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

They had multiple ceremonies the last couple of years because of the pandemic. Prior to that, there was just one.

This year, the university decided on three because they were unsure about what the state of the James Brown Arena would be, because of potential construction.

Sontonia Browner is an undergrad student who despite serious health problems and a learning disability– is finally getting her degree at 32 years old.

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

Sontonia Browner earned her Bachelor of Social Work after years of struggling through school because of a learning disability and congenital heart disease.

She had multiple surgeries including a tracheotomy at 1 year old and a pacemaker at 3 years old. Doctors told her parents she wouldn’t live past 16. She said no one thought she’d ever go to college.

“They told my mom, like, she just needs a certificate. She doesn’t nee a diploma. And my mom was like, no, she’s getting her diploma like everybody else. She might ant to go to college one day. And they was like, no, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

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

“I always wanted a college experience. I always wanted that college experience and I always wanted to join a sorority. So, what is 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 each and every day. I’m going to be a social worker. I’m going to be a social worker, finally.”

Browner can’t believe she is finally getting her degree and can’t wait to walk the stage.

“I’m so happy. I’m nervous. I’m excited. And just over with joy.”

She has a little advice for people thinking about going to college but don’t think they can.

“Take one step at a time. Don’t give up on your dreams. It does not matter your age. If you have a dream or a passion about something, do it.”

Thursday night’s Graduate ceremony will take place at the Bell Auditorium at 6 pm.
The two undergraduate ceremonies will be tomorrow at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Augusta Marriott Convention Center.

You can find more information HERE.

Photojournalist: Reggie Mckie.