Cindy Petithomme is sworn in as an Army second lieutenant Saturday after her graduation from Methodist University with a degree in social work.
Cindy Petithomme found determination in her unimaginably difficult childhood - her mother's imprisonment, living in foster care, suffering abuse.
But Saturday, she stood proudly as a Methodist University graduate and newly commissioned Army second lieutenant.
Petithomme was one of 206 Methodist University students to graduate - and the only one to be commissioned. Also Saturday, Campbell University in Buies Creek held a commencement to recognize its 470 graduates.
Petithomme is a 26-year-old single mother and a veteran of overseas duty with the Army in Kuwait. She said she could have let her tough childhood hold her back in high school and college, but she kept moving ahead.
"I just kept dragging my feet, even though I wanted to stop, I kept going. That's the best thing to do in any situation, just keep going even if you don't want to," Petithomme said.
Around age 4 or 5, Petithomme said, authorities in Florida took her and two older brothers from their mother after school officials saw her with a swollen eye. She stayed in foster homes over the next several years until her aunt, Shirley English, fought for custody. Some of the foster families were abusive, she said.
She last saw her mother when she was about 10, she said. Her mother, in prison for shooting a man, died of AIDS, she said.
She said she was awkward in high school but kept up her grades and planned for college. She joined the Army in 2003 to pay for it. Several years ago, while taking classes at Methodist, Petithomme learned of a scholarship program that would lead to her degree and an officer's commission.
She said she never thought she'd be an officer, but one of her former supervisors, Sgt. Maj. Robbin Crum, saw it in her years ago in Kuwait.
"I would always tell her, 'You're going to be an officer someday,' " Crum said.
On Saturday, Crum, English and Petithomme's 3-year-old daughter, Taliyah, pinned the second lieutenant bars on Petithomme's uniform, and Crum saluted her.