Ebony Ware-Parks, left, and Kiera Ware received their master’s degrees from UWA in December. 

Ware, Ware-Parks enjoy their family’s ties to the university

Story: Phillip Tutor | Photo: Betsy Compton

There’s a symmetry that often blossoms between sisters, shared commonalities that become unmistakable. Ebony Ware-Parks and Kiera Ware could have enjoyed such a uniformity when they chose colleges.

Instead, Ware-Parks graduated from Alabama State University.

Ware graduated from Auburn University at Montgomery.

And today?

“We’re kind of a UWA family now,” Ware said.

In December, Ware-Parks and Ware — teachers from a family steeped in the education profession — received their master’s degrees from the University of West Alabama. Theirs is a story of shared interests, shared careers and, now, shared alma maters. Their family’s UWA ties also include an uncle, Anthony Brock, principal of Valiant Cross Academy in Montgomery, who is pursuing his doctoral degree through UWA this year.

“It’s very big in our family to continue our development as educators and as teachers, honing our craft,” Ware said.

The spice sprinkled atop the Ware sisters’ UWA story is how they came to the university in the first place. 

Ware, 29, is a ninth-grade history teacher at George Washington Carver High School in Montgomery. Ware-Parks, 27, has taught elementary classes in Alabama and New Jersey and now teaches at William M. Boyd Elementary School in Atlanta. The older sister, wanting to “sharpen” her skills as an educator, was the first to research graduate schools that would accommodate her hectic schedule. 

“I was looking to possibly move out of state and move up the chain as far as occupations within education,” Ware said, “and in order for me to do that, I knew I needed to gain that master’s degree to put me a step ahead and get schools looking at me.”

She could have returned to her undergraduate alma mater, AUM, where she was close to her college’s dean. But the online options available through UWA’s College of Education were attractive, as were the word-of-mouth recommendations she picked up along the way.

“Everyone said nothing but good things about UWA,” she said. “I did my research and I was looking around, but with the flexibility of UWA and the convenience of being able to be a teacher full-time and go to school and work on my master’s degree, it was a perfect fit.”

Ware’s undergraduate dean tried to keep her from straying to another school. “But I just told her that I felt in my heart that I needed to go to UWA,” she said. “With the flexibility of the schedule of my classes, I couldn’t have picked a better school to go to.

UWA did an amazing job of creating a sense of community even though we were in a virtual online space.” — Ebony Ware-Parks

Ware-Parks noticed her sister’s enthusiasm, a daily commitment to teaching her students and studying for a graduate degree while trying to find time for sleep. UWA didn’t merely gain a new graduate student; it gained two.

“I would come over to her house sometimes and see her working on Blackboard and completing her assignments,” Ware-Parks said. “She kind of pushed me to go ahead and pursue my master’s degree, as well. She didn’t have to twist my arm at all.

“What I really liked at UWA was the different start times; I loved how UWA splits their semesters into two. That flexibility right there, and the convenience to be able to pursue my master’s while simultaneously teaching in another state, was really the selling factor for me.”

Though from Montgomery, neither of the sisters had ever visited UWA’s Livingston campus before enrolling as online students. That unfamiliarity didn’t give them pause, they said, because, in Ware’s case, her “coworkers had nothing but good things to say about the university. That sold me.”

Parks-Ware quickly became a believer in the College of Education’s online program. Professors, she said, fostered an atmosphere of dialogue when students discussed each others’ work through online posts.

“It is different going to a university online,” she said. “However, I believe the professors did a great job of creating a sense of community amongst my classmates … UWA did an amazing job of creating a sense of community even though we were in a virtual online space.”

On their shared commencement day, Ware and Ware-Parks received more than their master’s degrees. They particularly enjoyed the smile on the face of their mother, Evelyn Davis, a special-education teacher at Wares Ferry Road Elementary School in Montgomery. 

“It was extremely special, but really it was special for our mom,” Ware said. “She kept bragging that ‘Both of my girls are graduating!’, so we really did it for her. She received her master’s (from Alabama State), as well, and we just wanted to kind of keep the tradition going in our family.”