Generations of Achievement: Two VSU Mothers To Graduate Alongside Their Children At Spring Commencement

Tanya McCoy, her son Kevin McCoy Jr., Dr. Arifah Goodwin, and her daughter Erickah Rogers share unique family bonds, academic triumphs, and now the same stage at graduation.

At Virginia State University, the Trojan Family isn't just a phrase; it's a living reality where generations carry on the tradition of attending. This year's Spring 2024 Commencement will see two remarkable families celebrate a unique milestone: graduating together.

Having stood for 142 years, it is not uncommon for a son or daughter to attend classes on the same 231-acre campus as their mom or dad once did. However, it is rare for them to do it simultaneously. And yet, that has been the case for Tanya McCoy and Arifah Goodwin, who are set to graduate this spring. It will be a special moment for both, but it will be even more special when McCoy shares the stage with her son and Goodwin with her daughter.

The road to a college degree isn't always straightforward. There are twists, turns, and bumps along the way, sometimes even time away from the classroom altogether. For 54-year-old VSU student Tanya McCoy, there was a musical career that spanned 25 years across Europe before returning to the U.S. to finish her schooling.

McCoy was initially meant to graduate from VSU in 1995 but needed to complete her senior recital, a requirement for all music majors with a concentration in vocal performance before getting their degree.

Instead of knocking out the one-credit course, McCoy ventured to Europe with her soon-to-be husband, another VSU music major, Kevin McCoy. She began performing abroad as a full-time singer, touring with The Black Gospel Pearls before going solo. During her illustrious career, McCoy has performed in Germany, Spain, Romania, France, Austria, and China.

While living out her dream, McCoy pondered returning to VSU after her son, Kevin McCoy Jr., was born in 1999. However, it wasn’t until last semester that she actually enrolled.


"I came back because I really wanted to finish, and I promised my mom I would because I was the first person from my family to go to college," said McCoy. “It was also extremely important to me to create a legacy at VSU, especially after my son, Kevin Jr., enrolled here.”

Kevin Jr., who will receive a bachelor's degree in business management from the Reginald F. Lewis College of Business, had no issues appeasing his mother's wish. He was even later joined by his sister, Taylor, a junior at VSU. Right away, Kevin Jr. settled in and joined the University's ROTC program, where he eventually became the battalion commander. Kevin Jr. says he plans to be commissioned into the Army as an officer, but only after a one-of-a-kind graduation.

"Not many sons can say they graduated from college at the same time as their mom," he said. "It's hard to describe how it feels, but I can definitely say I made the best decision."

It will be the emotional end of a long journey that was well worth it because of where it started and finished.

"I found family and I found love at Virginia State University," said McCoy. "My life is forever changed from being on this campus and I will never forget my time here."

The Trojan Legacy Continues With Arifah Goodwin And Her Daughter Erickah

Meanwhile, Arifah Goodwin's ties to VSU are also deeply rooted. Growing up, she attended classes at the University where both her parents earned undergraduate and graduate degrees.

They say history has a way of repeating itself, and that is undoubtedly true for Goodwin, who, as a single mom, continued the family tradition by bringing her 14-year-old daughter Erickah Rogers to class with her while she worked on her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.

There's no denying that Erickah's first experiences at VSU left a strong impression on her. Still, she was reluctant to return after graduating high school.

"Virginia State has always been present in my life, and I think that's part of the reason why I didn't want to come here initially. It felt like something I already knew," said Erickah.

Erickah decided to attend a different four-year institution, but virtual learning was a struggle when the pandemic forced her to take all her courses online. Luckily, something good came from an unfortunate situation. Because Erickah was back home and already close by, it made complete sense to transfer to VSU.

"It was one of the best decisions I ever made," she said. "I ran from it when I was 18 but quickly realized I could have my own experience here."


Just like her mom did in 2017, Erickah will receive her degree in sociology. She says her mom is one of her biggest academic inspirations, both personally and academically. After graduation, Erickah plans to continue studying and pursue a master's in education.

While her daughter plans to continue her academic journey, Goodwin's is coming to an end. She will receive her third degree from VSU, a Doctor of Education in Educational Administration and Supervision. Currently, Goodwin is employed at VSU as the Assistant Director for Employee Relations for the Career Services Department, helping students, much like her daughter, figure out their futures.

As far as what is next for Goodwin, she has authored two journals catered to black women and plans to pursue a marriage and family therapist license.

"My last ten years have been committed to school, and there was only one school I had ever considered attending," said Goodwin. "Virginia State is such a great school -- the community is amazing and extremely supportive, and the opportunities are endless."

WATCH THIS VIDEO to meet our featured graduates and hear their amazing stories.

The public can watch Goodwin, Erickah, Tanya, and Kevin Jr. receive their VSU degrees on Saturday, May 11.

The University is holding two commencement ceremonies this spring with two guest speakers. The first ceremony will begin at 9:00 am, celebrating graduates from the College of Education and College of Humanities & Social Sciences, with former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder delivering the keynote address.

The 2:00 pm ceremony will celebrate graduates from the College of Agriculture, College of Engineering & Technology, College of Natural & Health Sciences, and the Reginald F. Lewis College of Business, with Congressman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott as the guest speaker. Commencement processions will begin at 8:30 am and 1:30 pm.