderson listed are that a psychology degree has “heavy material” and provides a counseling scenario with peers, which she also had to share with her father. Anderson said they found common ground on how to be truthful in the sessions. Sosa said he saw his daughter as a young woman and the “depth of her character.” He said college solidified their relationship.

Sosa also had two strokes back to back as another challenge to face. To get back into the workforce after this, Anderson took a job with Americorps as a reading tutor for ages kindergarten through third grade. With his degree now, he plans on staying in this position for one year and establishing his own ministry.

Being a student and “learner” is part of Anderson’s identity and in her college gap, she focused on other personal development. She said it was “a burden to not be in school,” and as an employee at St. Leo, she saw how convenient the college was for working students.

Due to her love for high education, Anderson said her goal is to get her master’s, which is in progress now, and a doctorate degree to eventually teach psychology at a college or university. Her particular area of interest is journaling and writing as intervention therapy.

“I would definitely say that if you are someone who can think of a million reasons not to go back to school, but you have the desire, then there is a way around each of those things,” Anderson said. “If you are a person who thinks that you are at an age that you’re past the point — that point doesn’t exist. You can go back and you can finish it for yourself at any age. And it’s doable …”

Despite loving school, Anderson said she could have quit, but her husband and son were supportive and she couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would say to just never quit,” Sosa said for people considering returning to school. “Never give up on your dream, whatever it is. It took me over 30 years to get this degree, but I got it. Nothing is impossible if you think it is worth fighting for — nothing.”

“Absolutely,” Anderson agreed.

“One of the things I tell my students, we’re talking kindergarten through third grade, but you never stop learning,” Sosa continued. “Education is ongoing. You will never stop learning. You’re always going to be taking a course for work or continuing education, or something. If you’re that individual that life happened and you didn’t finish high school, or college or whatever it is, it’s never too late. It’s never too late. Go back, get it — if for nothing else for the self-satisfaction to say ‘I did it.’”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.