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EXCLUSIVE: FAMU Students Overcome Obstacles to Graduate

Posted: 6:20 PM, May 05, 2017
Updated: 2018-05-01 18:35:52Z
FAMU Graduates Overcome Obstacles

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) - As thousands of students celebrated graduating from Florida A&M University last Saturday, three Rattlers in particular have overcome different obstacles to make their dreams come true.

Ariel Walker, Dontae Thompson and Damon Arnold shared their stories Friday on the Greg James Community Radio Show.

"When you hear people who are going through something, and you can hear how they came out of it, maybe they encouraged that one person to say, 'Hey, if they did it, I can do it,'" said host Gregory James, who overcame a period of time served in jail to start a faith ministry and radio show.

For Walker, her journey to a diploma started in 2010.

"I knew giving up -- that's the easy way out, and I never wanted to take the easy way out," she said, "so, I was determined."

Two years ago, Walker was federally indicted for conspiracy to defraud the government and an unauthorized use of an electronic device.

"I was disappointed with myself, because I know that I made the wrong decision," she said. "I felt at that moment that my life as over."

Thompson was jailed twice, including as a juvenile. He admits he was skipping class in high school and hung out with the wrong crowd as a teen.

"The worst feeling in the world -- when you're somewhere in a cell, and you think people forget about you," Thompson said. "You don't want to go to jail, and I always think back on it. I'm glad I'm where I'm at now."

Part of Arnold's time at FAMU was spent with no home. He worked two jobs for a time, while balancing schoolwork.

"I've slept everywhere from my car to apartment complex hallways, underneath the stairs, my job -- I mean, countless places -- in parks, it's been a lot," Arnold said.

There's a lot more to each of their stories -- Walker thought about suicide, Thompson turned to drugs, and Arnold left home at 16. Now, they're all college graduates.

"I'm very thankful for the experience and how strong it's made me," said Arnold, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism.

"If ever you run into obstacles or you feel like you can't do something, I hope that my story has inspired you," said Thompson, who now has a bachelor's degree in computer information systems.

"Keep going," Walker said, "never give up. The sky isn't even the limit. There are no limits."

Walker, who graduated with a criminal justice degree, started a mentoring program called "Victory Girls Network" and said she wants to write a book about her journey.

Arnold is looking for work in television broadcasting and is considering grad school at Harvard University, where he went as a Nieman Fellow in March.

Thompson is working with FAMU to start a business around an app he created called "D.U.I."