14:02 PM

Spot on the 'Today' show creates some graduation pomp despite the circumstances

Jasmine Keeton
UHCL alumna Jasmine Keeton, left, and her daughters JoyLynn and Jadean celebrated their graduations on national television together.

This year, graduation season brought more heartbreak than happiness to students around the U.S. who were forced to stay in home quarantine due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Still, Jasmine Keeton, who had hoped to put on her cap and gown alongside her two daughters, decided to try to find a way to salvage the situation.

Keeton, a career NASA Johnson Space Center contractor who was set to graduate from University of Houston-Clear Lake with her Master of Science in Engineering Management, thought she’d found the perfect way to celebrate her younger daughter JoyLynn’s graduation from Robert Turner College and Career High School in Pearland with her high school diploma as well as her associate’s degree from Alvin Community College, and her older daughter Jadean, who was receiving her Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Prairie View A&M.

“I am on the ‘Today’ show email distribution list,” Keeton said. “They said there was an opportunity to be part of the ‘virtual’ plaza party celebrating 2020 graduates. I wrote a quick story about my youngest daughter JoyLynn, about how awesome she is, and noted that we had three women graduating in our family. I sent that in.”

And ever since, Keeton said, it’s been crazy.

“Getting chosen to speak on the ‘Today’ show was a total surprise,” she said. “I was told the anchors might say hello if they had time, so when Hoda Kotb called our name, I was completely surprised.”

She said the producers had told her that they would go live at 7 a.m. but it was actually earlier. “We recorded it at 6:30 a.m.,” she said. “When they started talking about the different people graduating from school, we were the first ones she called.”

They were holding a sign saying, “Mama we made it!” made by JoyLynn. “Then, KPRC Channel 2 saw it and we were on the 5 o’clock news as well,” she said.

Keeton said she had waited 20 years to get her advanced degree. “I always knew a high school diploma would never be enough, and a college diploma wasn’t enough either,” she said. “I knew I needed a master’s degree and now that I have it, I am seriously considering a doctorate.”

Her goal is to receive her certification as a project management professional and after researching, she found out that UHCL was the only university to offer a degree that would prepare her. “I hesitated about the GRE, because it had been a long time since I had studied for an exam,” she said. “I wanted to take the next exam, and it was in 10 days! So I studied for nine days with books and practice tests. The kids brought me food and I had piles of notes and books everywhere. I took the test and got the score I needed.”

She found out that she could go to school after work at a university that was in her own back yard. “It was time for me to get something for myself,” she said. “Everything was in alignment. It just took me to decide, and once I found the school, it was a perfect match.”

She said her newly-achieved degree in engineering management will prepare her for the project management program that will allow her to advance in her career. “I always wanted to move into a management position,” she said. “If I don’t progress as a contractor at NASA, it will still open doors for me in private industry.”

Keeton said her goal was to pass the project management test as soon as it became available again, after COVID-19-related delays. “I am going to pass this test. I know I will, because I absolutely got the preparation I was looking for at UHCL,” she said.

“Being on the ‘Today’ show is a moment we will cherish the rest of our lives,” she said. “No matter what the challenges, keep striving for what you want and you will get it.”

Learn about UHCL’s Engineering Management program online.