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‘Did not give up’: Three sisters graduate with master’s degrees on the same day

ROCK HILL, S.C. — They’re years apart in age, but three local sisters graduated with master’s degrees from the same college -- on the same day.

Chelsea, Shantel, and Sheena Bell have been taking care of each other since they were little girls. Most recently, the 30-something professionals helped each other reach a remarkable accomplishment.

“We were always taught, you take care of each other,” said middle child Shantel Bell. “It’s the three of you, so it was natural.”

In December, the Bell sisters graduated with master’s degrees on the same day and from the same school. It was a particularly dynamic achievement for the three women, who were first in their family to go to college.

Their parents are proud, to say the least.

“Joy, tears of joy. Just overwhelmed,” their mother Janice Bell said through tears.

Janice and Fred Bell were blue collar workers who earned high school diplomas, but wanted more for their little girls.

“They had to bring As, nothing but an A, but I accepted a B every now and then,” Janice Bell said.

“There was a standard there, so I knew no matter what I was going to be successful at something,” said youngest child Sheena Bell.

When Shantel graduated with her undergraduate degree from Columbia College in 2018, she told her sisters they should all enter the South Carolina school’s MBA program together.

But they encountered plenty of challenges that weren’t all academic. While they were in the MBA program, Shantel’s 13-year-old son Zack, who was living with a rare condition called Dravet Syndrome, passed away.

“That’s probably the time when we had to lean on each other the most, because it was very, very, very difficult,” Sheena said. “I just want to say, I’m so proud of you, that you did not give up,” she said through tears to Shantel.

“It was very, very challenging and I knew I had to do it, because he would want me to do it,” Shantel said.

In the end, they persevered -- each of them graduating with a 4.0 GPA. And now, they have a message for others.

“Don’t let your current circumstance predict your future outcome,” oldest sibling Chelsea Bell said.

“As long as you don’t give up, you are going to get to where you want to be and where you need to be,” Sheena said.

The sisters don’t have plans right now for doctorate degrees but said they don’t know what the future holds.

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