LAFAYETTE — A few months ago, Ashley Wycoff wasn’t sure if she’d be walking with her patient care technician classmates on graduation night in December.
In May, she suffered mini-strokes and had to undergo physical therapy to restore her strength and help her walk again.
Then, in July, just weeks before the start of the fall semester at South Louisiana Community College, she was hit with another attack and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“I thought, ‘This cannot be happening to me. I’m 30 years old. I have two girls. I’m in school. This can’t be happening to me,’ ” Wycoff said about the strokes and diagnosis.
But on Thursday night, she stood with classmates, her chief cheerleader, Latasha Jackson, among them, awaiting her graduation walk.
“It’s overwhelming,” Wycoff said. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long.”
Jackson convinced her to go to college earlier this year and work toward their mutual goal of becoming nurses. And it was Jackson and other classmates who encouraged her to return to SLCC in August after she faced a painful recovery and physical therapy.
“We’re a team,” Jackson said. “We started as a team and we finished together as a team.”
Wycoff and Jackson, both of St. Martinville, were among 600 SLCC graduates Thursday who earned associate degrees, technical diplomas and certificates in their fields of study during the college’s fall commencement at the Cajundome Convention Center.
The graduation ceremony capped off an exciting week for Natalie Richard, a practical nursing graduate.
“We had our pinning ceremony yesterday. It felt amazing to finally be done. Tonight, I feel excited and joyful,” said Richard, 23, of Opelousas.
After the excitement of graduation, Richard said her mind is set on one thing: Passing her board exams.
“I’d like to work in either pediatrics or geriatrics,” she said.
Some graduates are already working — like Daniel Brown, 20, of Lafayette.
Brown graduated Thursday from the college’s machinist program.
The ceremony included students from SLCC’s campuses in Abbeville, Crowley, Lafayette, New Iberia, Opelousas, St. Martinville and Ville Platte.