caffina_and_chrystal_archer_web.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE — A mother and her daughter half her age were among a diverse group of students who graduated recently from Broward College. Chrystal Archer, 44, and her daughter Caffina Archer, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, received associate’s degrees during recent commencement ceremonies.


They plan to pursue bachelor’s degrees at Florida Atlantic University, Chrystal in accounting and Caffina in pre-law.

Shortly after arriving in the U.S. from the Caribbean in 2005, Chrystal Archer became a victim of domestic abuse, according to a release from the college.

She turned to Women in Distress for help and overcame her ordeal and enrolled at the college. She sees her success as an example “to give people motivation to continue.”

“The only one who can stop you is you,” she said.

Caffina Archer is proud of her mother and how she survived. “That helped her get stronger,” she said. 

The Archers were among more than 2,600 students aged 17 to 85 from 84 countries of origin who qualified for associate’s and bachelor’s degrees and professional certificates.

Commencement took place on Dec. 14 at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale. For the first time, a live webcast allowed family members and friends who are unable to attend to watch the graduation from anywhere on the globe.

The ceremony was notable also because it marked the inaugural graduation of students in the Registered Nurse program to Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The 22 students joined the ranks of bachelor-level graduates in the Bachelor of Applied Science and Teacher Education Program areas. Like the Archers, many of the graduates have a personal story of struggle and triumph, overcoming obstacles and defying the odds to achieve this educational accomplishment.

They include Elizabeth “Betty” Reilly, 85, who enrolled as a freshman at age 81. “I refuse to limit myself,” she said. “I always wanted to go to college. It’s a dream come true.”

 The mother of five, grandmother of 12 and great-grandmother of seven, will continue her studies at Florida Atlantic University.

Evelyn Mathis, 45, graduating with the RN-to-BSN program’s first class, is a Nicaraguan native who started her undocumented life in the U.S. 21 years ago by working in the fields, picking tomatoes for a dollar a bucket.

“I knew I’d some day become a nurse,” Mathis said. “I knew it was only a matter of time.”

Sometimes, though, her dream seemed far away. She once faced deportation but eventually resolved her immigration status and went on to become an American citizen.

Mathis earned her GED and then enrolled in the licensed practical nurse training program at Robert Morgan Educational Center in Miami-Dade County.

But being an LPN wasn’t enough for her, so she went back to school at Miami Dade College to become a registered nurse.

Mathis moved to West Park, in Broward County, with her husband Oscar Mathis and sons Brian and Isaac in 2001.

When she heard that Broward College was starting an RN-to-BSN program, she wanted to be part of it.

ALL IN THE FAMILY: Caffina Archer, left, and her mom Chrystal Archer graduated together from Broward College.