Self-Discovery on the Path to Graduation. Meet Sonniyrah Marie D'Huguenoir.

May 7, 2024

Sonniyrah Marie D'HuguenoirThe path to graduation is flooded with twists and turns. Students change majors, life events cause disruptions, and many students find they are no longer the same individual they were coming into college. Sonniyrah Marie D'Huguenoir said her journey was a roller coaster.

Sonniyrah was born in Harlem, New York shortly after her mother moved to the U.S. from Haiti for a better life. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York, but then moved to Philadelphia right before starting high school. Sonniyrah graduated from Olney Charter High School and began classes at Community College of Philadelphia in 2012, having decided against making a big move to attend Morehouse College, an all-male HBCU in Atlanta, Georgia. This was before Sonniyrah, who identifies as a woman of trans experience, began transitioning.

Community College’s Center for Male Engagement (CME) mailed her information about enrollment, inviting her to become a life-long member. She accepted and began to participate in regular workshops on topics like time management and skill building on a collegiate level.

After becoming a member, Sonniyrah cultivated relationships that will live on beyond the collegiate experience with other students as well as College staff. Two important relationships that she cultivated were with CME’s director, Dr. Derrick Perkins, and Hope Thomas, administrative assistant, who became loving guardians or parental figures to her. “When I came to the realization that I was a woman, I informed my father that I can no longer be a part of this organization because of my identity,” Sonniyrah said. “He was like, ‘no you’re my daughter, you’ll always be a part of this.” Sonniyrah would then go on to be a peer coach for CME, handling tasks pertaining to mentoring other students, helping classmates navigate the FAFSA, setting up workshops, planning academic trips and more.

Even with support from CME, Single Stop and KEYS, life for Sonniyrah was full of twists and turns. Sometimes, the struggle to pay bills outweighed the need to focus on studies. Sonniyrah was in and out of school. She also hopped around majors as she worked to figure it all out. 

“I went from a pre-law major or paralegal studies to art, and now I found my true purpose in the arts and sciences in psychology,” Sonniyrah said.

For all her hard work, she graduated on Saturday, May 4, with a Liberal Arts degree and with a commitment to earn her doctorate degree in Psychiatry. She said the last decade has been one of self-discovery, something that was essential to her success in the classroom and in life. “Before, I prioritized everybody else except for me,” Sonniyrah said. “Now this time around, I’m focusing on, what do I want to be 10 years from now?”

After graduation, she plans to get a bachelor’s degree—her eyes are set on Howard University. “I’m proud that I finally gained a sense of healthy independence as a dark- skinned Haitian woman of trans experience,” Sonniyrah said. “I’m in my own space, on my own. I’m graduating. I’m proud that I have come to a place of peace in my identity and my life all thanks to God and CME.”