Side by Side: ‘Family of two’ prepare to graduate together

Mother and daughter, Tangenicka and Chyna Williams, hug at the USC Upstate Quad. They are among more than 600 graduates who will be honored at spring commencement. (Photos by Justin Myrick, USC Upstate)

When Tangenicka “Tange” Williams graduated from her licensed practical nurse program at Greenville Technical College, her baby girl, Chyna, was right there with her.

At her pinning ceremony a few months earlier, there were signs her daughter may one day follow her footsteps.

“This day here let me know that it was only the beginning,” Williams said, pointing to a 1999 photo.

“We all graduated during Christmas, so we made nurses’ hats for the Christmas tree. My friends took my nursing hat off and they placed it on Chyna’s head. She was 6 months old,” Williams recalls. But she knew already, “She’s going to be a nurse like her mom.’”

That dream, as well as many others, will be realized on April 30, when Williams and her daughter will both graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). They are among the more than 600 USC Upstate graduates who will receive a degree during spring commencement.

A family of two

The full circle moment brings tears to the eyes of both mother and daughter, but it wasn’t always so certain. As Chyna Williams grew up, she wasn’t convinced she was going to be a nurse, and her mother never pushed it on her.

“I said, ‘OK, Chyna, that’s fine, because nursing is special. It’s a gift. It’s a ministry. You’re a vessel,’” Williams said. “If you don’t have it, it definitely will show in you.”

But her daughter surprised her during senior year of high school.

“Someone came up to her and said, ‘Chyna, what are you going to school for?’” her mother remembers. “And she said, ‘I’m going to school to be a nurse like my mom.’ And I was blown away, because once she told me she didn’t want to do it, I didn’t press it. But when she actually said that’s what she wanted to do, I said, ‘Now she’s ready.’”

The Williamses are from Laurens, South Carolina. They resemble each other, from their shared professional interests and love of music to their warm smiles and personalities. Their June birthdays are just five days apart.

Tange Williams came from humble beginnings, and she reminds her daughter of how different her childhood was compared with hers and the privileges she has being the only child on both sides of their family.

Despite financial challenges, Williams says she grew up wanting to help people. She experienced seizures as a child and wanted to learn why. Her godsisters were nurses, which gave her an up-close view of the profession.

“That’s the thing for me – being able to give back to others,” Williams says.

Her daughter was inspired by her compassion. “I just wanted to be the same way, because I would always run into people saying, ‘Your mom is such a blessing, your mom is such a blessing.’ I’m like, ‘I know. She raised me, and she is my backbone.’”

As a child, if someone had a problem, Chyna Williams knew immediately who to call. “I could be in on a field trip – and, of course, my mom would be right there with us – somebody’s got a little ‘boo-boo.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, get my mom. My mom can fix it. She’s a nurse.’ I just always looked up to her as the person I could call on, the person I could lean on.”

The road to greater heights

While her daughter was in school, Tange Williams continued her education at Greenville Tech. She earned an associate degree, becoming a registered nurse, or RN, in 2008. By the time her daughter completed her own program at Greenville Tech in 2023, Williams was already thinking about going back to school.

Her daughter was transferring to USC Upstate, so it seemed inevitable the two would begin the next phase of their educational journeys together. They started the BSN program in 2023.

One day a week, they joined other students at the Greenville campus. Tange Williams loved the in-person interactions: “To be able to raise my hand and ask a question with a professor being there is awesome,” she says.

In addition to supportive faculty and staff, mother and daughter had each other to lean on, from reminding each other about deadlines to navigating materials on the computer. The classroom experience allowed them to learn more about each other as peers.

Outside of the classroom, both Williamses work in geriatrics: Chyna Williams is a night shift nurse, and her mother is assistant director of nursing at NHC HealthCare in Laurens, where she’s worked for 24 years.

“Everyone loves to see us working together, because she grew up in the facility as a baby,” says Tange Williams. “Now she’s the nurse in the facility.”

As the two talk, they look at a photo of the two of them in a collage Tange Williams created. The journey that started years ago with a baby girl attending her mom’s graduation is ending with mother and daughter crossing the Quad together to receive their diplomas.

“This is a family of two, and this is a family of completion. Whatever we start, we definitely will finish. If we have no one else, we got each other,” Tange Williams said. “We started this. We’re going to end this together, hand in hand as they say both of our names, and we’re going to walk down that aisle. And we did it.”


Watch more of Tange and Chyna’s story here. See the mother and daughter on the “Sherri” show at sherrishowtv.com.