A 22-year-old Black woman is garnering major accolades on social media after sharing her inspiring academic comeback story following her mother’s untimely death.
Ja’Andra Imani Wheeler, who graduated from Savannah State University in December, told Buzzfeed News that in her sophomore year at the historically Black school, her mother suddenly died from sarcoidosis, an incurable but treatable disease in which tiny collections of inflammatory cells grow on different parts of the body.
“My mother really instilled the importance of education within me, holding a master’s in education herself,” Wheeler said. “With her passing, I began to lose sight of the bigger picture.”
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Wheeler’s GPA plunged to 1.4. But, the Africana studies major persevered. Using money from a partial school loan and an off-campus job, Wheeler attended summer school, retaking — and passing — all the classes she’d failed. She credits good friends and J. Cole’s music with helping her not only survive but thrive.
Wheeler shared her journey on Twitter five days after graduation, posting a screenshot of her grades — which included four F’s — and also revealing that she had received a full-ride scholarship to pursue her master’s degree.
Wheeler tweeted that she’s applied to the University at Albany, SUNY and Morgan State University but that her top choice is Howard University. She told BuzzFeed News she plans to eventually get her Ph.D. and hopes to one day become a professor.
Twitter was quick to praise Wheeler for her incredible achievement.
@HonyCornBread appreciated Wheeler’s candidness.
@Jwheeel you never hear about how ppl start off, I really needed this
— LA CHAPA ✨ (@HonyCornBread) December 15, 2016
@goeddie1990 shared some words of encouragement.
@Jwheeel I don’t know you but damn I’m proud of you. Stay humble, active and focused homie.
— eddie not eddy (@goeddie1990) December 16, 2016
Queen Lex encouraged Wheeler to keep up the hard work.
@Jwheeel Wow. Congrats!!! Obviously you DESERVE this ??? Work hard!
— Queen Lex (@KweenLex) December 15, 2016
Ashli Denise saw Wheeler’s story as something to look up to.
@Jwheeel true inspiration/motivation for me to finish undergrad and by God’s will receive a full ride for law school ??✨
— Ashli Denise (@funsizeee_xD) December 16, 2016
As for anyone else who is struggling to succeed — at anything — in the face of personal tragedy, Wheeler said they should “take care of your mental health” and “surround yourself with people who create safe spaces and offer healthy relationships.”