Mother, son overcome homelessness, graduate from JCSU

Toi and Javari Parks (WSOC photo)

CHARLOTTE - A Charlotte mother and her son graduated this past weekend from Johnson C. Smith University together.

Toi and Javari Parks talked about their remarkable journey and the scholarship fund that is helping families end the cycle of poverty.

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The mother and son have been through a lot. They've survived abuse, illness, homelessness and other challenges.

"I'm a survivor of domestic violence," Toi Parks said.

"I stayed up plenty of nights just crying my heart out," Javari Parks said.

But they always had each other.

"She's my superwoman. She told me it's never too late, if you want to do something just set your heart to it," Javari said.

As a single mother, Toi Parks found stable housing for her family with help from the housing authority, and that allowed Javari to qualify for a Charlotte Housing Authority Scholarship. The two set their hearts on going to college.

The scholarship fund has helped more than 230 people graduate from college since 1983. This year they have the highest number of graduates in the fund's history, 30 graduates.

The scholarship's executive director said their work is critical. Charlotte is ranked last in economic mobility and the fund helps families achieve higher education and career goals.

"Moving themselves out of poverty, moving their family out of poverty and kind of creating a new cycle," Charlotte Housing Authority Executive Director Aisha Strothers said.

Toi Parks used her veterans benefits to major in social work, and Javari studied community health.

"It's about how you persevere though those hard times. He's done wonderful; I'm very proud," Toi Parks said.

Javari is just as proud of her.

"Just watching her now when she walks across the stage, I might be the loudest person in the room," Javari Parks said.

He thanked the scholarship for making it easier for them to reach their goals together.

"The best is yet to come," Javari Parks said.

Toi and Javari Parks graduated from Johnson C. Smith on Sunday.

Toi will start a master's program nine days later.

The program runs on donations and corporate sponsors, and is currently looking for more mentors to support college students.

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