Antonio and Brandon Gathers have bonded many years as father and son, enjoying life’s pleasant moments and overcoming challenges together. Devoted to serving their community, the Orangeburg residents shared another pivotal moment as they graduated from SC State University together on May 10. Antonio received a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. Brandon received a bachelor’s degree in business.
Standing firm in their spiritual beliefs, the Gathers believe that their journey collectively and individually, was steered by God and that every experience has led them to this juncture. They each have their own story to tell with intersecting core values that drive their determination to succeed.
Along with being a full-time student, Brandon, age 23, also juggled owning a business, Just Be You Apparel, LLC. He decided to study business at SC State to help him hone skills that would help his business prosper.
Brandon said he was inspired to attend SC State after speaking with Rachelle Jamerson-Holmes, an Orangeburg business owner. He considers that decision one that aligns perfectly with his goals.
“My business started off as a hobby, but then I started to take it seriously. Just seeing the positive impact my business has on other people motivates me to keep going.” The School of Business here has helped me with creating my business plan. I’ve also met some great people and had the chance to experience things I didn’t know I would,” he said.
Attending and graduating from college with a parent is a unique experience that Brandon has cherished every step of the way.
“It’s been funny being a student at the same time as my Dad. Sometimes the roles reversed and I encouraged him to take a step back and relax. We just encouraged each other,” he said. I did all of the leg work for him, but I didn’t mind at all. He has a lot of responsibilities and has always been there for me. He is the perfect example of a role model for a young black man.”
Brandon said his ability to balance school, an internship and his business has been a gift from God. As a part of his overall growth, he has had to learn patience.
“My Dad instilled in me to always be on time. I’ve had to learn to be patient with other people because when it’s time to get things done, I’m ready to go. I’ve had to learn to trust the process though.”
He also expressed how grateful he is to have learned to make the most of uncomfortable situations and grow from them.
Brandon’s advice to students is to “not let anyone limit you and what you can do. Time is valuable and first impressions matter.”
He hopes to implement a vendor program for students at SC State, which will allow them to vend at discounted rates during Homecoming to showcase the entrepreneurial talent the university has to offer. He said he aspires to set a good example for Orangeburg and represent SC State well wherever life takes him.
Like his son, Antonio, age 49, attributes his success to God and is elated to have accomplished a milestone such as earning a graduate degree many years after completing his undergraduate career.
While shopping at Wal-Mart one evening, a friend of Antonio’s offered him a scholarship to enroll in SC State’s rehabilitation counseling program. Hesitant at first, because of the number of years he had been out of school, Antonio decided to apply for the scholarship.
“Quite frankly, SC State chose me. I’m glad I decided to attend because this experience has been so rewarding and graduating with my son just adds another layer to how honored I feel,” said Antonio. SC State is a prominent HBCU and a fundamental part of the community, so I always felt as if I was a part of the university.”
Antonio holds that a career in rehabilitation counseling suits his passion for helping people.
“This field has given me a better scope, from an educated perspective, on how to help the whole person. As a pastor, I can help them spiritually and now I can combine the natural aspects of the brain and help in other ways,” he said.
The Charleston, South Carolina native said that one of his greatest challenges was balancing his time since he also works full-time and serves as a pastor at Life Cathedral Church in Orangeburg.
“I couldn’t be as hands-on at my church as I was trying to further my education. It was hard at first, but once I communicated with members that this would make me a better individual, pastor, leader and greater help to my community, they understood,” he said.
Despite the long hours of studying and working, Antonio persevered and had the exceptional experience of walking across the stage at graduation on the same day as his only son.
“My son inspires me. He’s working hard and it’s great to see him grow and have an understanding of his future. My advice to him is to stay true to himself and don’t let anything stop him.”
Antonio is also thankful for the other piece to his puzzle and support system, his wife, Catherine, and two daughters, Brittany and Brooke.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Claflin University in 2010. Antonio is considering pursuing a doctorate degree in the future.