New Jersey mother, daughter supports one another on way to graduating from Rutgers together

Toni Yates Image
Thursday, May 9, 2024
NJ mother, daughter duo to graduate together from Rutgers
Toni Yates has more on the mother daughter duo.

NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey (WABC) -- With Mother's Day this weekend, a New Jersey mother and daughter will be celebrating a very special moment together -- graduating from college.

Latonya Johnson, 43, and 21-year-old Laila Birchett are set to graduate from the Rutgers School of Social Work. The mother-daughter duo took the same major after arriving at the school in September 2022.

"In some ways, Laila inspired her mom to finish school," said Rutgers School of Social Work Dr. Dewayne Battle. "Latonya has inspired Laila to be independent person."

That inspiration Battle acknowledged refers to when Birchett -- who is the second oldest of Johnson's six kids -- decided on the idea of the two going to school together while she was studying at Montclair State University.

Johnson at the time was going to college part-time elsewhere while jumbling the kids, being recently divorced and working a full-time job.

"I've tried so many times, but I was unsuccessful because I was married, worked full time and I have six children," Johnson said.

Johnson and Birchett shared one teacher and different classes. Beyond that, they leaned on each other to manage school and a very busy household.

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

Johnson and Birchett aren't saying goodbye to Rutgers just yet, despite the graduation. Both plan to spend one more year to earn their Master's degree.

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

Once they're finished, Birchett plans to help the homeless community, while Johnson will focus on substance abuse and domestic violence.

Anthony Johnson speaks with the mother who gave birth and defended her doctorial dissertation on the same day.


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