Backbone and drive help graduate overcome her past


The Mirror

Everyone has a story on graduation day. Ronda Nicholson’s is one to stop and hear.

Nicholson will graduate from Thomas Jefferson High School on Thursday. Her family and friends will be in the audience at the Tacoma Dome.

However, her mother and father will not be there.

Both died before Nicholson was 13.

After she graduates, Nicholson, 18, will prepare for her move to Texas to attend college. It’s the latest of several across the country from Washington to Michigan, California and back to Washington.

The smiles Nicholson shares easily shouldn’t distract a person from realizing this is a young woman with more backbone and drive than many adults.

What has happened to her is in the past, but it pushes her future.

Nicholson was born in Toledo, Ohio, and moved to Washington when she was small. Her mother, Una Nicholson, raised her in a devoutly Christian home. She considered her mother a best friend.

Her father, Bernard Williams, was in her life, but they didn’t see each other often after her parents separated.

Williams was a victim during a robbery when Nicholson was 11. He left nine children and Ronda was the second youngest.

Her mother had already been fighting breast cancer for a year when Nicholson’s father was killed. At the time, Ronda Nicholson said, she didn’t understand what breast cancer was or how far the disease had advanced when a mammogram revealed it.

“I thought it was like a cold,” Nicholson said.

Her mother tried to make it appear all was OK, even telling others that shaving her head was fashionable. But after the ambulance began coming to the house more frequently, Nicholson believes her mother started giving up.

Una Nicholson started planning for her children. Several of the older kids were in college or entering college. She asked a cousin and her husband in Michigan to care for Ronda.

The death of her mother at age 47 pulled the siblings apart. For Ronda Nicholson, it became a turn in her life nobody deserved.

After several moves, is at home in Washington.

She has enjoyed her time at Thomas Jefferson High School and has been involved in track, running the 100, 200 and 400 meters. That experience and her abilities earned her an athletic scholarship to Texas Southern University in Houston.

She wants to become an oncologist in the future — inspired by what happened to her mother.

Nicholson’s mother — even at the end — was teaching lessons.

“’Don’t question God,’” Nicholson recalled her mother saying. “’If I’m OK with it you need to be OK with it.’”

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565,

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