Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Son, Mother Get to Exchange Gift of Dreams

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Son, Mother Get to Exchange Gift of Dreams

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods, Times-Union sports writer

Thelma Stroud knew what she wanted to do after high school. Go to college, get a nursing degree and work with the elderly.

She also knew that wasn't an option.

She needed money. So in 1975, she went to work at a clothing factory near Barney, Ga. At age 18, instead of studying for classes and hanging out at the student union, she found herself getting up at 5:30 a.m., punching a time clock, telling herself that this wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.

Somewhere along the line, though -- as the days at the factory stretched into years, and the years stretched into a couple of decades -- the dream of being a nurse died the way most dreams die. It simply faded away.

She had a child, started raising him by herself, met a man, got married and became Thelma McDonald, wife, mother and seamstress.

And although the factory wasn't perfect, there were reasons to stay -- including the fact that it was near her only child's school.

"I could run over there and check up on him," she said.

She always believed her son had the ability to be a good student. But she worried, which is why she was constantly asking him questions, grilling him about homework, tests and teachers.

In eighth grade, when he came to her and said he wanted to play football, she vetoed the idea. She told him that one sport, basketball, was enough. Said that trying to play another one might interfere with classes and knock him off track for college.

It wasn't until his junior year, after some prodding by relatives, that she relented, with a stipulation. He had to keep his grades up.

He became a National Honor Society member with a 3.3 grade point average, then headed off to the University of Georgia, where she continued her checkups, this time over the phone. …

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