By Michèle De Meglio
Dressed in a cap and gown, Jaynell Bettis smiled softly when honored for overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Surrounded by friends and family at a private ceremony, the 36-year-old East Flatbush resident gingerly accepted her college diploma, which she earned while raising two children on her own, working full-time and battling a life-threatening disease. The impromptu ceremony was held at New York Methodist Hospital, 506 Sixth Street, where Bettis is undergoing treatment for throat cancer. “I’m sure she’s excited,” said her cousin Kathy Mungin. “The whole purpose is to give her some acknowledgement,” explained Dr. Robert Gilmore, dean of the business school at Metropolitan College of New York. “She’s earned it.” Having completed seven semesters at the college, Bettis was presented with an associate’s degree of science in business. “She has been such a wonderful student. You should hear how her teachers speak of her,” Gilmore said. “Because of her excellent academic record,” Bettis also received a certificate of excellence. The ceremony, which was held in the chapel at the hospital, was organized after college officials realized that Bettis’ health would prevent her from attending the school’s commencement activities at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. “When it became clear that Jaynell could not join the rest of the students at commencement last Saturday in the Javits Center, we asked her and her family and the hospital if we could present a degree at New York Methodist,” Gilmore said. “Not only did they agree, the family said it would be an appropriate testament to her determination not to give up.” “She’s a fighter,” said her cousin Judith Olivero. “Spiritually, she’s great. She’s in a lot of pain but she’s very determined and very energetic. This will give her a great boost.” Bettis has been fighting cancer since she was diagnosed a few months ago. “When she found out, everything progressed very quickly,” Mungin explained. Bettis has spent the last two months at Methodist undergoing chemotherapy. She recently had a tractotomy, which has made it difficult for her to speak, explained her cousin Marilyn Mungin. While she is in the hospital, Bettis’ 12-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son are staying with her mother in North Carolina. Doctors are hoping the graduation ceremony will help Bettis keep her morale up. “This is great for her and will really lift her spirits,” said Dr. Muthuswamy Krishnamurthy. “She’s really trying. She’s optimistic. She has a drive to keep going,” Marilyn said.