High school and college graduation season is a celebratory time when students experience the joy of crossing the academic finish line. Some young people, such as 22-year-old Olivia Britt and her brother, 17-year-old Roosevelt Britt IV, know that finishing scholastic goals can be extra rewarding when achievement requires facing an extreme obstacle, such as the death of a loved one.

“Stay close with family because you never know when you could lose them,” Roosevelt Britt IV said, reflecting on a recent, life-altering experience.

Roosevelt’s big graduation day is drawing near on June 6, 2023 at Broadneck High School. Olivia already graduated from Stevenson University in Owings Mills, Maryland on May 15, 2023. She studied International Business Administration. 

Roosevelt Britt III, their 51-year-old father, passed away unexpectedly on February 22, 2023. The brother and sister now cherish memories of an Annapolitan who made a big impact in their lives and the lives of others. The special education teacher worked in an alternative school. Additionally, the Britts have three biological children and three nieces who are a part of their family. Rowel-Britt said that they came to live with them after their mother died from cancer.

Graduates Olivia Britt (left) and Roosevelt Britt IV 
Photo credit: Naudra Rowel-Britt

Olivia explained that she was working in her babysitting position, plugging away at her academic and full-time employment responsibilities when the unthinkable happened. 

Her mother, Naudra Rowel-Britt, added that Olivia had been visiting her family home in Annapolis, then headed back to Owings Mills. In the wee hours of the morning, Rowel-Britt called her daughter to inform her that she had called the ambulance for Olivia’s father. That is when she returned to Annapolis.

“Everything happened so quickly and they were doing CPR on him. So, I actually had to make another phone call to tell her to meet us at the hospital,” Rowel-Britt said.

Another daughter, Rachel Britt, in addition to Roosevelt Britt IV, was also home when their father experienced a medical emergency that ended in his demise. 

Roosevelt Britt IV (left) stands by an image of his late father, Roosevelt Britt III
Photo credit: Naudra Rowel-Britt

Rowel-Britt, a small business owner and special education teacher, had been married to her husband for 23 years. Despite the emotional experience that left her missing her other half, Rowel-Britt stated that she has been blessed with tremendous children. She feels so excited to see what they will do in the world as contributing adults. 

“One of the things that I think I’ve definitely held on to, in order to get through literally, each and every day, is my faith and my spirituality and knowing that I have a close relationship with the Most High God and knowing that my husband did as well. I think that’s probably one of the few things that gives me comfort,” Rowel-Britt said.

The Britt family’s journey has included managing emotions and regrouping. Roosevelt Britt IV had a hard time focusing in school after the death of his father. A favorite memory that he recalls about his father is watching sports together on Sundays. Before his father’s passing, the father and son often discussed what he wanted to do after completing high school.

“He gave me advice saying, ‘Just don’t let other people influence what you want to do or your interests,’” Roosevelt Britt IV stated that his father advised him to do what he wanted.

He added that he may be interested in learning a trade. The new graduate will be taking HVAC courses at Anne Arundel Community College this summer.
Olivia shared more memories about Roosevelt Britt III. She liked life lessons, words of comfort and good advice that her father periodically shared. Physically losing him impacted her.

“For me, I struggled the most with motivation,” Olivia said. “For over a week, I went without touching any of my schoolwork, and as an online student, all of the courses are accelerated courses, so I was very nervous and scared that I wasn’t going to graduate.”

Olivia managed to muster thoughts about her father and what he would want. He would not support the temptation of giving up.

“I kind of just used him as my motivation, along with my family support, friends and a significant other,” Olivia said, explaining how she crossed the finish line to earn her college degree.

Over the summer, she would like to begin taking real estate courses to pursue earning a real estate license. She also would like to pursue a Scrum certification. 

She noted several takeaways, including loving those who love you, because life is short.

 “Also, just always stay motivated throughout any of your struggles,” Olivia said. “Just always have motivation to finish, and always look at the end like there will be a good outcome and that’s what I’m working towards. Try not to give up and just do your best.” 

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