Veteran PBA Parents Help Moms, Dads Transition to College

Brad and Debbie Mason joined the ranks of first-time Palm Beach Atlantic University parents seven years ago, and they’ve had quite a bit of practice ever since.

Three children later, the Sarasota couple are now co-chairs of the PBA Parents Council, an organization they joined soon after their eldest child, Rachel, came to PBA in 2007.

Kyle Mason (left), Rachel Mason Tidwell and Caleb Mason gather for a recent family photo with parents Debbie and Brad Mason.

Today both Rachel and her husband are PBA graduates living in Colorado. The Masons’ second child, Kyle, graduated from PBA in the spring of 2013, and their youngest, Caleb, is a sophomore at PBA who will serve as a ’Fish leader to incoming PBA freshmen arriving on campus next week. (The new class will include Caleb’s new wife, Cassidy.)

The Masons also plan to attend Welcome Week to offer advice and support to the parents of first-year students. It’s a familiar role for them.

As members of the Parents Council, the Masons have served as a resource for other parents, easing their fears as their children enter college. They recall what it was like being new parents themselves, they said.

“It was easier and much more comforting once we knew the people there on campus,” Debbie Mason said.

Each year since 2008, the Masons have opened their home to prospective students and parents for dessert receptions, during which members of PBA’s staff and administration provide information and answer questions while attendees enjoy fellowship and sweet treats.

“It’s just a chance in a casual atmosphere to show the personal side of the school,” Brad Mason said. “The parents leave knowing that the school is interested in getting to know your student.”

The Masons, who both attended Christian colleges in the Midwest, said one of the most common questions that parents ask them is: How will we pay for college?

“I answer with how God provided for each of our three kids in miraculous ways, that the PBA Financial Aid Office is amazing and how the process works for financial aid and scholarships,” Debbie Mason said.

The Masons credit both PBA President William M. B. Fleming Jr. and Mary Jacobs, director of parent relations and special projects, with getting them involved.

“It was mainly because of Bill and Mary and knowing the impact that we as parents can have on other parents as far as giving them a comfort level with the transition to college,” Debbie Mason said.

In addition to their work with PBA, the Masons are also active in their local community. Debbie Mason has served on a pastoral search committee for their church, Faith Presbyterian, where she also is involved in women’s ministry. She has been a stay-at-home mom as well as a teacher and grant writer, and she presently serves as an academic adviser for the school district.

Brad Mason is chair of the Sarasota Medical Pregnancy Center and is also involved in leadership roles at the church. Additionally, he is active with Loving Hands, a program for men who are coming out of substance addiction.

“It’s amazing to see how God can change people’s lives,” he said.