TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — Family and friends gathered inside Coleman Coliseum Saturday to support their loved ones as they completed this journey in their scholastic endeavors.

For Courtney Tooson, graduating Saturday from the University of Alabama completed a chapter that was once put on hold.

“It’s something I wanted to do in 2018,” Tooson said. “I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I went through all the treatments, and I said, ‘I didn’t think about what I wanted to do, but I thought about what I didn’t do,’ and this is a stone I left unturned, so I’m glad. It means a lot.”

His next chapter is to graduate with a master’s degree, but he is using his story to encourage others who may also face challenges.

“Just keep your eyes on the prize and like coach Saban says, ‘What does it take to break you?'” Tooson said. “Know this world is going to throw a lot of that at you so just keep going and if you get up, you’ll win.”

Leigh Anne Mize graduated with a bachelor’s degree in geography and political science Saturday. She’s happy to share this moment with her two sons.

“My 6-year-old really comprehends, and he is really excited,” Mize said. “He knows mommy has had to work on the weekends and at nighttime and it takes in the family time doing all the schoolwork. So he’s excited, and just to be a leading example for him has been wonderful beyond measure.” 

During the weekend, over 5,000 graduates received their degrees from the University of Alabama.