Graduating Senior Turns Family Tragedy Into Triumph

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By: Lanetra Bennett
December 12, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - More than 650 prospective graduates will get their degrees during FAMU's fall commencement Friday night.

One of those students walking across the stage has turned a family tragedy into triumph.

Chyanne Fletcher says, "I'm just hoping I don't trip because I finally made it. It's like too much emotions mixed in one."

Fletcher smiled and giggled throughout our entire interview. But, that mixture of emotions she mentioned will also include sadness and heartache.

That's because her mother will not be there when she graduates from FAMU Friday.

The emotion she felt when her mom first died three years ago was: "I felt kind of angry. I was like, she gave up on me, she left me here. What am I going to do."

Fletcher says she knew what she had to do. She had to raise her five younger siblings. They were 10, 11, 13, 16, and 17 at the time.

She also was determined to stay in school. The 22-year-old is getting her nursing degree.

Fletcher's mother, who had the blood disorder, Sickle Cell Anemia, was also a nurse. She says, "She would be fine one day and then literally that night, you would see her in pain in a sickle cell crisis. So, if she could battle all those hurdles that came her way, I know that I can definitely do it, and she would want me to."

Fletcher's mom died of a heart attack at age 38. She says her two youngest brothers came home from school and found her dead on April 5, 2010.

She says, "I felt like my childhood was ripped away, to be honest. I felt like all the things that I wanted to do in college, I didn't get a chance to actually do that. Organizations that I wanted to participate in, I didn't get a chance to do that. But, you know what, I don't regret it because they were my main priority and they still are. So, in the end, I'm happy."

Fletcher describes her mother as a great person and hard-working woman. She says her mom worked three jobs until Fletcher was in high school.

Just thinking about her graduation day, Fletcher laughs and says, "I'm just excited."

FAMU's graduation is Friday, December 13th at 6:00 p.m. at the AL Lawson Center.

All of Fletcher's siblings will be there.

Fletcher is from West Palm Beach. She says she has a job offer in Tallahassee, but, she plans to move to Orlando. She says Orlando is closer to home; plus, she's waiting to hear if she was accepted into the Florida Hospital Orlando Residency Program.

News Release: Florida A&M University

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Four years ago, Chyanne Fletcher’s mother encouraged her to attend Florida A&M University (FAMU) because she believed there was nothing quite like the experience of attending a prestigious historically black university.
On Friday, Dec. 13 at 6 p.m., Fletcher will be joining more than 650 prospective graduates who will be awarded degrees during FAMU’s fall commencement. The ceremony, held at the Alfred Lawson Jr. Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium, will serve as a launching pad for each of the candidates’ careers. Author Sonia Jackson Myles will be the commencement speaker.
For Fletcher, receiving her degree from FAMU will also be an opportunity to honor her mother.
“Graduating cum laude and receiving a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) from the best nursing school in Florida is such a rewarding feeling,” said Fletcher, who has a 3.18 GPA. “My mother was a nurse and I always felt like she was actually more than just a nurse. She was the go-to person for every institution that she worked for. Not only did I want to make her proud, but I also wanted to do what made me happy.”
As she was growing up, Fletcher watched her mother, Authrine Fletcher, struggle with sickle cell anemia while continuing to care for others. Although the disorder hindered Fletcher’s mother from accomplishing some of her life’s goals, the struggle she watched her endure for so many years would later become a source of strength during a time of turbulence.
Fletcher’s mother passed away on April 5, 2010.
“I remember it like yesterday,” she recalled. “I called my mother and I did not get an answer and that’s when I knew something was wrong. I called all of my siblings and no answer. So, I called again and finally got an answer with the bad news. The hardest part was to be the strong one for my sisters and brothers and having to explain to a 10-year-old that it was not his fault that mommy died when he said, ‘I did not know how to do those chest things to bring her back.’”
At the age of 19, Fletcher became the legal guardian of her five younger siblings. She wanted to quit school and move back home to West Palm Beach, Fla., but she continued to push forward. Her siblings moved up to Tallahassee with her for two years.
“There were days when I just broke down and cried and had no one to call or turn to but God,” she said. “I feel like if I set the pace, it will be easy for my siblings to follow. I know they are all looking at the steps that I make in life and look to me for answers for the path that they take in life.”
Fletcher says she’s learned numerous life lessons during her time at FAMU, including independence and the great value of an education. It was at FAMU that she was encouraged to strive for success and continue to jump over every hurdle that came her way.
“You are not just a number at FAMU,” the future nurse said. “These professors actually do care about you and they want you to succeed. They want you to go farther and not to just stop at an undergraduate education. An education is something that no one can ever take away from you.”
Fletcher, who has received a job offer post graduation that would allow her to work with cancer and sickle cell anemia patients, says she is thankful for being the first person in her family to graduate and grateful for the FAMU experience.

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