UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. — It's graduation night at University City High School.
But these graduates aren't from U City, and they don't go to high school.
They all just finished the six-week Family Formation program at the Fathers and Families Support Center.
"We made it y'all!," said one graduate.
And no one got more hugs this night than Sister Carol Schumer.
For more than two decades, Sister Carol Schumer of the Daughters of Charity has been leading the Support Center's parenting class.
"Nobody was teaching parents how to be parents," she said. "The only way we learned how to be a parent is by who parented us."
Sister Schumer is a former teacher and school principal who came to FFSC as a volunteer.
FFSC's mission is to improve the lives of children by empowering uninvolved, non-custodial fathers to become responsible, involved parents.
"Many of them have been incarcerated and so are here because they need jobs," Schumer said. "They need to get reestablished."
"I ended up in prison because of a robbery," said 31-year-old Myron McGee, one of Schumer's students. "It was just a point in my life to where I was just doing whatever for attention and trying to fill a void."
McGee came here determined to turn his life around and become a better parent to his 11-year-old son.
He admits it was a bit awkward at first to hear parenting advice from a nun.
"But once she started talking and teaching class," he said, "it was obvious like that she knew what she was talking about."
"I try to get them to realize that the most important thing you can give your children is yourself," Schumer said. "So don't ever not go see your children without thinking you don't have anything to give them."
The Support Center said since she started, Sister Carol has touched the lives of nearly 20,000 fathers, and that includes recent graduate Brian Lewis.
"I'm no longer in the negative space where I was," Lewis, a father of two, said. "I don't feel the fear that comes anymore. I'm feeling much more excited about the new path I have ahead."
Graduation night is a chance to say goodbye to each other and hello to a new beginning.
"I have to tell you, the graduations are just wonderful because so many of these men have not finished anything," Schumer said.
Helping parents understand the present of their presence.
"The people she helps go on to help their families and their communities," said Lewis. "It's a cycle upward."
Sister Carol Schumer, shining a light for struggling parents so they can see a brand new path.
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