TSU undergrad earns college degree, fulfills mission 30 years later at historic commencement featuring Vice President Kamala Harris    

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Delay was not denial for LaTonya Bell-Fitts of Nashville, who received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Tennessee State University at age 50. The motivation behind her milestone were her three children who all have received college degrees in criminal justice. 

The tradition of undergraduates turning their tassel at the May 7 graduation took on a whole new meaning for Bell-Fitts as a non-traditional student. She said it is what made the moment surreal, also noting that Vice President Kamala Harris’ speech, reassured her that the sky was the limit. 

LaTonya Bell-Fitts at Spring 2022 graduation (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

“It was very motivational and inspiring for me,” Bell-Fitts said. “That was a moment I’ll never forget.” 

Bell-Fitts graduated from McGavock High School in 1990 when her son was only four-months-old. She began her higher education journey at Nashville State Community College but was unable to maintain the demands of her course work with her newborn, along with taking care of an ill family member at the time. She dropped out but was always determined to complete what she had started. In 2012 Bell-Fitts decided to pursue an education again and enrolled at Bethel University.

In 2016, she transferred to TSU. 

Growing up Bell-Fitts always told her children to finish what they started. She wanted to make sure she took her own advice as well. 

While Bell-Fitts was enrolled at TSU she became an administrative assistant in the Division of Student Affairs. “To be able to pour into them (students) … give them the love and guidance they need, helped me as well,” she said, mentioning that the students and staff also motivated her to finish strong. 

She is now a TSU alumna like her daughter T’Yana Jackson. Jackson said emotions ran high after witnessing her mother graduate, recalling those days  she almost gave up.

LaTonya Bell-Fitts and her daughter T’Yana Jackson smiles at TSU graduation celebration. (Photo submitted)

“It was good seeing her push through,” Jackson, the 2019 TSU graduate said.

“She’s an amazing mom who set the tone … it is not an age limit on doing the things you want to do.”

As her children, grandchildren, and entire family witnessed her walk across the stage to get her degree, she believes that she graduated right on time despite the setbacks. Bell-Fitts looks forward to returning to TSU to receive a master’s degree. 

LaTonya Bell-Fitts, her son Markese Osborne and grandchildren on graduation day. (Photo submitted)

“I had a mission to complete,” she said. “You have to walk the journey that God has planned for you, everything happens for a reason. It was very much worth the wait.” 

Visit the Tennessee State University YouTube channel at www.tnstste.edu to view the 2022 Undergraduate Spring Commencement Ceremony in its entirety.  

Department of Media Relations

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About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and eight doctoral degrees. TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee. With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.