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Rita and Edward Yawson Start a Family, Including Twins, on the Way to UMGC Degrees

Mary Dempsey
By Mary Dempsey
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Edward and Rita Yawson

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of profiles of Spring 2024 graduates.

When Rita Adamakoaa Yawson and Edward Abeka Yawson decided to enroll in separate bachelor’s degree programs at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) in 2021, they were both working full time. The married couple, immigrants from Ghana who wanted to position themselves to contribute in a deeper way to their new country, knew it was going to require discipline to juggle jobs and school.

That was before they discovered a baby daughter was on the way—followed by the birth of twins.

Both of the Yawsons acknowledge there was a big learning curve when it came to time-management and perseverance.

“It was stressful, as we know all online classes have a lot of assignments and discussion board sessions,” Edward said. “With the encouragement of my family and friends, I have been able to complete my first degree.”

Rita was right there with him when they were both juggling the unexpected twists and turns of parenting, coursework and work. In fact, she was on her computer finishing her final paper for her UMGC degree right before she headed to the hospital to give birth to the twins, now 12 weeks old. 

When Rita and Edward stepped on stage to collect their diplomas at Grad Walk on May 10, tiny Elia and Eliana were in their arms and Simone, nearly 2, was at their side.

Rita received a Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management and Edward earned a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity Management and Policy.

Rita moved to the United States from Ghana in 2016, and immediately enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College with an eye on a career in human resources. The plans were interrupted after Edward, who was in the U.S. Army, received orders to go to Tennessee.

“Then we transferred back to Virginia,” Rita said. “I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree done, but I didn’t how or when. Also, I didn’t want to go the traditional route with in-person classes.”

Edward, meanwhile, had been working in transportation with the Army before shifting into cybersecurity work for the military. He, too, was interested in adding to his academic credentials in order to advance in his career.

Both said they wanted to succeed as immigrants so they could contribute to their new country, the United States.

Rita started researching on Facebook and Instagram and soon found information about UMGC.

“I thought, ‘This looks nice.’ Then one of our friends also referred us to the school,” she recalled. “I told my husband that this was a great school that we both can go to.”

The couple synchronized their UMGC enrollment so they could graduate at the same time “according to our timeline, without a rush,” Edward said. Then Rita became pregnant.

“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “We had to schedule our time and our care of the baby. Edward spent time with Simone when I did my homework. We were studying around the clock.”

Just more than a year later, they learned they would also have twins.

Although they were in different degree programs, Edward said he and Rita provided each other with encouragement “and the courage to push through to the finish.” They also credited their professors and support staff at UMGC.

“The success coaches at UMGC are interested in what is going on in your lives, about everything you’re juggling while you’re taking classes,” Rita said. “I tell everyone that this is the best school you can go to if you’re working and you have a family.”

Edward now works as a cybersecurity contractor with the Department of Justice, and he plans to eventually enroll in a master’s degree program in cybersecurity management. For her part, Rita has been applying for work with the federal government but she, too, has an eye on a master’s degree—this one focused on cybersecurity human resources.

“I made a promise to myself that I will never give up on my dreams,” she said.