Inspiring Augusta University Graduate Students Despite Obstacles

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AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF)- On Thursday evening, the first of three graduation ceremonies for Augusta University’s Spring 2022 graduates will take place.

They’ve had several ceremonies over the past two years because of the pandemic. Before that, there was only one.

This year, the university chose three because it was unsure of the condition of the James Brown Arena, due to potential construction.

Sontonia Browner is an undergraduate student who, despite serious health issues and a learning disability, finally graduates at age 32.

“It’s just a blessing. And just… it’s a miracle. I am a miracle,” she said.

Sontonia Browner earned her bachelor’s degree in social work after years of struggling in school due to a learning disability and congenital heart disease.

She underwent several surgeries, including a tracheotomy at 1 year old and a pacemaker at 3 years old. Doctors told her parents she would not live past 16. She said no one thought she would ever go to college.

“They told my mom she just needed a certificate. She doesn’t need a degree. And my mom was like, no, she’s graduating like everyone else. She could go to college. college one day. And they were like, no, I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Browner ended up getting her high school diploma online and after much praying and talking to her parents, she decided to go to college.

“I always wanted to have a university experience. I always wanted that college experience and I always wanted to join a sorority. So what’s stopping me?” Browner explained.

Despite the obstacles she faced, she said she never gave up on her dream.

“It’s a blessing. I just have to thank God every day. I will become a social worker. I’m going to be a social worker, finally.

Browner can’t believe she’s finally graduating and can’t wait to hit the stage.

“I’m so happy. I’m stressed. I’m overexcited. And just overjoyed.

She has a little advice for people who are considering going to college but don’t think they can.

“Take one step at a time. Don’t give up on your dreams. It doesn’t matter how old you are. If you have a dream or a passion for something, do it.

The Thursday evening graduation ceremony will take place in the Bell Auditorium at 6 p.m.
Both undergraduate ceremonies will take place tomorrow at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Augusta Marriott Convention Center.

You can find more information here.

Photojournalist: Reggie McKie.

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