Agnes Onyera ’24 named Outstanding Islander Graduate for the College of Nursing and Health Sciences

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Achieving excellence both inside and outside the classroom is at the heart of being an Outstanding Islander Graduate. Each semester, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi selects a group of exceptional graduating Islanders — one from each academic college — who have made a lasting Islander Impact. These students are not only high academic achievers but have often overcome major adversity to reach the graduation stage.

This year’s seven Outstanding Islander Graduates will earn their diplomas at the Spring 2024 Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18. Their journey to this moment — fueled by determination, perseverance, and grit — highlights their unwavering commitment to finishing what they have started.

Please join us in celebrating Agnes Onyera ’24, who is earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Caring for others has always been at the forefront of Onyera’s mind. It’s a mind that has had to carry a lot of heavy burdens in her journey to academic success at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

“Growing up in Uganda, I saw children and women die in childbirth because there was no one trained well enough to properly assist in delivery,” she said. “And, during the Ebola pandemic in Uganda, we lost so many people in my village, both young and old.”

The war in South Sudan forced her and her family, made up of a single mother and seven children, to migrate to the United States nearly two decades ago. From her first step on American soil, she knew she wanted to give back. Her first taste of serving others happened when she turned of age and enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard. That allowed Onyera to give back while also earning a pathway to pay for a college education. That was a big help for the now-single mother as she moved from Houston to Corpus Christi to pursue her new life goal of getting a bachelor’s degree.

Her acceptance into the TAMU-CC nursing program was followed by getting a spot in the university’s SSS-STEM program which provides support for low-income and first-generation students who are earning a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, and health-related fields.  Onyera would also earn a highly-coveted HRSA scholarship which paid for tuition expenses not covered by military aid.

“I worked 60 hours a week to make sure the needs of my young son were met,” Onyera recalled. “At some point during the first semester, I totaled my car in an accident, so I had to walk my son to school and then walk over an hour to get from his school to TAMU-CC. This continued for months until I was able to get to another car.

With a packed schedule filled with work, class work, her Texas Army National Guard duties, and most importantly, raising a young son, the responsibilities of life piled up quickly for Onyera. Sometimes the weight almost proved too much, but with the help of her nursing professors, she managed to stay on the right track.

“I had to fight to stay in school to make sure I finished each semester because I want to show my son that I can do multiple things; being a single mother, student, soldier, work as a civilian and still be the best mother for him,” Onyera said. “My professors cared so much about my success that they would look out for me. I have never felt alone because they have always been a wonderful support system for me.”

As Onyera prepares to receive her diploma, she gives special thanks to her campus mentors, including Julia Norrell from SSS-STEM, and Professors Sarah Guy, Cathy Harrell, Sandy Stokes.

“TAMU-CC took a chance on a determined single mother,” Onyera said. “This university has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. To think of all the challenges I have faced, and I still came out victoriously on the other side can only be because this university believed in me. And because they believed in me, I worked hard to show that they made no mistake.”