YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Friday, Youngstown State University awarded a posthumous degree to one of its students who passed after complications from spina bifida in 2019.

YSU posthumously recognized Raquel McKinney in her field of study — information technology — after her passing in 2019 at a ceremony at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor.

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She’s remembered as an always-smiling, bright and bubbly student determined to get her education, even with her spina bifida.

Denise Walters-Dobson was Raquel’s academic advisor while she was at the university in the early 2000s.

“Tenacious, optimistic, hopeful, even despite she was in a wheelchair because of her spina bifida, which she had when she was born,” said Walters-Dobson.

Her family said despite everything, it shows her hope and resilience.

“My father was assisting her, taking her to all of her classes and so it was important to her. As she began to get older, her condition progressed,” said Raquel’s sister Zina McKinney.

Raquel wasn’t able to return to school. Shortly after she passed in 2019, her father, an avid supporter of her education who also graduated from YSU, passed in 2020.

Friends and family gathered to remember her as a passionate Dallas Cowboys fan, churchgoer and someone who loved her family above all else.

“Loved to travel as well. I lived in Atlanta so she would love to come down and visit in Atlanta,” said Raquel’s sister Monica McKinney.

Raquel’s former nurses, friends, family and members of YSU celebrated her. Her family said the posthumous degree means so much to them.

“It’s a win-win for us and we’re just elated to have this time,” said Raquel’s brother Sean McKinney.