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He was set to graduate a first-gen college student. Then, his parents beat him to the diploma

“If there’s something you want to do, it’s never too late to go back and do it."
Credit: Ryan Johnson

MCCALL CREEK, Miss — Ryan Johnson has always looked up to his parents.

They worked hard to raise Ryan, 21, and his six siblings, hoping to provide the best life possible for their children.

For his parents, Carl and Melody, that meant forgoing college in order to raise their family.

“My parents got married at 18. Right out of high school they had my eldest sister and went straight into the work force to provide for family, so they didn’t get a chance to go to college,” said Ryan.

But their sacrifice paved the way for Ryan and his siblings. His three older siblings became the first in the family to earn college degrees.

When Ryan, the youngest of his siblings, embarked for college he proposed an idea to his parents: All three of them would go to college and get their degrees.

A passion for current events and law landed him in the political science program at the University of Southern Mississippi. His parents enrolled at Alcorn State University, his mother studying education and father social work.

Ryan and his siblings worked to help their parents adapt to being back in the modern school system.

In addition to an intense curriculum for both Carl and Melody, the two had to adjust to being back in school after 25 years as well as new technology in classrooms.

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After four years of hard work and an internship on Capitol Hill, Ryan plans on graduating in May of 2020 and hopes to continue to law school. But he wasn’t quite quick enough to beat his parents in crossing the graduation line.

Carl, 62, and Melody, 60, received their bachelor’s degrees in December 2019.

“Was on my way to being a 1st Gen college grad, then my parents graduated 5 months before me,” Ryan posted on Twitter. “Proud son.”

The sentiment inspired thousands. It has been retweeted over 12,500 times and liked more than 100,000 times.  

Ryan hopes the tweet’s message is clear: It’s never too late to pursue an education.

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“If there’s something you want to do, it’s never too late to go back and do it,” said Ryan. “To see my parents dedicate themselves to something new and foreign to them, they hadn’t been in school in 25 years, and actually finish strong… it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen anyone do.”

Just like their son, Carl and Melody aren’t done with their education. Both are planning on getting their master’s degrees and pursuing  careers in their selected fields.

“I know a lot of people who wish they had chosen a different career path, so it’s cool to see my parents inspire others to do what they want to do with life,” said Ryan.

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