Several dozen students were awarded associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Kentucky State University’s fall commencement on Saturday, Dec. 13, in Bradford Hall Auditorium.

“This is a celebration about you,” Student Regent Breana Smith told the graduates.

KSU President Raymond M. Burse also praised the students and their families and reminded them to never stop learning.

“Learning is a lifelong enterprise,” Burse said. “Continue your pursuit of knowledge.”

Deshon Floyd of Frankfort, Ky., who received help from Burse earlier this year for an internship in New Zealand, graduated summa cum laude. Floyd received bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and psychology. He leaves Feb. 1 for New Zealand, where he will study clinical psychology.

Floyd, who went to Frankfort High School, said he plans to apply for graduate school out of state when he returns from the six-week internship.

“You never know where you’re going to go,” Floyd said. “I hope one day I can come back and give back to Frankfort because so much has been given to me. You just have to see how things work out.”

Yolanda Bright, who was awarded a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a specialization in management, is no stranger to allowing things to fall into place.

Bright, 48, had little money and no place to live when she came to Frankfort and enrolled at Kentucky State University in 2012. She had a young daughter as well as two associate degrees and several dead-end jobs on her resume.

“I wanted more for me and for my daughter,” Bright said. “I’m the only role model that she has, and I have to be my best so that I can bring out the best in her.”

She not only gains a degree, but also many friends who refer to her as “Miss Yolanda.”

It started at Frankfort’s Simon House, which provides shelter to homeless women and children. Bright sought shelter for herself and her daughter when she arrived in Frankfort from Louisville, where she has family, and enrolled at KSU.

Bright took the risk, and left a job in Louisville that she didn’t love because she needed a college degree. She talked to KSU admissions counselors and received student loans.

“I’ve always been the type of person to just get up and go,” Bright said.

Bright, who lived in Dearborn, Mich., for many years before leaving to join relatives in Louisville, was older than the other women at Simon House. She’d also earned an associate degree in business at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Mich., while working as an office manager at Oakland Community College in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. In Louisville, she earned another associate degree from Jefferson Community and Technical College.

She also loved to cook and would make desserts – cream-filled strawberry cupcakes and oatmeal raisin cookies – for the other women, and they would often ask for advice, which was usually the same. She’d tell them, “God is able.”

In her classes, Bright also became “Miss Yolanda.” She lived at Simon House for about nine months, then moved into a two-bedroom apartment after she began receiving social security benefits for her daughter.

She studied with her fellow classmates, and then they would come over for dinner. She recalls making a meal of meatloaf and corn casserole for a fellow student in her class and giving her a few plates to take home. Bright said many of them miss getting a home-cooked meal.

Bright did a work study with the Kentucky Housing Corporation, and she now works in a temporary job in the Franklin County Section 8 office. She reviews Section 8 recertification materials.

Bright plans to stay in Frankfort until 2016 when her daughter graduates from the eighth grade, then she will start looking for her dream job. She said she would love to work for a non-profit organization in a rural community.

“I’m hoping that everything I’ve learned will be applied in the next job that I get,” she said. “I’m ready to move on to the next phase of my life.”

She said the faculty at KSU prepared her for the next steps. She also worked hard and wants other students to know that you have to come to college with the right attitude.

“You have to want this,” she said. “You have to want it bad.”