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Mother-Daughter Duos Go to Law School

Posted May 17, 2010 5:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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When 53-year-old Robin Wood begins law school this fall at the University of Maryland, she’ll have a mentor waiting: her 25-year-old daughter, Portia, who will be a 3L.

Andrea Thomas, who is 52, followed the example of her mother when she graduated last week from the University of the District of Columbia’s law school. Thomas’ mother, Lenora, was 66 when she graduated from the same school in 1997.

The mother-daughter duos are profiled by Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy, who calls their pursuit of education “an increasingly familiar story” about older women going back to school. These African-American women, he says, are “inspired by one another and motivated by an unwavering belief that education is the key to self-improvement, professional advancement and even freedom itself.”

Milloy praises the women and their goals to use higher education to help others, but expresses some concern that black men aren’t as convinced about the value of school. The article cites 2009 statistics showing black women made up 61.7 percent of the African-American enrollment at the nation's 50 highest-ranked law schools.

Andrea Thomas told the Post that she is a retired commander from the U.S. Coast Guard and hopes to use her law degree to help veterans. Robin Wood, who has worked at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other nonprofits, hopes to improve the justice system.

"We must find alternatives to incarceration and make sure our kids—especially black boys—get in and out of school and become gainfully employed," Wood told the newspaper.

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