South Florida grads who confronted adversity share their stories

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (WSVN) — South Florida colleges and universities inducted hundreds of new alumni this past weekend, including three special women who, against all odds, received their degrees. 

On the eve of her graduation day, 79-year-old Nicoletta Sorice reflected on the path she took in order to achieve her dream of graduating from college. "It’s never too late," she said. 

At the age of 14, she escaped war-torn Italy and fled to the United States. Once in the U.S., she learned a new language, got married, raised three children and had a 28-year career, where she was denied promotions along the way, all without a degree.

Then, in 1998, she headed to college.  

Due to life’s unexpected challenges, it took her 18 years to graduate, but she did it, earning her associate’s degree at Broward College. "At this point, it’s the greatest moment of my life that I’ve done this for myself," she said. "This college has been wonderful to me," she said. 

Her next stop will be at Florida Atlantic University, where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree in linguistic Italian. 

Across town, another pair of graduates shared their inspiring story.

Shonda and Shalisha Witherspoon graduated from Florida International University’s College of Engineering and Computing this past weekend. "We are the first in our family to graduate, so it’s a huge accomplishment for our whole family," said Shonda.

The Witherspoon sisters are not only identical twins but both graduated at the top of their class… and with an identical 3.95 grade point average. "It’s appropriate that as identical wins, we have identical GPAs," said Shalisha in laughter.

Now, Sorice will be getting her chance to shine after years of hard work and determination. "I went to 10, 13 graduations, but never mine… tomorrow is mine," she said. "When I bought the cap and gown I was emotional. I’m emotional now."

Soirce will graduate on Tuesday.