‘I did it’: Wilmington native graduates university after 31 year effort

Fawn Rhodes
Credit: WWAY/Celeste Smith

WILMINGTON N.C. (WWAY) — A Wilmington native is celebrating an achievement that’s been in the making for three decades, graduating with her bachelor’s degree.

“I finally got there and I heard them call my name and I was like, I did it, I did it. Nobody did this, I did this. Nobody gave this to me, no one had sympathy for me. I did this, I put the work in,” said Fawn Rhodes.

48-year-old Fawn Rhodes joined North Carolina Central University class of fall 2021, completing her undergraduate journey 31 years after she began.
Rhodes stepped on the campus of NCCU in 1990, with the goal of becoming an attorney.

“I was 17 years old, and I was just so excited to go away to school, and then in June of 1991, my paternal grandmother passed away,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes returned to Wilmington for three years, helping her family after the death of her grandmother, still hoping for a chance to return to her university.

“I kept asking him, and bugging him, can I go back, can I go back? So he finally told me I could go back. So I went back to school in august of 1994, and then my grandfather passed away in November of ’94.”

Having to go home once again, her degree was delayed by new challenges, like a career that required her to relocate to different states, starting a family, and struggling financially.

“All this time, every promotion that I would get, I felt like an imposter,” said Rhodes. “I felt ashamed, because I didn’t have my degree.”

In 2018, Rhodes made her final return to college, prepared to take on every challenge thrown her way.

“I would be up late at night, early mornings, writing so many different papers and it didn’t come without it’s challenges.”

She wanted to set an example for her 14-year-old son about perseverance, saying she believes the loved ones she lost along the way would be proud of her accomplishment.

“Just to be able to walk in that legacy, to allow them to see that all the dreams and all the money, energy, that they put and instilled in me that I’m able to finally to manifest what they had hoped. I believe that they would be exceptionally happy,” said Fawn Rhodes.

She encourages other people to not give up on their goals.

“You can get up, and be whatever it is that you want to be, whatever it is.”

Rhodes is now studying to take her LSAT in January, with plans to attend law school At North Carolina Central University and pursue a career in law, like she hoped to do when she began her journey 31 years ago.

Categories: Local, New Hanover, News, Top Stories