Video by Columbia College Senior Video Production Specialist Mark Baumgartner

Tranikia Thompson ’23 could hardly contain her emotions when she learned the date of Columbia College’s Fall 2023 Commencement.

As Thompson balanced family, work and school while pursuing her Associate in General Studies through the Evening Program, her academic advisor encouraged her to keep pressing on toward her degree.

The reward would be walking across the stage at graduation on Dec. 16.

“I wanted to quit school because I felt I was overwhelmed,” Thompson says. “I spoke with my advisor and she told me, ‘You can’t quit, you are at the finish line.’ When she said your graduation date is Dec. 16, the waterworks started coming down my face.

“Dec. 16 is my dad’s birthday.”

Tranikia Thompson ’23, center, poses for a photo with loved ones after Columbia College’s Fall 2023 Commencement on Dec. 16 outside the Southwell Complex. Photo by Columbia College Photographer & Graphic Designer Abigail Wade

The legacy of Thompson’s late father, who would have turned 86, continues to influence her life.

“I felt he was letting me know I got this,” Thompson says of the extra significance of her graduation date.

Thompson has four children of her own, and she says she wants to show them you can always learn regardless of your life situation. She now intends to pursue her Bachelor of Arts in Human Resource Management and Business Administration.

The Columbia resident works at a local middle school as the principal’s secretary.

“I want my four boys and scholars at the middle school know it doesn’t matter how old you are or how long it takes, just keep going,” she says.

Tranikia Thompson ’23 poses for a photo with Scooter the Cougar before Columbia College’s Fall 2023 Commencement on Dec. 16 at the Southwell Complex. Photo by Columbia College Photographer & Graphic Designer Abigail Wade

She plans to take a break for the holidays and then continue her educational journey on Jan. 8.

“I can’t stop,” she says. “I gotta keep swimming.”

Saturday served a stepping stone with her focus set on the future.

“I wish my dad was here to see it,” Thompson says of her graduation. “I know he would be so proud of me. He always told us that hard work pays off, so that’s how I look at it right now.”