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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — While hundreds of students worked hard to graduate from Broward College, three students in particular had to overcome exceptional circumstances to make it to graduation day.

Xenia Boiko walked the stage Wednesday at the Ft. Lauderdale Convention Center to receive her diploma but she didn’t do it on her own.

Her service dog Bella walked with her every step of the way.

Xenia was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was just 4 years old. Bella can sense when Xenia will have a seizure and can warn others.

She’s not just her dog. Bella is her side kick, her roommate, even her stress reliever.

“She would feel that I’m stressed and come under the table and start licking my hand,” said Xenia.

Bella was there to calm Xenia through the years it took to get her Bachelors in Special Education.

“I want to be that teacher that says you have a disability but you can still make it in society,” said Xenia.

Marlon Zubizarreta’s journey to his graduation began 90 miles away. Born in Cuba, he knew he wanted more than the communist country could offer him.

“I believe the opportunities I can have here are not the same that I have in Cuba,” said Marlon.

He didn’t know the language when he arrived on our coast more than two years ago. He took a 7-month course to learn English then enrolled at Broward College.

“I believe here I have the freedom to be myself and freedom to start a new life and study what I want, pursue my passions and dreams,” said Marlon.

Marlon made one of his dreams a reality — an Associate degree in Biology.

For Kayla Joiner, it was a series of long days and nights to make it to this stage.

She has a full-time job, two children, and took multiple classes a semester to receive her Associate in Crime Scene Investigation.

“Twelve hour shifts at work, then getting up and going right to school and doing it all over again,” said Joiner, whose goal is join law enforcement like her aunt and grandmother, who both work for the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

“I come from a long line of strong women who don’t stop until they get what they want,” she boasted.

Kayla, Marlon, and Xenia all had a choice and they chose to overcome their circumstances and can now celebrate their achievements.


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