Bettina Bryant’s journey to graduation was long and difficult.
Bryant, a single mother of three, went through a period of homelessness, and while at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, she suffered a stroke.
She persevered, securing the right to participate in the 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, commencement ceremony — her first opportunity to wear a cap and gown. She didn’t graduate with her high school class 30 years ago.
Bryant, who prides herself on being resilient, said she earned her bachelor’s degree in speech communication “by the grace of God and believing in myself, regardless of what people say.”
Through her many challenges, Bryant held on to her dreams of bettering her situation and clearing the way so her children didn’t have the same difficulties she experienced, said Cheryl Johnston, instructor in the UALR Department of Speech Communication.
“Putting others’ dreams before (her) own is something that Bettina Bryant knows a lot about,” Johnston said.
One of Bryant’s sons has earned a master’s degree, and the other son is an Army sergeant taking classes online. Her daughter is a college student in Georgia.
“It is through their accomplishments that I know I raised them right, as a single parent,” Bryant said.
She chose to study speech and communication because she enjoys interacting with people — to the point that some have suggested she become a politician.
“I love listening and trying to help or give ideas,” Bryant said.
While politics might not be in her future plans, Bryant is leaving her options open. She plans to continue her education and is eyeing future careers in nursing or human resources.
Her experience at UALR was rewarding, and Bryant said she particularly appreciated the work of Johnston as well as Drs. Gerald W. Driskill and Avinash Thombre, also faculty members in the Department of Speech Communication.
For Johnston, the admiration is mutual.
“It may have taken her longer than most, but (Bryant’s) determination is an inspiration, not only for her children, but all of us here today to witness her accomplishment.”