Mom and Daughter Celebrate Graduating Together from Same University: 'It Has Brought Us Closer'

"I never thought in a million years I'd be graduating with my daughter," the mother of six said of the accomplishment



A mother and daughter are sharing a once-in-a-lifetime moment: graduating from college together!

Over the weekend, Latonya Johnson, 43, and Laila Birchett, 21, celebrated their graduation from Rutgers School of Social Work.

Johnson, a divorced mother of six, told ABC affiliate WABC that before she enrolled at Rutgers University, she was dividing her time raising her kids, working a full-time job and taking classes part-time. It was actually Birchett, then a Montclair State student, who suggested the two go to school together. They both enrolled in September 2022.

“It’s kind of surreal but it has brought us closer because we connected on a level that I never thought I’d connect with my kids,” Johnson told the university.

<p>Latonya Johnson</p>

Latonya Johnson

Related: Michigan Mom Tucks 10-Day-Old Daughter Inside Gown While Graduating College: 'Kept Her with Me' 

According to Rutgers, Birchett was interested in pursuing an educational program that involved helping others, including the homeless and the elderly. Johnson, who worked as a drug and alcohol counselor, particularly wanted to finish her education, so she quit her part-time job to take on the Rutgers program full-time.

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During their experiences at Rutgers, Johnson and Birchett shared one teacher and had different classes, WABC reported. Along the way, the two leaned on each other for support from computer technology to real-life experience.

"There were times when I struggled through school," Birchett told WABC. "But I always thought if my mom can do it, I can."

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<p>Latonya Johnson</p>

Latonya Johnson

Johnson also cited the Rutgers community for its support in her efforts to finish her education. “College is my lifeline,” she said, per the school’s website.  "The same way it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to support a nontraditional student."

Dr. Dewayne Battle of the Rutgers School of Social Work highlighted the mother and daughter's efforts, telling WABC: "In some ways, Laila inspired her mom to finish school. Latonya has inspired Laila to be [an] independent person."

Their educational journey is not finished. Johnson and Birchett will be enrolling in Rutgers' Master of Social Work program this fall.

<p>Latonya Johnson</p>

Latonya Johnson

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“Her journey has been truly inspiring,” Birchett told Rutgers about her mother. “It’s encouraged me to work harder in college.”

"It's such a blessing doing this journey with my daughter," Johnson said, via WABC. "I never thought in a million years I'd be graduating with my daughter."

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