Mom and son graduate college together, fulfilling 18-year promise

Carolyn and Immanuel Patton say they’re “very proud” of their joint achievement.

Carolyn and Immanuel Patton, a mother-son duo from Maryland, have graduated college together, fulfilling a promise the younger Patton first made to his mom when he was 5 years old.

“I remember I just told my mom … one day, it’s gonna be you and me. We’re going to get our degrees at the same time,” Immanuel Patton, 23, recalled to “Good Morning America.”

Carolyn Patton, a mom of two, said she was more focused on her son going to college rather than finishing her own degree.

“For me, I had sort of gave up on it because I had already accomplished some associate's degrees and then I had started my bachelor's degree back in 1995 but life happened. Things got in the way,” Carolyn Patton, 63, told “GMA.”

But the elder Patton, who works as a coordinator at Anne Arundel Community College, said her son never wavered in his vision.

“That promise ... he never allowed it to die,” Carolyn Patton said. “It was continuously, ‘You know, mom, we're gonna do this.’”

The Pattons, who both have two associate’s degrees apiece, decided to enroll with University of Maryland Global Campus, which they were drawn to because the school specializes in online degree programs.

They started classes in the fall of 2020 but it wasn’t all easy. Gradually, the classes got harder and the Pattons said they needed to keep supporting each other along the way.

“I said, ‘Ma, you’ve got to keep it going. I know you want to stop. We got to keep going,’” Immanuel Patton said. “The main thing was just trying to get everything lined up and stay on top of her as well stay on top of myself.”

“He's a man of his word,” Carolyn Patton added. “Between my son and my daughter, they were my greatest supporters.”

Two years after they started the path together and about 18 years after Immanuel Patton vowed to graduate alongside his mother, they realized their collective dream. Both mom and son said they are “very proud” of each other’s achievements.

“I'm very proud of him that he has crossed off all the [items on his] checklist from birth till 23 years old,” Carolyn Patton said. “I'm so happy that we went that route because right now, look at us, we both have our bachelor's degrees.”

The Pattons were able to walk in person at UMGC’s winter commencement ceremony on Dec. 16, where Carolyn Patton received her bachelor of arts degree in humanities and Immanuel Patton received his bachelor of science degree in public safety administration.

“It was an experience of a lifetime,” Carolyn Patton said of the exciting event.

Immanuel Patton agreed: “It was an amazing experience to witness and for the president to come on the stage with us.”

University of Maryland Global Campus President Gregory Fowler told “GMA” in a statement that the Pattons are exemplary students.

"We are inspired by Immanuel's commitment to support his mother -- and for him to make that pledge at such a young age is truly remarkable. That we have helped him fulfill his childhood promise to Carolyn makes us all extremely proud,” Fowler said. “They were able to lift each other up at critical times during their journey. At UMGC we know that each learner may have different needs or start from different places—as exemplified by Immanuel and Carolyn—and our promise to all is that we will meet them where they are and support them as they transform their lives and the lives of those they love."

Now that they’ve graduated, Carolyn Patton plans on staying at her job while Immanuel Patton will be starting as a success coach at UMGC, helping students through their own individual college journeys.