Maranathan Academy valedictorian Qiana Riley has overcome major obstacles

Maranathan Academy graduation ceremony

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A very special graduation ceremony happened Saturday afternoon for a young woman who lost her brother to gun violence.

Qiana Riley, along with several of her classmates, graduated from Maranathan Academy.

Qiana Riley graduated valedictorian of her class
Qiana Riley graduated valedictorian of her class (Source: WBRC)

Riley’s older brother was shot and killed five years ago, and Riley was nearby when she got the news.

The loss affected her so much she did not go to school for two years.

Qiana Riley (left) with Maranathan Academy founder Donna Dukes
Qiana Riley (left) with Maranathan Academy founder Donna Dukes (Source: WBRC)

But after being on the waiting list for Maranathan Academy, she is now graduating as valedictorian.

“I’m feeling very blessed and very grateful. I just feel proud of myself. I really do,” she said. “Don’t give up. Just because you have your doubts here and there, your doubts are not going to take over. You have to believe in yourself and have faith that you’ll be able to do it.”

Maranathan Academy's mission is to save the lives of at-risk youth through education.

Qiana Riley
Qiana Riley (Source: WBRC)

Riley now has plans to go to college and become a pediatrician or a pediatric nurse.

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