SAN FRANCISCO - Graduation season is here for Bay Area high schools, colleges and universities.
On Thursday night, the University of San Francisco held the first of its ceremonies, for the nursing program.
The class of 2018 showed their pride and joy as they walked the procession line that led into St. Ignatius Church where the ceremony was held.
"I had nothing but the clothes on my back ...was homeless with my child ...struggling with depression," said Natisa Dill as she addressed the audience from the podium as commencement speaker.
She says she was 16 and pregnant more than two decades ago. But she says hope, faith and an education helped her overcome the odds.
From being on welfare to becoming a regional director for a hospital, the single mom is now receiving her fourth college degree,
"No matter what circumstances you fall in, it's not the end of your story. You take one step, another step, and another step and you just hold on to the people who are there for you," said Dill.
For many students, graduation from college means realizing the American dream and a promise fulfilled.
"My family is from El Salvador, Central America. Both of my parents came when they were extremely young," said Stephanie Alfaro, a new graduate.
She says she is the first in her family to receive a college degree.
"It definitely motivates me not to do this just for myself, but for every girl out there that looks like me so they can be inspired as well," said Alfaro.
There were few males in this nursing class. One will be commissioned as an U.S. Army nurse. He wants to help people and serve his country.
"Even though you are dealing with patients, the real thing is you are working with people and some of them are in very stressful situations. You're there to help them through," said Fernando Echeona, a new graduate who says he's waiting to hear from the Army where he will be assigned.
"We are strong and resourceful and full of gumption. We have the potential to inspire a nation and truly change the world from here," said Dill to the Class of 2018.
The new graduates say no matter what path they take, they want to make a difference. They tell KTVU they are optimistic about the future.