Earning a master’s degree takes hard work and dedication. However, for some, it can seem like an impossible dream. These five inspirational people overcame every obstacle they encountered on their journey to success. They beat the odds in order to pursue the dream they never thought they would reach. Here are the top 5 inspirational stories of master’s degree achieved.

#5 Deanna Jordan
For Deanna Jordan earning a master’s degree seemed like a goal she might never reach. Having grown up in Compton, by the age of twenty-two, Jordan found herself a single mother of three young boys. She wanted to create a better life for her family. However, as a single mother proved to be difficult.

Yet she was determined to set a good example for her boys, and so she enrolled at West Los Angeles Community College where she spent two years studying. She then transferred to UCLA, and spent the next three and a half years working toward her degree.

At the age of twenty-eight, Deanna Jordan graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor and Master in African American Studies. Inspired by her children and the knowledge of how important education is, she went on to start the Compton Pipeline Taskforce. Now, she and several volunteers work with children who attend Compton schools where she grew up.

#4 Brian Kolfage
Brian Kolfage also beat all odds to earn his master’s degree. Kolfage is an Iraqi war veteran, who lost both legs and his right arm during war. In 2004, while deployed on active duty, he encountered an explosion during an insurgent attack. The doctors were not certain he would survive. To the surprise of everyone, after nearly a year and sixteen surgeries, he recovered.

Eight years later, Brian Kolfage decided to take a chance, and enrolled at in University of Arizona’s College of Architecture. A program that only accepts one out of five applicants. However, once again he managed to beat all odds and was accepted.

Brian Kolfage received a Master in Architecture in 2014, graduating with a 3.8 grade point average. He now hopes to work as an architect for the military.

#3 Nola Ochs
Nola Ochs proved to the world that age truly does not matter. In 1927, Nola received her high school diploma and then obtained a teaching certificate. She spent the following six years teaching children in a one-room school in Kansas City. After her teaching days were over, she went on to earn her associates degree in 1988, from Dodge City Community College.

However, Nola Ochs was not finished yet. In 2006, she decided to enroll at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. There she earned her bachelor’s degree, and at ninety-five years of age became known as the world’s oldest graduate.

She continued pursuing her dream of higher education, and in 2010, she earned a Master in Liberal Studies with a concentration in History. While she had to overcome many obstacles in her pursuit, including learning how to use a computer, Nola Ochs managed to reach all of the goals she set for herself.

#2 Jacob Atem
One of a thousand young orphaned boys who escaped civil conflict in the 1990’s, few could imagine how different Jacob Atem’s life would one day be. Known as one of Sudan’s Lost Boys, he was lucky to have survived. Over 2.5 million people lost their lives during this civil conflict. As a child, while trying to flee from danger, Atem broke his arm. As there were only an estimated 100 doctors in Sedan at the time, he had no one to help him. He vowed to himself that he would become a doctor himself and return to help others.

After escaping, Atem spent the next decade in Kenya. Then the United States arranged for him to be placed in foster care, which landed him in Michigan. There he enrolled at Michigan State where he was able to earn a Bachelor in Health Care.

However, when he tried to apply for medical school, his test scores were too low. Despite this setback, he continued his education in the healthcare field. While he worked toward a Master in Public Health, he also started working toward fulfilling the promise he had made to himself as a child. He began to build a Health clinic in Maar, his home village in southern Sedan. Jacob Atem now holds a Master in Public health. His clinic is also complete and cares for over 100 patients a day.

#1 Semere Kesete
Semere Kesete had big dreams for himself, despite the difficulties he would face while trying to obtain them. Kesete attended Asmara University in Africa. During this time, the government ordered all students to perform hard labor during the summer when they were not attending class. Upon graduation, Semere Kesete criticized the harsh government for this behavior while giving his graduation speech. Three days later, he was arrested and sent to Eritrea.

Over 3000 students of the Asmara University encountered the same fate as Kesete. They were beaten and taken to the Eritrea prison where they were tortured. Kesete was given the opportunity to go before the court ten days after his arrival at the prison, but no charges were filed. He was then was sent back to prison to await a second court date. However, that court date was never to come. Government officials denied a second appearance and Semere Kesete was sent back to prison where he was kept in solitary confinement for over a year, with no charges filed against him.

Kesete managed to befriend a guard and the two of them set out to escape from Eritrea. They spent five days crossing the desert on foot until they were able to reach the Ethiopia boarder. From there, Kesete managed to make it to Sweden where he was given a permanent residence permit as a refugee. He ended up at Arizona State University where, in 2008, he successfully earned a Master in Justice and Human Rights.

Despite so many obstacles, each of these inspirational people managed to beat the odds and achieve their master’s degree. They each give us solid proof that if you are determined, anything is possible.


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