TAMPA, Fla. — A student at WMU Cooley Law School went viral after he posted a video of his mother’s reaction to him passing the bar exam.

“My baby passed!”

The video shows Ray Curtis Petty Jr. and his mother embrace each other, in excitement as they read an email from the state bar confirming that Petty passed the bar exam.

“This has been my childhood dream,” said Petty. “As a kid, for career day, I was that kid that wore the too big shirt and too little tie. I always knew that I wanted to be in this position and I finally am.” 

Petty, who also serves in the Air Force, said he woke up to 30,000 notifications after he posted the video of he and his mom on TikTok. But after sitting down with him, I learned the real story is the journey behind the post.

“My mother was a teen mom, high school dropout, GED recipient and she did it anyway,” said Petty. “She has always encouraged me and my siblings. My sister had sickle cell disease but ended up becoming a nurse. The patient became the nurse. That’s how my mother motivated us.” 

Petty told me his mother has always been a solid foundation for him. That's why, when his sister passed just weeks before his final, he knew he needed to be there for his mom.

“My mom is a therapist and my dad is a pastor. I lost a sister but they lost a daughter,” said Petty. “I knew they couldn’t handle my pain.” 

He said the loss of his sister was heartbreaking for the family but in her honor Petty told me he continued on his mission of becoming an attorney.

“The week after she died, I had to finish five classes in law school,” said Petty.  “After those five classes, I had to report right back into military order. Going into 2021, I had to start studying for the bar exam.”

Petty said he failed the exam the first time but passed the second. He says he owes his success to his mother and sister, who motivated him to press on.

“My mom was that person that instilled in us we could break cycles and we could break generational curses and we can start generational blessings,” said Petty.