'Sunshine after the rain': Deaf mother of 2 graduates from UNC-Charlotte 1 year early

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WTVD) -- A North Carolina mother is inspiring others with her determination to overcome challenge after challenge.

Michele Randolph is a mother of two, and now she's also a University of North Carolina at Charlotte graduate.

"I worked really hard for this; I worked really hard," Randolph said.

She was born legally deaf and by the age of 12 lost all of her ability to hear.

"I remember what it felt like when my ears just popped and just were gone," she said.

Randolph did not let that slow her down. Instead, she pressed ahead.

"I basically raised both of my children while deaf. My oldest one had to grow up fast; she basically did all the doctor phone calls, everything for mommy," Randolph said.

Her youngest daughter was born prematurely. She had cerebral palsy, autism and a severe brain injury.

"Raising her was easy because she was my child," Randolph said. "She helped me through a lot. She helped me through the last two years of schooling because by seeing her I knew that I could do this."

In 2019, Randolph became a candidate for a cochlear implant. She received the implant and got to hear her children talk for the first time.

"When they activated me and I could hear their voices, I was amazed that how I imagined them to talk was actually how they spoke," Randolph said. "It was just amazing. It was like a lightbulb clicked for me, and I knew then there was nothing, nothing anymore that I could not do."

But life had a couple more curveballs to throw at Randolph. She lost her grandmother, and then a couple months later, she lost her husband too.

Shortly after those tragedies, she found herself fighting for her own life after an emergency surgery to repair a gallbladder operation gone wrong.

"I wanted to give up a lot. I really wanted to just stop going to school," she said.

But she didn't.

Instead, she hunkered down and put in even more effort. She finished school a year ahead of schedule and received her degree at the age of 50.

"Sunshine after the rain: It felt good to be able to hear my name called," she said.
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