Mother and daughter graduate UALR together

Arial King (left) hugs her mother, Pamala Stanley (right), during their graduation from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock May 14 at Jack Stephens Center.

When Pamala Stanley graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on May 14, she didn’t have to look far to find the smiling face of a family member.

Stanley’s 23-year-old daughter, Arial King, was up on stage with her, graduating with a degree in speech communication, while Stanley earned a degree in interdisciplinary studies with a certificate in nonprofit leadership studies.

As a single mother raising two daughters, Stanley has always taught her children the value of education.

I wanted a better life for myself and my children,” said Stanley, research assistant for the College of Education and Health Professions at UALR. “I didn’t want them to just go out into the world. I wanted them to be prepared for the world with education.”

Already a 1999 graduate of New Tyler Barber College, Stanley also earned an associate degree from Pulaski Technical College in 2004.

The same year, Stanley had the opportunity to work in a temporary position at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences that she came to love. Without a bachelor’s degree, she could not be permanently hired for that position.

That experience led to Stanley’s desire for a four-year degree. Once she began working at the UALR Department of Psychology, Stanley enrolled as an undergraduate student in 2006.

For the next 10 years, Stanley took a couple classes every semester, gradually earning her degree while working full time and raising two daughters.

“I think it has been a long road,” Stanley said. “With God’s help and me stepping out on faith as far as raising my children and getting an education, I did it. I think it’s a big accomplishment.”

A family affair

While Stanley was attending UALR, her oldest daughter, Arial King, also started college after graduating No. 8 in her class at Hall High School in 2011.

“My mom instilled the importance of education in me,” King said. “When I was in school, we had to have A’s. No C’s or D’s. That was not acceptable at all when I was in school. When I got my first B in high school, I cried because I thought I was going to be in trouble.”

King didn’t need to worry.

“My mom said it was OK,” King said. “She said you can make a B every once in a while, but no C’s.”

After two years at Arkansas Tech University, King transferred to UALR in 2013. She graduated with a degree in speech communication in the same ceremony as her mother.

“It’s different to graduate at the same time as my mom,” King said. “I guess I can share the shine, since a lot of people don’t get this opportunity.”

Post-graduation plans

King recently got engaged and moved to Atlanta to be with her fiancé. Like her mother, King wants to work for a nonprofit agency that helps children.

Stanley dreams of one day starting her own nonprofit agency to help women reclaim their lives.

“With me and my daughter graduating, I think it will be a big encouragement for other single parents to graduate,” Stanley said. “I encourage them not to give up. You have to be strong for you and your children.”

In the upper right photo, Arial King (left) hugs her mother, Pamala Stanley (right), during their graduation from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock May 14 at Jack Stephens Center. 

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