Public health student shares inspiring graduation story

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Nearly 700 students will graduate from Charleston Southern University Saturday morning.

There are a lot of amazing stories in the crowd.

One is about a young woman who studied public health while struggling with her own health.

Kiona Baker studied at CSU for three years and graduates Saturday.

"It makes me feel excited for the future. You know you can help so many people," Baker said.

Baker has Sickle Cell Anemia, a disease where her blood cells are misshapen, causing infections, pain and exhaustion.

"It causes problems in your body, pain, makes your pain bones deteriorate and your organs not do right," she explained.

She remembers being especially sick when graduating high school.

"You could see my green eyes," she said."I was so sick the day before, 104 fever, throwing up in pain."

But Baker said through it all, her family, especially her mom, wouldn't let her give up on college.

"There were some days I didn't even want to get out of bed. I was so uncomfortable and unhappy," Baker said. "My mom said, 'You're too smart. I'm not gonna let you sit here and be sad and depressed over it. God put you through this for a reason.'  She's always supported me in that way. She's always known that I'm going to be something great that helps someone."

Baker is now looking to start a career in public health to educate and inspire others.

She would especially love to work in a school or church and create public health programs.

"Even if you have sickle cell, or whatever disease it is, you can go to college. You can be successful," Baker said. "We can do all things in which Jesus Christ strengthens us."

Kiona Baker was awarded CSU's  "Top Public Health Student" award for 2018.

Charleston Southern University's Commencement ceremony is Saturday, May 5 at 10 a.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum.

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