Grads With Grit: Gators Overcome Odds to Earn Degrees This Weekend
By Mike Emery
Two University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) fall graduates are proof that life’s obstacles are no match for “Gator Grit.” Kohlton Fry and Obedia Ramsey are just some of this year’s graduates who have faced difficult times. Their commitment to earning a degree however helped them Finish UHD Strong and earn their bachelor’s degrees this semester.
Kohlton Fry began his academic journey 10 years ago at another university in Houston. While taking some time off from classes, Fry was in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed. Fry eventually resumed his studies at a community college in north Texas, then returned to Houston. When deciding on a university, he enrolled at UHD.
The rest is history for the history major.
“I came here and thought this was a temporary stop,” he said. “I discovered that I loved the faculty and the location, not to mention the smaller classes. It was the right decision.”
Although he is confined to a wheelchair, Fry is very active on campus. He is currently employed as a student assistant in UHD’s Office of Disability Services. In his role, he provides clerical support, but also shares insights on how UHD can better accommodate students who have limited or restricted mobility.
He is looking forward to receiving his bachelor’s degree during UHD’s 65th Commencement Ceremony at Minute Maid Park on Dec. 15. He encourages others who have been challenged by disabilities to stay the course and follow their dreams.
“The biggest challenge all of us face is realizing that we can’t be limited by a disability or anything else,” he said. “There is no disability that can keep people from achieving their dreams and earning degrees. You have to keep pushing on until you accomplish your goals.”
Like Fry, Ramsey has kept pushing on. She was a mother of two sons when she graduated high school in 1977. She stayed focused and finished her associate’s degree at a community college in Dallas in 1980. At the time, she had the opportunity to continue her studies at a university but pursued a career in oil and gas to support her family – which later expanded to include a third son. After 27 years in the industry, Ramsey was laid off and faced with restarting her career. That meant earning a bachelor’s degree.
That’s where UHD came in.
She enrolled in some courses at Lone Star College (LSC), then transferred to UHD … primarily taking classes at UHD Northwest. Now, she is set to set to receive her Bachelor of Business Administration from UHD’s Marilyn Davies College of Business.
Ramsey (now 60 years young) refers to herself as a “graduating granny.” By crossing the stage in cap and gown, she hopes to encourage her five grandchildren (who will attend Saturday’s commencement) to pursue their dreams. Likewise, she wants to inspire other nontraditional students to succeed.
“Stay true to your passions,” she said. “Many times our lives will take us down unexpected paths. They may not be the paths we thought we’d take. If you have the desire to accomplish a goal such as earning a degree, your dreams will eventually come to pass.”
Fry and Ramsey are examples of Gator Grit and reflect UHD's commitment to its transfer students. Through partnerships with community colleges, such as Houston Community College and LSC, students have opportunities to seamlessly transition from associate's programs into undergraduate majors at UHD. Those seeking to continue their studies at UHD benefit from resources and events, like Transfer Thursday, which offers admission counseling, information on scholarship opportunities, and advising.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second largest university in Houston—has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.
As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz. Annually, UHD educates more than 14,000 students; boasts over 50,000 alumni and offers 44 bachelor’s and eight master’s degree programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service, Sciences & Technology; and University College). In 2018, UHD grew its First Time in College student population by 11 percent and transfer students by 14 percent.
UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston. It also is ranked among 15 U.S. universities with lowest net price to students (according to the U.S. Department of Education). The University is noted nationally as both a Hispanic-Serving Institution and a Minority-Serving Institution. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.