4400 Mass Ave

Family Bonds and School Ties


Photo­graphy by
Jeff Watts

Tiayé Wooten and his mother, Darice Long

About a decade ago, Tiayé Wooten, SIS/MA ’23, was in the car with his mother headed to middle school. During the half-hour drive, he shared his angst about an upcoming test.
A former teacher, Darice Long, SOE/MEd ’23, quickly determined her son needed “a moment.”  

“I took a detour to a coffee shop and said, ‘You know what? You can be late to school. Let’s go have some coffee,’” she says. 
And so began Long and Wooten’s “mom-and-son coffee chats.” The tradition continued through Wooten’s high school years and even endured—albeit virtually—when he headed off to Wake Forest University in North Carolina, where he majored in communication and media studies.   
Eventually their caffeine-infused conversations relocated, in-person, to Spring Valley’s Compass Café. Their coffee dates were a way to connect before they headed off to class at American University, where they both pursued graduate degrees—Long in the School of Education’s education policy and leadership program and Wooten in the School of International Service’s intercultural and international communication program. Mother and son collected their diplomas on May 12 during AU’s 145th commencement. 
“It was great encouraging each other [as we] went through the journey,” says Wooten, who held three internships during his time at SIS, including with the US Government Accountability Office and the Department of the Treasury. “It definitely felt like we were in this together.”
Adding to the camaraderie: Long’s younger son just wrapped up his freshman year at the University of Kentucky. Long says it created a uniquely supportive dynamic with three members of the family pursuing higher education at the same time.
“We held each other accountable, sending each other GIFs about exam time and assignments,” she says with a laugh. 
As they moved their tassels from right to left in May, both mother and son are looking forward to their next chapters. Long recently started a new job in Howard University’s admissions office, and Wooten plans to pursue a career in international relations.
But the pair’s academic achievements have allowed for something just as valuable as a diploma: precious time together over cups of coffee before class.
Says Long: “It will be another memory together to look back and to say, ‘We did that.’ And then to look forward and say, ‘We can do that.’”