As students nationwide prepare for their Christmas breaks, some will not return to their educational institutions in January. Sometimes, life's hardships cause would-be students to remove themselves from the educational process temporarily or permanently.  However, others are just reaching the ends of their journeys and will soon graduate. Graduation itself brings a sense of accomplishment and pride in one's self, and December graduates often feel as if they're giving themselves one of the greatest Christmas gifts ever, as is the case with 62-year-old Jessie Latten, who will receive his Ph.d in Counselor Education at The University of Alabama's Winter Commencement on Saturday, December 15. 

Mr. Latten, an African-American male born and raised in Birmingham, first became acquainted with the University of Alabama as a member of an R&B band. The band would play gigs for rush parties.  Mr. Latten was in awe of the beauty in campus structures but never dreamed he would attend the University of Alabama, as it was segregated.  However, he did go on to pursue higher education in Massachusetts, where he obtained a BA . Unfortunately, Mr. Latten's life took an unexpected turn, and he became an alcoholic.

Mr. Latten says he returned to Birmingham "pretty much a defeated person."  But he credits his new life to his newly found spirituality and salvation. "One Sunday morning, the Lord saved me.  I became a new person.  I went back to grad school at age 53.  I received my Master's degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2005, and I entered the doctoral program at the University of Alabama in 2006."

This goes to show that obstacles can be overcome.  All it takes is a will to succeed and time.