Faces of 2014 Graduates: Changing Course after Mother's Death

Kimberlee Ward ditched school and didn't want to go back in the seventh grade following the death of her mother, who had been battling a drug addiction and had given Ward up to relatives to raise.

"Everything felt so bleak," Ward recalled. "School became pointless, and I had zero motivation to go." After missing classes for two months, Ward was cited for truancy by her school district. "It was the wake-up call I needed. I never wanted to make my family suffer through court because of my actions."

Ward realized that she was on the wrong path. With hard work, she made it to college and now has an impressive resume to show for it: the McNair scholar is the first person in her family to graduate college. She also traveled to South Korea to help students learn English, and she kept involved at UNC by participating in United Black Government and Pi Lambda Chi Latina Sorority.

She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Human Services and plans to continue her education in graduate school, studying student affairs with the intention of working for a student support service program at a university.