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Mother and son graduate from the same university fulfilling kindergarten promise made 20 years ago

As a kid, Immanuel Patton promised his mother that they would earn their degrees together.

Mother and son graduate from the same university fulfilling kindergarten promise made 20 years ago
Cover Image Source: Youtube / WBAL-TV 11 Baltimore

Nearly 20 years after making a commitment to graduate from college together, a mother from Maryland and her son both wrapped up 2022 by receiving their college diplomas from the same university. On December 16, 2022, Immanuel Patton, 23, and his mother Carolyn, 63, accepted their university degrees from the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) in Adelphi—a suburb of Baltimore. Carolyn graduated with a bachelor's degree in the humanities while Immanuel received a bachelor's degree in public safety administration. According to The Washington Post, Patton promised Carolyn when he was in kindergarten that they would graduate together. "I'd brought it up several times over the years, especially when my sister got her bachelor's degree," he said. "I told my mom, 'It's almost time. We can get this done together.'"


Carolyn, a single mother of two, shared that although she had always been motivated to earn her bachelor's degree, the demands of daily life had prevented her from doing so. After completing an associate's degree in electronic technology from a community college in Mississippi and another associate's degree in transfer studies from Anne Arundel Community College, she made two attempts to complete her bachelor's degree, reports WBAL-TV 11, a local NBC affiliate. Finally, it was her son—who was working on his own degree—who helped her achieve her dream by constantly encouraging her. The road to graduation wasn't always smooth as Carolyn acknowledged that it was occasionally difficult to finish her degree while also working.


For two years, Carolyn recalled, she and her son gave each other encouragement and assistance with coursework. "He'd have his laptop in one part of the house, and I'd be in my space with mine," she said. "If one of us needed help with something, we'd just go check in with each other." It was sometimes difficult for her to focus on her studies after working an eight-hour shift, Carolyn shared. "I have to admit that I had a few meltdowns," she said. "Sometimes, it just seemed too overwhelming, and I told Immanuel that I wanted to quit. But he wouldn't hear of it." Patton—who also earned two associate degrees from a junior college: one in general studies and one in business management—hit a rough patch in his studies too. He was once put on academic probation when his grade-point average dropped to 1.0.


However, the mother-son duo promised to study together, support one another and eventually finish their degrees. The Pattons celebrated their shared accomplishment on graduation day by taking pictures with Gregory Fowler, the president of UMGC. "We are inspired by Immanuel's commitment to support his mother – for him to make that pledge at such a young age is truly remarkable," Fowler stated. Speaking of what life would be like after graduation, Carolyn—who has worked as a coordinator of student services at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland, since 2001—shared that she intends to use her bachelor's degree to get a raise at work. Meanwhile, Patton stated that he is currently looking for a job, possibly in academic advising, given what he learned from those who helped support him and his mother while they attended school.


Carolyn, who purchased a one-way bus ticket from Mississippi to Maryland in 1989, compared continuing her education to taking another leap of faith. "I moved here with my daughter and stayed with a relative for 15 months until one day I caught a bus to a community college to see what else I could do for myself," she said. "I wanted a better life." When she and her son received their diplomas at their graduation last month, there were many joyful tears shed, said Carolyn. Her 82-year-old mother, Arleaver Patton, was among the audience members cheering. "Don't let anything get you off track from what you really want in life," said Patton. "I've always wanted this for my mom. And I'll be happy forever that she took me up on it."

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