Braylin Wilson and Rose Mary Johnson are grandson and grandmother. The pair will graduate together on Saturday, May 8, from the University of Memphis. (Courtesy photo)

If heroine badges were to be handed out this Mother’s Day, two moms in one Memphis family would be among the honorees.

Rose Mary Johnson, proprietor of Higher Learning Enrichment Academy (HLEA), and her daughter, Rashana Johnson, have produced a gentleman and a scholar, Braylin Wilson.

Johnson and Johnson will be on hand to cheer Wilson as he graduates from the University of Memphis on Saturday (May 8) one day before Mother’s Day.

Rose Mary Johnson is a fellow graduate who will join Wilson as he marches in the ceremony.

For the Johnson-Wilson family, this weekend will be a non-stop party. The graduation will be staged at the Liberty Bowl Stadium, where masking and social distancing will be enforced. The ceremony will be live-streamed for those playing it safe right now.

“Ms. Rose,” as she is called at her school, will receive a bachelors degree in Liberal Studies in Childcare, with an emphasis on Social Services.

“I want to use my degree to advance my preschool into public or private education,” said Rose Mary Johnson. “I want to continue providing an excellent curriculum for young children and expand the grade levels of our students.”

Wilson, 22, earned his bachelors degree in Psychology, with a minor in Healthcare and Society. He has been accepted into the graduate program for Psychology at the U of M.

“I actually started my education at my grandmother’s preschool,” said Wilson. “I was one of the salutatorians when I graduated from the academy.”

Rose Mary Johnson has been in the childcare industry for 26 years, getting her start with a family home daycare that grew too large to continue in her home, which to the creating of the Higher Learning Enrichment Academy.  

The advanced academic curriculum for toddlers has made Ms. Rose’s school a popular choice in the Hickory Hill community.

The other heroine of this story is Rashana Johnson, Wilson’s mother.

“I was 17, a senior in high school, when I had Braylin,” said Rashana Johnson. “It was one of the scariest moments of my life. But my mother brought a sense of normalcy back to my life.”

Rose Mary Johnson insisted Rashana finish school. Rashana graduated from Ridgeway High School in 1999. The young mother was motivated to excel in her higher education pursuit for her son.

“My mother kept Braylin at her daycare,” said Rashana. “This enabled me to be a full-time college student. I just don’t know how I would have made it without the love and support of my mom.”

Ms. Rose doesn’t see her role in helping raise her grandson as anything extraordinary. That’s just what grandmothers do, she said.

“Especially in our community, if another baby comes along for a teenage daughter, the grandmother steps in,” said Rose Mary Johnson. “Rashana had to finish high school and continue her education. There was just no argument about that. Today, she holds a masters degree in Education. Braylin and I are very proud of her. Rashana is a U of M alumnus.”

Rashana is an administrator at HLEA, and looks to help her mother take the school to new levels of academic offerings in higher grades beyond preschool. 

For now, the double graduation this weekend is more than enough.

“I guess if you talk about wonderful mothers, my mom ranks right up there at the top,” said Rashana. “She helped me with my baby when I needed her the most. Mom and Braylin are best friends, partners in crime, all of that. Ms. Rose is the best mother, the best grandmother. And Braylin thinks it’s cool that she’s going to graduate with him.”