May 2019 Graduation Stories

Commencement ceremonies will be held Friday, May 3, and Sunday, May 5. Photos, video and audio available to news media. For questions, email jenny.wells@uky.edu. Visit https://www.uky.edu/commencement/​ for more information about the ceremonies.

Senior Rises Above Down Syndrome to Graduate With 4 Year Degree — Megan McCormick will be among the sea of blue caps and gowns at UK's Commencement. In many ways, she's just like her fellow graduates. But McCormick's journey is incomparable and inspiring. She is also part of a much smaller, but growing, college population — students with Down syndrome. McCormick has spent countless hours in pre-school, kindergarten and elementary classrooms working with children to earn her Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree. Now, she hopes to inspire other students with "varying abilities."

CONTACT: Lindsey Piercy, lindsey.piercy@uky.edu, 859-323-5613

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Former Wildcat Football Standout is Strategically Positioned for the Future 

Avery Williamson, a former UK Football player, will receive his degree in integrated strategic communication from the UK College of Communication and Information this Friday morning. Williamson was a linebacker at UK from 2010 through 2013, and was drafted in the fifth round of the NFL Draft in 2014. He played four seasons (2014 through 2017) for the Tennessee Titans before signing with the New York Jets for the 2018 season. He registered a career-high 120 tackles (80 solo) for the Jets in 2018.

CONTACT: Carl Nathe, carl.nathe@uky.edu, 859-257-3200

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From Kosovo to Kentucky, UK Nursing Student Pays It Forward 

When Serxhane Ajeti was 7 years old, she and her family fled from the atrocities in war-torn Kosovo and started a new life in Kentucky. With her degree in nursing, Ajeti wants to help others as much as she and her family were helped along the way.

CONTACT: Hilary Brown, hilary.brown@uky.edu, 859-323-2394

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Senior Finds Passion in Undergraduate Research, Hopes to Inspire Others 

Traveling 850 miles to find answers to her questions, Indiana native Kenyatta Mitchell completed her undergraduate research on the civil rights coalitions in Mississippi. She will graduate this Friday with a degree in communication, and hopes to leave a legacy by starting a nonprofit that will help future students research African-American history.

CONTACT: Meg Mills, margaret.mills@uky.edu, 859-323-7978

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Project Graduate Helps Mom Return to College, Earn Degree After 25 Years 

It was fall of 1994. In many ways, Sharon Mofield-Boswell was your typical college freshman. She was eager — eager to embark on a new chapter as a student at the University of Kentucky. But college came with its own set of challenges. On top of that, Mofield-Boswell had a unique set of responsibilities — as a single mom. She left school to focus on raising her daughter. In January 2019, Sharon returned to UK determined to finish what she started two decades ago. Coming back to college to earn a bachelor's degree in liberal studies was no easy feat. But the Project Graduate program made the process much easier for the working mom.

CONTACT: Lindsey Piercy, lindsey.piercy@uky.edu, 859-323-5613

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Defying Gravity, Changing Perceptions of Cheerleading 

When UK senior Josh Marsh’s tumbling triumphs went viral, the Atlanta native became known as “Gravity Defier.” Now he hopes his talent, combined with a college degree, will help him transform the sport he loves by teaching a new generation of athletes.

CONTACT: Carl Nathe, carl.nathe@uky.edu, 859-257-3200

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UK Service Dog Graduates From Training — Anu, a year-old golden retriever service dog in training, is one of many dogs who will be crossing the UK Commencement stage with their student handlers. Anu is currently majoring in socialization and basic obedience. After graduation he will be assigned a "speciality task" where he could assist with mobility, seizure alert, diabetic alert, autism assistance, PTSD assistance, hearing alert and much more.

CONTACT: Meg Mills, margaret.mills@uky.edu, 859-323-7978

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Senior Graduates at 19, Secures Internship With NASCAR — Monon Rahman, who is graduating at age 19 with a degree in mechanical engineering, was recently selected to be an engineering intern in the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program (NDIP). NDIP annually selects a group of current or recently graduated students from diverse backgrounds in order to provide a unique hands-on experience in the NASCAR industry. After graduation, Rahman will head to NASCAR R&D in Concord, North Carolina, where he will work directly with NASCAR by providing engineering support for their aerodynamic program. “To me, this is an exciting opportunity because aerodynamics is a hot topic in NASCAR right now."

CONTACT: Lindsey Piercy, lindsey.piercy@uky.edu, 859-323-5613

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Soldier, UK-Army MSW Grad Motivated to Address Mental Health Stigma — In July 2001, at just 17 years old, Larry Wesgaites joined the military. The plan was to complete training, attend college, finish ROTC and graduate as an officer. But that fateful day of Sept. 11 would alter Wesgaites' path and guide his every decision moving forward — eventually leading him to the College of Social Work at the University of Kentucky. Wesgaites is one of 26 students who is graduating as part of the inaugural class from the Army-UK Master of Social Work program.

CONTACT: Lindsey Piercy, lindsey.piercy@uky.edu, 859-323-5613

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4 Outstanding Students to Address UK Commencement Ceremonies — Per UK tradition, a student representative will give a speech at each commencement ceremony. Brandon Jamal Colbert (College of Communication and Information) will give the 10 a.m. Friday, May 3 ceremony address; Jay Winkler (Gatton College of Business and Economics) will give the 2 p.m. Friday, May 3 ceremony address; Noor Ali (College of Arts and Sciences) will give the 10 a.m. Sunday, May 5 ceremony address; and Sofia Gonzalez Schuler (College of Engineering) will give the 2 p.m. Sunday, May 5 ceremony address.

CONTACT: Jenny Wells-Hosley, jenny.wells@uky.edu, 859-257-5343

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Two-time Cancer Survivor Hopes to Inspire Young Patients — Bradley Wilson is a two-time pediatric cancer survivor. He received treatment at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital DanceBlue Hematology/Oncology Clinic for the last time just a few years ago. Equipped with a degree in chemical engineering, he plans to attend medical school next year — in hopes of becoming a pediatric oncologist.

CONTACT: Lindsey Piercy, lindsey.piercy@uky.edu, 859-323-5613

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Retired Army Vet Comes to UK for Teaching Degree — After 10 years in the U.S. Army, David Aaron Brown retired in 2016 and decided to pursue a career in elementary education. "My dream was to get hired in an elementary school where I could teach, inspire, and lead the next generation to greatness," Brown said.

CONTACT: Meg Mills, margaret.mills@uky.edu, 859-323-7978

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UK Student's Diagnosis Leads to Life of Service, Presidential Recognition — Jessica Waters is one of UK’s Alumni Ambassadors and has a long history of community service. She suffers from epilepsy and started a nonprofit called Cupcakes for Camp in 2010 to help other children who suffered from epilepsy. In 2016, she was honored with the Stars of Service Award by the Corporation for National and Community Service and The President’s Volunteer Service Award Gold Medal.

CONTACT: Meg Mills, margaret.mills@uky.edu, 859-323-7978

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UK Softball Seniors Going ‘Pro’ in More Ways Than One — Four of UK Softball's graduating seniors are planning to attend graduate and professional schools. Katie Reed has been accepted into the University of Pittsburgh Dental School and begins classes this fall. She also was drafted #19 overall by the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) softball league and will play professionally this summer. Abbey Cheek plans to apply to graduate schools with the hope of one day working in collegiate softball. She was drafted #14 overall by the Chicago Bandits and will play professionally. Jenny Schaper has been accepted into multiple psychology graduate programs and will begin post-graduate work when she reaches a final decision. Sarah Rainwater will be applying to graduate schools with the goal of working in sports/athletics. Kelsee Henson, who is also graduating, is applying for marketing internships around the country. She was a student assistant in the UK Athletics Marketing department this year helping with multiple sports.

CONTACT: Carl Nathe, carl.nathe@uky.edu, 859-257-3200

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UK Ag Student Demonstrates Value of Undergraduate Research, Service Work — Fabian Leon, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Leon is an accomplished student with a strong record of research activities, including work in plant pathology at UK as well with Corteva (formerly Dow Agrosciences). He was also a Wallace Carver Fellow as well as Borlaug-Ruan Intern (with the World Food Prize Organization). Leon has also worked in Cooperative Extension and has held membership with UK’s Latino Student Organization. He has served in a number of national organizations including MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences), and has been a star college ambassador. He has been accepted to Texas A&M to pursue his master’s, and later plans to pursue his doctorate.

CONTACT: Carl Nathe, carl.nathe@uky.edu, 859-257-3200

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