College of Liberal Arts & Sciences student Hannah Martin received a standing ovation from fellow students and other audience members at UNC Charlotte’s commencement on Dec. 15, when she joined Chancellor Philip L. Dubois and Dean Nancy A. Gutierrez before the crowd in the Dale F. Halton Arena.
Martin had sustained injuries that left her paralyzed in a car accident in July 2007, just prior to her planned freshman year as an aspiring dancer. Following months of recovery, she shifted her major and started classes in fall 2008. She graduated with a double major in criminal justice and psychology, a minor in sociology and a 3.96 GPA. At the afternoon commencement, Chancellor Dubois shared her story, and the audience members rose in her honor.
WBTV has also featured her story here.
Other graduates from the College are members of the 49er Finish program, including Victoria Namishia, who received her bachelor’s degree in English after starting work toward her college degree 28 years ago.
This program recruits former UNC Charlotte seniors back to the university to finish their degrees. The program began in fall 2005 and uses a concierge approach of service and support that is earning national acclaim.
For Namishia, her educational journey began at New Jersey’s William Paterson State College in September 1984; however, she withdrew the next year. Four years later, she entered Passaic County Community College, where she graduated with an associate’s degree in May 1991.
That fall, Namishia and her husband moved to North Carolina for work reasons. Namishia said she attempted to finish her degree at UNC Charlotte in the intervening years, but between work and family commitments, it was a daunting task.
“I was contacted by the program a few times, and I even responded in 2010. But I didn’t follow through,” she said. Last fall, she decided it was the right time.
“My life had settled down, so I thought I’d give it a shot,” she said. “I expected to be told that I’d have to start all over. Originally, I was pursuing an education degree. As it turned out, if I switched to an English major with an American Studies minor, then I could complete my degree with only eight classes.”
Determined to graduate in 2012, Namishia took four classes in the spring, three during the summer and took her final class this fall. After 13 years out of the classroom, she received three As and a B in the spring and made the Dean’s List.
“You shouldn’t let the dream go because life happens,” Namishia said. “Langston Hughes, in his poem ‘Harlem,’ asks ‘What happens to a dream deferred?’ I can answer that question: it doesn’t go away. It hides and it waits for the opportunity to be realized. I always said I would graduate from college someday. For me, someday is Saturday, Dec. 15.”
(This story is an edited version of accounts that originally appeared in Inside.uncc.edu. Photos: Martin (right) with Gutierrez and Dubois; Namishia (left) with OASES advisor Kelly Moore.)