An adult who went back to school to earn her bachelor’s degree and become a teacher also found a spiritual home in the Catholic Church during her time at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tenn., according to the College’s website.
Sheila Vernesa Williams-Martin—who was known on campus as “Smiley” for her smile, words of encouragement and hopefulness—said that her “personal journey to find a decent and didactic education with morals and dignity led [her] to Aquinas.”
The College reports:
Smiley embraced the Aquinas experience whole-heartedly. Not only did she delve into the content of her coursework, but she sought to know and understand more about her walk with the Lord and Christianity rooted in the Catholic Church. Smiley recalls, “The first time I attended Mass, was indescribable. The moment I walked in the chapel I felt God’s presence and was humbled. I knew that this is where I was supposed to be.” Not too many semesters passed before she was received into the Church, bringing her growing little one along with her.
Then in late March, Smiley suffered a stroke while driving. Once again [after facing other health concerns] she spent several weeks in the hospital and in rehabilitation, learning to walk and speak again.
Smiley’s graduation day was approaching. With characteristic determination and with her ever-present smile, she told everyone, “I will walk across the stage. I will get my diploma. My daddy will help me.” And, indeed, on Saturday, May 10, the Aquinas College class of 2014 led everyone in a standing ovation and affirming cheers for Smiley. Although she was in a wheelchair, she chose to walk across the stage. Leaning on her father’s arm, Smiley became the first member of her family to earn a college degree.
Aquinas College is recommended in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity.
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