From tragedy to triumph: nontraditional student returns to complete degree

Grambling State University student Nicole Parker’s long journey toward earning a college degree hasn’t been easy.

Courtesy of GSU University Communications

From tragedy to triumph, nontraditional Grambling State University student Nicole Parker’s long journey toward earning a college degree hasn’t been easy.

Inspiration can work in strange and different ways sometimes but is always fueled by strength.

The 49-year-old Parker’s graduation journey began back in 1992 after her graduation from Ruston High School, and will conclude on Friday when she walks across the stage at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center to be presented with her Bachelor’s degree in Childhood Development and Early Literacy.

And there were obvious detours along the way.

“I enrolled at GSU in Elementary Education and went for a semester and a half before I realized that school wasn’t for me at that point in my life,” Parker said. “That just wasn’t one of the things on my mind at that time.

“So, I left and just worked in various jobs over the years, and had my only child, my son D’Angelo, and just went about with my life working and raising him.”

But in 2011, Parker realized there was something bigger for her out there — a higher calling that had remained in the back of her mind for years.

“So, I returned to The Grambling State University in Child Development, even though it was called something else at that time,” Parker said. “The name changed to Child Development a few years later.

“I enrolled and started taking classes in that and went for a few years, but in 2016 I had to stop because my aid money ran out.”

A few years later she realized she had come too far toward her dream of one day hopefully owning her own childcare center and once again returned to GSU.

“On Easter Sunday in April of 2021, I had a tragedy — my son D’Angelo Roane, who was only 29, was murdered in Dallas,” Parker said. “And I just felt like something had to be done. I needed to do something. So, I decided that I was going to go ahead and finish school for him. I had to do it for him.”

“I knew I had to finish for myself, but I had to finish for him, too. I just felt like it was something that needed to be done — I had to go ahead and finish school and earn that degree that I had worked so long for.”

There is another inspiration that has fueled Parker’s fire to complete her degree while also working to help make that happen — her 7-year-old grandson.

“D’Angelo was my only child and he had only one child — D’Angelo Baker. “He lives three hours away down south in Tangipahoa, but he’s with me every summer and he’s with me now to see me graduate. He’s my inspiration now. I get him for all the holidays and things like that.

“I hope I’m showing him that it’s never too late. That’s what I hope I instill in him — it’s never too late to make something of yourself and make yourself proud and your family proud. I want to show him that it doesn’t matter what age you are — you can always accomplish your goals if you work hard enough to reach them.”

Parker’s next step will be attending graduate school.

“I’m going to do that first, but my true dream is to open up a daycare center,” Parker said. “But right now, I’m going to study to get my master’s of arts in teaching and see where I can go with that.”

Parker said her son’s memories will be with her as she walks across the stage Friday to pick up her degree.

“I felt like I owed it to my son to do this in memory of him,” Parker said. “He’s led me on to better things and will always be with me.”