Imagine a parent and child graduating from the same college, in the same year.
The unusual blessing happened to La-Tricia Taylor and Garyn Mercer.
“It’s a huge accomplishment, just being able to graduate,” Mercer said. “I never even thought I’d be going to school.”
The Baltimoreans happen to be mother and son. Taylor and Mercer graduated from Coppin State University on May 19, 2023. Taylor majored in Criminal Justice. Mercer majored in Information Technology Systems.
“I walked across the stage first because of my field. I was in the College of Behavioral Health and Social Sciences, so Garyn followed,” Taylor said, mentioning that she knew her son would walk across the stage to graduate after she did. “It felt awesome— very, very good. I was so excited.”
Taylor said that she and her son had gained the reputation of being a mother and son who were attending Coppin at the same time.
“I always brag about my son,” she said, laughing.
Mercer also reflected on how he felt achieving the huge accomplishment of graduating from college. At a point in his life, he did not like school. He returned to the area from the military after serving five years in the U.S. Army. Mercer now aspires to work in the IT field.
A new adventure in his life began after he had been stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky and also in Korea. His military contract ended. Mercer regained entry into civilian life and found his way back to his mother.
“The reason why I moved back home was to be close to her,” Mercer said.
His mother became ill with multiple sclerosis in October of 2018.
“I had just graduated from Baltimore City Community College, and then I started going to Coppin, and at that time I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. My son got an apartment close to where I was living, and he started going to school at Coppin,” Taylor said.
Mercer said that he started Coppin in 2020. His mother was already enrolled at Coppin.
“I always wanted to be a probation officer,” Taylor said.
She further explained that she became ill while working for the state of Maryland as a correctional hearing officer. Taylor reflected on her experience with an illness that interrupted her memory and manner in which her brain functioned. Learning something new took her more time to catch on. As a result, she had to leave her previous place of employment on disability.
“I had to retire from the state of Maryland after my health diagnosis and complications from it. I can only do contractual work for the state of Maryland and work part-time now because of my disability,” Taylor said.
She added that it would be “great” to return to employment there on a part-time, contractual basis. Her desire is to work in Denton, Maryland.
While Taylor struggled to achieve her goal of completing college due to juggling health challenges, she also faced financial hurdles. She said that she could not get money from any sources, so she had to pay her college tuition out-of-pocket. Driving for Uber was Taylor’s solution.
At one point, she felt like quitting college and shared her feelings with her son.
“My son said, ‘No, Mom, you can’t stop,’” she added.
Taylor’s drive to achieve her secondary education goal arose because she wanted to be just as good as her colleagues at work. She had the required experience working with adult offenders, but Taylor did not have a college degree at the time. Taylor, whose late mother and also a daughter graduated from Coppin, were other motivating components for earning one.
Mercer’s personal challenges to earn a college degree were a little different.
“Just being a veteran, you’re used to a whole set of ways, and then I was also dealing with mental health issues,” Mercer said.
But the military helped him to have the attitude of finishing what he starts. Mercer stuck to his goal.
Taylor and Mercer renewed their family’s legacy of attending Coppin. It may continue to keep going. Now, another one of Taylor’s children wants to study at Coppin State University after finishing Baltimore City Community College.
“Education is the key,” Taylor said emphatically. “I was glad to graduate with my son. I was really glad.”