Mother-daughter duo graduate together from Rutgers School of Social Work

Latonya Johnson, 43, and Laila Birchett, 21, will enroll in Rutgers' Master of Social Work program this fall.

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A mother-daughter duo has graduated together from Rutgers University School of Social Work. (Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube.com/WHAS11 News)

Congratulations are in order for one mother-daughter duo.

Latonya Johnson, 43, and Laila Birchett, 21, graduated together from Rutgers University’s School of Social Work on Sunday, the institution shared.

“My first college course was in 1999,” said Johnson, a divorced mother of six whose children range from ages 4 to 26. “From 1999 to now, I’ve attempted to go back six different times, but I was unsuccessful. I didn’t have the proper time management because I was a wife, a mother and working full time.” 

In addition to being a full-time mother, Johnson worked full-time and took classes part-time before she enrolled at Rutgers. Birchett suggested they attend school together, prompting her mother to scale back her work hours and enroll at the university in September 2022.

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

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The former Montclair State student knew she wanted to enter a field that allowed her to help others, particularly homeless people or the elderly. Johnson was already working as a certified alcohol and drug counselor.

While at Rutgers, the mother-daughter duo had different classes but shared one teacher. They relied on each other for support, from computer technology to real-life experience.

“There were times when I struggled through school,” Birchett said, People magazine reported. “But I always thought if my mom can do it, I can.” 

Johnson and Birchett will enroll in Rutgers’ Master of Social Work program this fall.

“My family – my kids, my mom and dad – everyone is proud because it’s two generations going to college together,” said Johnson, Rutgers reported. “I never thought in a million years, I’d be going to school with my daughter and graduating in the same college and major. 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.”


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