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Joevonne Brace: 'Use Every Rock Thrown at You to Build a Castle'

This fall, Joevonne Brace will attend law school. She is carefully choosing the direction she'll take to continue building her castle.
As a teenage mother and high school drop-out, Joevonne Brace recalls how she was told: “You will never be anything.” Those words, however, lit a fire in her to succeed. Now age 41, the mother of three children recently graduated from the University at Albany.

Joevonne was raised in a stable, loving two-parent home, in both the Albany Pine Hills and Arbor Hill areas. But she admits she still managed to make immature, rash decisions and struggled with the consequences.

After dropping out of high school, Joevonne earned a GED in 1988. She started but discontinued classwork at Russell Sage College just a year later. Over the next few years, she took jobs as a waitress, makeup artist and nail technician, and in retail work. She also got into bar fights and wound up with a misdemeanor assault conviction.

In 1998, she landed a secure job with a local health insurer, and in January 2008, Joevonne gave college another try—this time at Hudson Valley Community College. She transferred to UAlbany in January 2010, and continued to work part-time at the health insurer while going to school full-time.

Joevonne credits many at UAlbany with believing in her including former English advisement director Gail Morey-Hughes; Distinguished English Professor Jeffrey Berman; Emilie Gould, communication; Gary Hoffmann and Jude Mulvey, criminal justice; Linda Scoville, pre-law advisement; and English professors Paul Stasi and Helen Elam.

Pursuing a major in English and minor in criminal justice, she immersed herself in her studies. She built relationships with professors, often stayed up all night to study and still be at work for 6:30 a.m. She failed before she succeeded in some coursework, but refused to drop the classes.

“I worked hard and did not give up. I don’t believe God brought me this far to leave me,” said Joevonne, an active member of Wilborn Temple First Church of God in Christ in Albany. Even when her father died last year at age 61, she grieved but persevered in her studies.

Along her journey to a UAlbany degree, she says she was guided by her life motto: "Use every stone thrown at you to build a castle.”

This fall, Joevonne will attend law school and now has the whole world open to her. She is carefully choosing the direction she’ll take to continue building her castle. 

For more graduate profiles, please visit our 2012 Commencement Page

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