|87-year-old graduate, mother-daughter tag team among UNC Commencement stories|
|Wednesday, May 01, 2013|
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s spring Commencement on Sunday (May 12) at 9:30 a.m. in Kenan Stadium offers the following human interest story ideas connected to the ceremony.
87-year-old completes degree with class on Elvis
It took more than 65 years, but Helen Joan (pronounced “Jo Ann”) Hunter of Phoenix, Ariz., will finally get her bachelor’s degree in Spanish from UNC.
In 1947, she was all set to graduate with her husband but was struck with appendicitis with six weeks of class to go. Also six months pregnant at the time, she planned to finish up her degree by correspondence, but never did.
A move west, four children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild later, with encouragement and technical support from her family, Grandma Jo went online to earn her final three hours of credit. She chose “The Study of Elvis,” an online course offered by Arizona State University that traces the cultural and social influence of the King.
Mother and daughter tag team for degrees
Salma Azam and her mother, Marriam Azam, of Cary, are both taking classes at UNC this year, but not at the same time. They study in shifts so that they can take turns caring for Salma’s five younger siblings, ages 4 to 13, while Salma’s father, Naweed (also a UNC alumnus), is at work.
“Education is very important to me, and I have always wanted to complete my degree and have a career in health care,” Marriam said. “Without Salma’s help, I would not be able to reach this goal. She has been my encouragement and helper at every step.”
Contacts: Salma Azam, (919) 319-6571,
Teacher who survived breast cancer returns to college for nursing degree
Mari Rosales, originally from Los Angeles, was a teacher when she was struck by an aggressive form of breast cancer. As a result of her experience, she decided to go back to college to get a nursing degree – 3,000 miles from home at Carolina. After graduation, she hopes to work with cancer patients.
She appears in this webisode of “The Stupid Cancer Road Trip”; her interview is at 1:43:
Contacts: Mari Rosales, (818) 795-8507,
Son of Mexican immigrants first in family to graduate college, attend medical school
Just as his parents overcame many obstacles to give a better life to their family, Herodes Guzman of Apex has faced his own battles on the way to becoming the first in his family to graduate from college and attend medical school. Herodes’ parents came to this country from the small, rural Mexican town of Acatlan de Osorio in the state of Puebla more than 25 years ago, working hard to provide for Herodes and his two brothers.
Herodes’ challenges included his diagnoses of type 1 diabetes when he was a high school senior and, four years later, of ulcerative colitis. These health issues and a family history of diabetes led to his decision to major in chemistry and apply to medical school at UNC, where he will start in the fall.
Herodes, who will graduate with honors, was named a Carolina Research Scholar and received the Emmett Gladstone Rand Premedical Scholarship from the chemistry department. He has also been an active volunteer with pediatric patients at UNC Hospitals through the Pediatric Playroom, the Hospital School, the UNC Dance Marathon and Carolina Pediatric Attention Love and Support (CPALS).
Photo and caption: http://uncnews.unc.edu/images/stories/news/students/2013/herodesguzman.jpg
Former soldier co-founds Stop Soldier Suicide, earns MBA, starts investment firm
As a Kenan Institute Leadership Fellow, military veteran Nicholas Black of Great Falls, Va., not only earned a master’s in business administration at Kenan-Flagler Business School but also put that knowledge to work to help other members of the military. In 2011, Black co-founded Stop Soldier Suicide (SSS), a nonprofit veteran-led organization that works to raise awareness of solder suicide and connect military men, women and veterans to services to prevent it.
“We formed Stop Soldier Suicide to curb the rate of suicides among active and veteran service members,” he said. “Our mission is to prevent those who serve from taking their own lives by offering tailored services and support at the individual, family and community level throughout the United States to curb active and veteran service member suicide.”
A graduate of U.S. Army Airborne and Ranger schools, Black served as an Airborne Company and Battalion Fire Support Officer from 2006 to 2011. He was deployed to Afghanistan twice, for 15 months and 12 months.
Black and two others also started an impact investment firm through UNC’s Launching the Venture program. Called Victory Social Capital LLC, the Durham-based firm will use a pay-for-success financing model to improve and pay for social service delivery.
Contact: Nicholas Black, (703) 268-4449,
Commencement media advisory: http://uncnews.unc.edu/content/view/6009/75/