Fall 2023 Commencement Stories


As the fall 2023 semester comes to a close at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, 1,100 students are expected to turn their tassels during the university’s graduate and undergraduate ceremonies Friday, Dec. 15, and Saturday, Dec. 16, respectively.

The journey has been filled with ups and downs, joy and sorrow, but most of all satisfaction and pride. These soon-to-be alumni share their stories of perseverance, dedication, scholarship and innovation.

N.C. A&T students have excelled academically, professionally and personally. While there are hundreds of stories to be told, they represent the diverse intellectual climate, entrepreneurial spirit, civic engagement and academic excellence that characterizes the A&T experience. Here are a few of their stories, in their own words. Read more on the university’s Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

Makayla Richardson  |  Marco Vaughn  |  Felita Faison  |  Na’Zyia Sabur  |  Kyndahl Stubbs  |  Dimargio Bethel  |  Krystalynn Johnson  |  Stephanie Coplin  |  Jarian Johnson  |  Dymond Allen


Makayla Richardson

Makayla RichardsonI am a first generation graduate. [My parents] had me at 18 and 19. My dad took sole custody of me and we’ve been best friends since. He helped me pick A&T. But I’ve had to afford college alone since my sophomore year. I’ve worked two jobs at all times until I decided to study abroad fall 2022. I even extended my stay for spring semester to just nomad in Okinawa, Japan, for four months. 

I grew to love the Okinawan culture [so] it turned into five months! What I didn’t know was Japan was made up of many islands and not just what they called the “mainland”. I was swimming at the beach in December experiencing 70-degree weather and sunny skies. For me, it was kinda like living a double life. I still had six classes full time in the Eastern Time Zone, but living life in Japan Standard Time. 

I was able to fully explore nature with hikes, daily walks to the beach, visit museums, and adapt to their relaxed approach to life they have called Nankurunaisa(なんくるないさ), and at night I was able to get my work done while the world was quiet. Things did get a bit complicated when interviewing for summer internships as the time difference had me up at 2 a.m. doing interviews with a desk lamp, but as I explained my path they understood. This made me a better student. 

Japan added peace to my worldview, not living a part of a hustle and survival culture for five months was just the breather I needed. I was able to create a sense of home and felt comfortable as a black woman by getting my hair braided, nails, and lashes, and even picking up new hobbies like surfing, ice skating, and diving. I enjoyed just living peacefully.

I’ve had two internships during my college career: Wellsfargo as a consumer lending intern as well as with Doosan Bobcat lead HR Co-op. A&T gave me the world to explore and I will always give the love right back.

Marco Vaughn

Marco VaughnI started A&T in 1996. My first major was music education. I was in the band and really enjoying myself. It really hurt to have to leave. But I got put on academic probation. They gave me a couple of options. I took the first option to switch over to Manufacturing Systems to continue my college career. At the time, I considered that I may have had a learning disability. But, I just didn't have the work ethic. I was at A&T until 2001. I just couldn’t get it together. Honestly, I was trying to make sure that my brothers, who also graduated from A&T, were okay when it was time for them to attend school. 

I started at A&T with many of my hometown peers. I was one of few remaining at school. No matter what, even if I didn’t complete it, I said, I’m not going back home. It was tough. My parents didn't know a lot about what was going on with me at the time, but they could sense it, especially my mother. 

Nearly 10 years later and many situations in between, I joined the navy. It was never my plan. Never. But it’s been good for me. Maybe not to me, but it’s been good for me. I've been stationed in Virginia, Mississippi, n North Carolina and deployed to Guam. 

One day I was at breakfast with my dad. We saw this lady. We exchanged “Aggie Prides.” She asked me when did I finish. I had to say that I didn’t. It was so random, but then again, if you believe in the sovereignty of God, you’ll know that it wasn’t random. She asked me if I heard of the “Aggies at the Goal Line” program. I hadn’t. Fast forward some time and a friend randomly told me I should finish and suggested the same program. I couldn’t ignore it any longer. 

It's been a godsend. I look at the AGL program as greatness or symbolizing greatness. The program was greatness calling out to me. One thing about greatness is that it doesn't go anywhere. It's going to be right there whenever you are ready for it. The program taught me how to value the education that I was getting. When the student is ready, the teacher will come.


Felita Faison


Felita Fasion“I started pursuing my Economics degree in 2013. I was faced with the obstacle of going through a domestic violence situation which caused me to pause my journey before I was able to finish a full semester. I took some time off and started back in 2017. I started getting my groove back being a student while working full time because I was DETERMINED to get my degree! That was until 2020 when my husband and I went through our first miscarriage which led me into a spiraling depression. Through all of that, I picked myself up, updated my vision board and remembered the end goal! In 2021 I was blessed with a baby boy who became an addition to our family. Of course with a new baby that meant I had to balance being a full time student, wife, AND mother which was a tough obstacle to overcome at first!While regrouping, and just as I was about to say I give up on this degree, I found my old vision board that had my end goal, which involved me opening up my own Adoption Agency in the future! While going through many obstacles, I was able to start my non-profit organization called Faison Obstacles Inc. The motto is “You can FACE any obstacles thrown at you!” Throughout 2022, I started seeing my why as I got close to finishing. I am beyond thankful and grateful to say... I DID IT!!”


Na’Zyia Sabur


Na'Zyia“Beginning my journey at A&T in 2020 was untraditional being that COVID hindered being in person. While I couldn’t do much, I did run for Miss Freshman, which was out of my comfort zone, I challenged myself because that is what Aggies Do.Though I did not win the race, I was on the Chancellors list for both semesters of that academic school year. The following year, I was physically on campus and was involved in organizations such as 100 Collegiate Women, Association of Black Psychologists, Georgia Aggies, Ladies of Excellence and Psychology Research Club. In addition to my memberships, I was a Mental Health Advocate under North Carolina A&T Counseling Services and a dance instructor at Miriam’s Dance Academy. Outside of school, I interned at The Hardy Clinic and was the youngest intern they’ve ever had. I also had the opportunity to host a clothes drive that benefited foster children and homeless women and children in the Atlanta area.I also worked with Dr. Germain as a research assistant in her lab and was able to assist with the building blocks of the Center of Excellence in Health Disparities & Equity Research.During my time at A&T, I have accumulated over 100 hours of community service, networked with community members, was a substitute teacher for Guilford County Schools and learned a lot about the community of Greensboro. My story isn’t just about personal achievements; it’s a testament to the transformative power of perseverance, community engagement and the invaluable lessons learned within the A&T family. As a first-generation student, I had no idea what was ahead of me, but with support from friends, loved ones, and Aggie Pride, I was able to walk across that stage on Dec. 16 and receive my B.A. in Psychology.”



Kyndahl Stubbs


Kyndahl StubbsMy name is Kyndahl Stubbs and before I was a full time student at NCAT, I attended the STEM Early College program at North Carolina A&T. Although it was challenging, I was able to complete high school in two years and begin taking college classes my junior year of high school as a dual enrolled student at A&T. Being 16 in a room full of people over my age was definitely intimidating, but I am glad I had that time because when I graduated in 2020, being a student at A&T was very different. My first official year as a full time undergraduate student was the first year of Covid, and it involved me being in one of the traditional dorms on campus, Morrow hall. Ironically, that was also the dorm my mom stayed in her very first year as a student at A&T. My dorm room became my class room, and I spent a lot of time trying to adjust to campus life. I am one of the few that are still here who remember going to the dome on campus to eat and remember the student center being built. I also remember walking by it when it was nothing but metal beams and dirt, and getting to see how it’s become home to a lot of students. It’s a memory I’ll always have. I believe that I have grown with this school and although I am very happy to graduate a year ahead of my class, I am sad to say I will no longer be a student, but forever glad to say I’ll continue the legacy as an alumna.




Dimargio Bethel

dimargio-bethel.jpg“I’m from the Bahamas. I’m by myself. Moving to Greensboro where I did not know anybody was very uncomfortable, but being uncomfortable was the best thing for me. [It] made me focus and work harder towards my degree because I knew what I came here for. Being international is challenging. You have to put in the effort every week because it’s a lot being alone in a different country and being able to succeed the way you want to.

I’ve come a very long way. I lost my mom in 2017 before I completed my undergrad degree at Saint Augustine’s University. Right before I graduated, my father died. I wanted to quit so bad, but I just couldn’t. I was motivated more than ever to complete [my education]. I went on and graduated summa cum laude. After that, I didn’t stop. I applied to [A&T] where I completed my master’s degree in a year. I wanted to further my knowledge in the tech field. I love to learn about technology. While researching grad schools, I saw A&T had the best technical program in North Carolina. I will be receiving a Master of Science in Information Technology.”


Krystalynn Johnson

krystalynn.jpg“Throughout my four years at A&T, I have managed my time well, been heavily involved on and off campus and I managed to keep good grades. I’m currently the chess club vice president, a part of the spades club, currently Miss Bull City Aggies, attend church weekly, work a part time job, a part of a roller skating group off campus called 336 Skaters and manage my own art business called KJ Artistry LLC.

I wanted to be a well-rounded student. Being heavily involved put me around great people and helped me to develop. I chose to be a chemical engineer because I want to challenge myself with the rigorous curriculum, and I wanted to be able to give my innovative input in the workplace when needed.

I will be working full-time with Altria [following graduation].”


Stephanie Coplin

stephanie-coplin.jpg“I graduated high school in 2000 and came to A&T as a computer science major. I quickly realized that computer science wasn’t what I was meant to do and lost my motivation to continue. I ended up getting a job with a bank and was there for 12 years. I eventually decided to go into healthcare and went to GTCC to get my associate’s degree in Radiography to become an X-ray Technologist. 

Once I started working in the field I began looking into getting my bachelors degree. There were a lot of online programs that I inquired about, but I always wanted to finish my degree at A&T. One day I went to A&T’s website and in the news section there was an article about the Health Services Management major starting in the fall. I reached out and took the steps to apply for readmission. At this point, I was working full time at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill and I really didn’t know if it was possible to go to class in Greensboro and work in Chapel Hill, but I decided that I was just going to keep going until I couldn’t. I started classes the fall after the pandemic and all of my classes were online. Also, since I worked for UNC I was able to take advantage of the tuition waiver since A&T is part of the UNC system. I took all of the online classes I could until I was required to take classes in person. I worked hard to finish all of my classes. I obtained a paid internship with Siemens Healthineers over the summer and did a 2 week mission trip with my job to Rwanda all while being 20 years older than almost every other student in my class. I was scared the first day of in-person classes, but I pushed through to the finish. I needed to finish what I started at A&T 23 years ago and everything fell into place to allow that to happen.”



Jarian Johnson

Photo credit: Zlewisphotography

“My journey to obtaining a master’s degree was not the easiest. I moved to Louisiana in 2021 to work in my first higher education job, but my time there was cut short. Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana in 2021 and damaged my entire apartment complex. I lived in a temporary unit for some time until I was given notice that I had to leave. I had nowhere else to go but back home to North Carolina. I couldn’t find a job. I was stuck with no idea or direction to go in next. My father passed away in late 2021 and I wanted to honor him by getting a master’s degree in education because he worked in education. I looked into the Adult Education program [at A&T] and applied immediately. Dr. Geleana Alston reached out to me with an opportunity. I could instantly feel things turning around for me. I started the program in August 2022, and with hard work, I am able to be graduating just one year later! 

The Adult Education program gifted me with so networks, and opportunities to grow and learn! Dr. Alston put me in rooms with other higher education professionals, and helped me so much. I even landed a full time position just ONE semester into my master’s program. I know my dad is looking down on me smiling hard! I know I have made everyone in my Master’s program proud, and most importantly, I believed in myself.”


Dymond Allen

dymond-allen-mobile.jpg“Considering I would be first gen I wasn’t sure how to pursue a degree and what it took. Luckily, I attended Oakland High School [in California] where I was assigned to an Engineering Academy which focused on multiple concentrations of engineering and allowed me to not only love it but also speak with tech executives from Apple, Google, Tesla, etc…not to mention, teach Golden State Warriors’ own Draymond Green how to code.

But once everything started looking up for me, I got the call about my Grandma. This crushed my heart and began making me depressed. It showed in my grades and ultimately left me in a spiral. But my counselor Ms.Tesfai got me right back on track. I applied to a total of 43 colleges and got into 37 of them.

I’m in a Dual Degree Engineering Program which means five years for two engineering bachelor’s degrees from two universities. So, before you think college isn’t possible for you and give up due to all the obstacles you face, please know, I am a living representation that IT IS POSSIBLE.

Now I’m about to graduate from two HBCUs with two #STEM degrees…N.C. A&T: Computer Engineering and Clark Atlanta: Physics.”