Howard Boone Jr., a resilient survivor of gun violence, has propelled himself out of the darkness and finsihed what he started.
WRAL reported that Boone graduated from HBCU Saint Augustine’s University this week with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, four years after being paralyzed from the neck down due to a gunshot wound.
Though he didn’t have a solid plan, Boone’s accomplishments were motivated by his father. “My dad, he was always the one that told me: ‘If you start something, you’ve got to finish it,’” he said.
That same mantra inspired Boone throughout his teen years. The Raleigh, North Carolina, native graduated from Broughton High School, where he played football, baseball, and lacrosse. When high school ended, he joined the military, which allowed him to attend college and get “a sense of direction.”
In 2015, Boone’s received a full-ride scholarship to Saint Augustines, courtesy of the U.S. Army Reserves and Military Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, according to WRAL.
But on March 18, 2018, Boone was shot at Columbia’s Five Points while celebrating his initiation into Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated after a gunman opened fire into a large crowd.
For almost two weeks, Boone was in a sedated coma before waking up. “I coded twice, on the scene and again during surgery,” he said.
In the following weeks, he learned a bullet had cut his spinal cord, immobilizing him from the neck down. “When it first happened, I always asked myself, why me?” the then 23-year-old told news reporters. “But like my family always says, ‘God doesn’t put his soldiers out for no reason. He tests his best soldiers.’”
Boone went into a rehab clinic in Atlanta. There, he met someone experiencing the same struggles he was. The loneliness subsided, which eventually sparked his goal of completing his criminal justice degree
The new graduate did the work, even learning how to write his assignments via voice commands on his iPhone. Now, as part of the Class of 2022, Boone wants to leave a legacy to inspire others.
“The whole time during the ceremony I’m in a daze, like I’m feeling like I’m going to black out because it’s unreal,” Boone said. “Like it’s my time for me to get to go up there.”