Like many parents, Michelle and Roosevelt Boyland are proud of their children. But when their son Ryan Boyland graduated from medical school this spring, they wanted to do something extra special to mark his achievement as the first person in their family to become a doctor.
Michelle Boyland came up with the brilliant idea of renting out a billboard after seeing a story on TV.
"I was inspired by that and wanted to do something similar for Ryan. I thought it was an excellent idea to celebrate him," the mom of five told "Good Morning America."
The Boyland family made sure they kept it a surprise, even when Ryan Boyland peppered them with question after question.
"Everybody knew about it except Ryan. And I told him that I needed to talk to him and we're going to meet at his older brother's apartment complex in the parking lot," Michelle Boyland explained, adding that the parking lot was near where the billboard was located. "Ryan had tons of questions as usual. 'Why are we meeting? How come we can't talk about it right now over the phone?' I'm like, 'This is very important. I need to see your face.'"
When his mother, brother and sister took him to see the billboard in person, Ryan Boyland had no idea what was going to happen until he finally looked up and saw his photo towering above the roadway.
"The first thing I thought was, how long it had been there and how many people had already seen me before I had seen me? And like, a moment of mild panic kind of entered me," he recalled. "In the past, I have been a little bit hesitant about receiving such attention and so seeing my head 20 feet off the ground was a bit of a shock."
The billboard, which reads, "Congratulations Doctor Ryan Boyland Class of 2023 University of Nebraska Medical Center," stands tall in front of Bellevue University in Bellevue, Nebraska.
Michelle Boyland said she picked that strategic spot for a reason.
"I chose that location because it's right down the street from the church that we attend, as well as right down the street from the high school that Ryan went to 10 years ago," Michelle Boyland said, adding, "I wanted it to inspire our community. I wanted it to inspire the kids, little kids, adults, middle schoolers, to inspire that they can be doctors too."
Ryan Boyland said he has since heard from many people who have seen his billboard.
"The news has spread far and wide, and that's been a lot to take in. But I think one of the things that I appreciate about it is … the value of seeing, essentially, people of color in this role, as doctors, as physicians," he said. "I'm one of the few people in my family who work in health care and so I didn't necessarily have a lot of examples of Black doctors or Black male doctors in front of me. And so now, a lot of people have that example and they have someone they can look to and I think that's important and I think that's valuable."
As Ryan Boyland gets ready to move to Denver to begin an emergency medicine residency with Denver Health, his parents say they're "very proud" of him.
"He's accomplished a lot in a very short period of time and I'm looking forward to many more accomplishments in the future. Hopefully, he'll start taking credit for it a little bit better," dad Roosevelt Boyland said.
"I'm extremely happy for him to stay the course and stay focused. I'm just so happy for him," Michelle Boyland added.