College is a family affair for the Johnsons

Carlos Jr. and Marketa Johnson pose for a selfie on campus at Pierce College. Carlos Jr. and Marketa Johnson pose for a selfie on campus at Pierce College.

As a freshman at Philadelphia’s Peirce College in Fall 2012, Carlos Johnson Junior expected to be surrounded by a variety of new and interesting classmates. One fellow student in particular took the healthcare information technology student by surprise – his mother, Marketa Johnson. She was inspired by her 19-year-old son’s success at Peirce to earn her B.A. in business administration.

“At first, I thought it was awkward and it caught me off guard,” Carlos Jr. admits. “But after a while, it’s not just about me succeeding, it’s about her succeeding. We work as a team to get things done.”

While the two have yet to be in a class together, they have shared insights on instructors and helped each other with homework. At home, Carlos Jr. has pitched in with housework to lighten Marketa’s load of night courses and nine-hour workdays as a business administrator at UPenn.

“It’s still a little stressful,” Marketa says, “but it eases my mind to know we’re making progress as a team, and we’ll reach our goals.” Marketa selected a concentration in management to compliment her career. Carlos Jr. works as a clerk in a doctor’s office and intends to use his degree from Peirce to work as a chemist in a laboratory.

After more than a decade away from traditional classrooms, Marketa is surrounded by younger students, whom she jokes keep her young. There are also many students older than Marketa, who is “45 and proud.”

Besides professional development, Marketa hopes her experience as a non-traditional student will help others to follow suit. “I want people to know that if someone like me can go back and do it, then anyone can do it.” Marketa decided to finally pursue her college dreams now that Carlos Jr. and her daughter are teenagers: “Now, it’s Mommy time,” she says.

Carlos Johston Jr. catches up on some schoolwork. Carlos Johston Jr. catches up on some schoolwork.

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