‘I always believed in myself’: VSU grad blazes through odds to earn degree

‘I always believed in myself’: VSU grad blazes through odds to earn degree

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - Valdosta State University hosted its 230th commencement ceremony on Monday.

It’s the first graduating pandemic class to walk down the stage. One of those graduates had a very tough year, but she overcame it.

Sandra Gonzalez is a wife and mother of four who was diagnosed with lymphoma last fall.

With a positive mindset and strong will, she beat all the challenges and on Monday, she walked down that stage.

Valdosta State University hosted its 230th commencement ceremony on Monday.
Valdosta State University hosted its 230th commencement ceremony on Monday. (Source: WALB)

Gonzalez is a first-generation graduate. She just earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in accounting.

Gonzalez said it was a tough year but she didn’t let anything get in the way of her mission.

“I’m obviously very excited, it’s like something surreal to me. Growing up in foster care and always having so much negativity thrown at me, it’s something that I did not expect to accomplish but, I never stopped believing in myself and, I’m very excited to be here,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez told WALB it was a year of adjustment. With her four kids at home because of the pandemic, she had to figure out a way to balance family and school.

But that is not all.

Last December, she was diagnosed with lymphoma.

“It was one of those things, where there were some days I wasn’t so sure I wasn’t going to make it. I said, there is no way. I couldn’t even get up from bed on my own. I had to pull that inner strength from inside and say I have to do it because my children deserve better and I just have to do it,” said Gonzalez.

Through it all, she never stopped going to school. Always stayed full time and never failed any class.

“I always believed in myself. I think you always have to believe in yourself. You have to push yourself. You can’t count on other to do that for you. You have to have your own self-drive. I always set goals for myself, always hold myself accountable for everything that I decided that I wanted to do and I just worked for it,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said she also had a great support system with her husband and her brothers.

Sandra Gonzalez and her family.
Sandra Gonzalez and her family. (Source: VSU)

Together, they accomplished it.

Gonzalez said it took a lot of sacrifices and it will all pay off soon.

She’s been in remission since October, and she said her family is very happy.

She will be doing the masters program at VSU in the spring and starting her career with Draffin Tucker corporate accounting firm in Atlanta.

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