She set her sights on a McCombs education and did everything she could to get here, often working three jobs at time while completing courses at a technical college in Madison, Wis. Once she made it to Austin, she established a new goal — to make the commencement speech at her graduation, and she worked tirelessly until the moment she stepped onto the Frank Erwin Center stage Dec. 7.
Braley’s college experience has been anything but typical. As a single mother raising a 3-year-old boy, Bryce, she had to learn time management as she learned about topics such as finance and marketing in her classes. She says that while the balancing act was difficult, those challenges inspired her commencement speech.
“Because of everything that I went through to get to graduation, I always had to know what I was going for,” Braley said. “I had to have that one thing, that light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted others to know that you need to find something that can get you up in the morning, and it was easy to know that’s what I wanted to speak on since [graduation] is what got me through.”
Braley said that although the audience at commencement was large, she was ready to make her speech and share her experience with her classmates and peers.
“I think I was more nervous to waiting in the backroom than I was actually making my speech. By then, I was thinking, ‘Oh, this is a piece of cake,'” Braley said. “It was fun because I recognized a lot of the people, and I just realized that we all had done it and that we all were in the same spot. That really lessened my nerves.”
Braley left the listeners with one piece of advice for their futures.
“Make every day a chance to be inspirational,” she said. “Your actions and what you do at any point and time can be inspirational for others, and it’s important to remember that.”