A total of 110 seniors will graduate from Saint Augustine’s University on April 30. Everyone who gets a diploma has gained a significant achievement. However some faced obstacles that were so high that their success stands out. Here are the stories of some of those students.
Love of learning tops loss of loved ones
Ebony Brown’s time as a Falcon has had its share of ups and downs. She describes herself as a “very shy person.” During her first few months at the university, she “never opened up to anyone,” she recalled.
It didn’t help that Brown was attending college in a different country than where she grew up. Brown is a native of Nassau, The Bahamas.
“I wouldn’t call it challenging,” Brown said but “it was a change” coming to the United States, she said.
Brown gradually began to make acquaintances. But the biology major soon met with other obstacles to completing her education; Brown lost her father in the spring semester of her sophomore year. She lost her brother the following fall.
This time was particularly difficult for her emotionally and academically. She sought assistance by adopting her emotional support dog, Prince.
Brown’s love of learning and her career ambitions motivated her and drove her forward. Brown’s choice to study biology came naturally to her.
“No other path was appealing to me,” she explained. “I love doing hands-on experiments and learning every day.”
Brown aspires to be a pediatrician, an ambition that stems from her love for children. She explained: “It is my goal to do all in my power to help children grow up being healthy because the children are our future.”
Brown has managed to thrive at Saint Augustine’s despite a heavy schedule. She has been a resident assistant since her second semester at Saint Augustine’s. Her duties in Weston Hall have sometimes conflicted with her class schedule.
“I have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays with work on Wednesdays to 12 a.m.,” Brown said, “I had to alter my sleep schedule because I’m juggling the responsibilities of classes and work.”
She is also a new member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated.
Brown has different sources of motivation as she navigates life as an upcoming graduate and young adult. Some of these include gospel and motivational music, prayer, speaking positively and ensuring her friend groups consist of positive people.
“It took me a while to get back on track” after her early obstacles, Brown said. “But I did it and I am able to still graduate on time.”
— Shappelle Marshall
Being a mother was tough but motivating
Navigating through college is difficult for anyone but, for Jaelyn Barnes, it almost seemed impossible. Barnes, a psychology major from Charlotte, N.C., managed to get through her college education while juggling classes and motherhood; she is a mother to a beautiful 5-year-old daughter, Abrielle.
“Being two hours away from home has always been the biggest problem for me,” Barnes said. “I am not capable of physically being there for my daughter and I know there’s time where she just needs her mother.”
Barnes has managed to not only graduate within four years but she has done well. In the recent spring Honors Convocation ceremony, she was on the Provost’s List, an honor bestowed upon students with a cumulative GPA between 3.0 and 3.64. Barnes has a 3.3 GPA.
She said her daughter was actually motivation for her. “She is my story and my motivation to come to college, stay in college and to graduate on time,” Barnes said.
Although she was at school during the week, Barnes would travel every weekend to be with her daughter. When Abrielle was younger, she would “cry and/or act out at school just because she missed me,” Barnes said. “Now that she’s a little older, she understands more that mommy is away at school but she’s coming home on the weekend.”
Barnes acknowledges that she needed help. She credits her advisors and professors for providing a meaningful support system.
“My professors and advisors all knew my situation from my freshmen year,” she said. “They understood if I had to step outside to take a call or even miss class. That’s another reason why I came to an HBCU — the people I’m surrounded by understand and connect to my story more than they would at a PWI.”
Barnes plans to pursue a graduate degree, but not right away.
“I have reached out and connected with a lot of Black therapists in Charlotte who have offered internships to give me the hours and extra learning I can get so, when I do go to grad school, I will have everything I need,” she said.
— Jessica Saintil
Determination overcomes debilitating injury
Howard Boone’s life changed completely in 2018 during Spring Break. was shot in the back of the neck outside a nightclub in Columbia, South Carolina, where he had gone to visit friends.
The incident happened on March 18, 2018, around 2 a.m. During an altercation in which Boone was an innocent bystander, a shooting left Boone and two other victims critically injured.
Not only has the criminal justice major from Raleigh, North Carolina, recovered from his injuries; he has completed his college education and will earn his college degree on April 30.
The senseless violence left Boone a quadriplegic and living life on a ventilator, according to his mother Sheraldine Whitley Lewis.
Boone’s campus activities included being a member of the ROTC Army program, serving as Mister Junior for the Student Government Association and being a member of Superior Sound Marching Band.
The injuries slowed Boone but did not stop him. His mother posted this on her Facebook page recently: “No he didn’t graduate in 2019, no he didn’t commission as an officer and go active duty as planned, but guess what? God gave him a second chance at life. He still has a sound mind, he still has the ability to speak, Howard is still the man with a plan. ”
Boone expressed joy in his own Facebook post: “Last assignment turned in last night! These past nine months have been beyond exhausting. Completing research papers, discussion boards, and just figuring out different ways to meet deadlines without falling behind.”
The majority of his work was completed through his phone using voice control accessibility, Boone explained. He added: “My last prideful accomplishment besides joining Omega Psi Phi Fraternity was when I graduated Airborne School jumping out of an aircraft in 2017 extending my military credentials, in hopes of having a great career. So graduating with my bachelors degree in criminal justice. …is PERSONAL!”
Friends and acquaintances have flooded Boone’s Facebook page with messages.
“So happy for you and proud of you!!!” said Cheryl Young Allen.
“Excellent news Brother Boone! Perseverance is the key,” wrote James Ford.
E. Lawrence Johnson simply said: “So proud of you, bruh.”
Boone also posted a Bible verse:
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”