by Roger Barnes
Georgia Perimeter College had a lot to celebrate during spring commencement ceremonies held May 13 on the Clarkston Campus.
Eleven students were graduating through early college programs, and there were a host of interesting and inspirational stories from the 1,000-plus students who accepted their associate degrees.
“There is evidence all around us that at Georgia Perimeter College, we have a strong habit of excellence,” GPC President Dr. Anthony Tricoli said in his opening remarks. “The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said, ‘We are what we repeatedly do.’ Excellence then is not an act but a habit.”
Keynote speaker, Georgia Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (85th District), also talked to the graduates about excellence.
“I have been well aware of the high caliber of instruction and dedication of Georgia Perimeter’s faculty, the innovative work to assist students in their transfers, the opportunities that allow high school students to gain college credit—these are exemplary ways to meet the needs of Georgia students,” Benfield said. “I have long recognized the value and impact of Georgia Perimeter College, but to be here today allows me to feel the spirit of community you enjoy and to taste the student success.”
Benfield shared with the graduates her four-point formula for continued excellence. She told them to give 100 percent to every task, take the high road, listen to all sides of an issue and learn to communicate effectively.
“The ability to communicate effectively is key to success in life,” Benfield said. “Use proper grammar, enhance your vocabulary by reading, impress people with your diction.
“Graduates, the points I’ve delivered are a few I have collected on my life’s journey,” she said. “There are many others: Setting your goals high, finding the right balance of work and family, deriving inspiration from role models … all are valuable lessons. You, I’m sure, have already begun to compile your own list, a list that will grow as you move forward to explore what each new day will bring. That is what we do: we live, and we learn.”
During commencement, some examples of this year’s class of student excellence were highlighted.
Graduate Amanda Browning, recognized as GPC’s Regent’s Outstanding Scholar and president of the Clarkston Campus Phi Theta Kappa international honor society, was one example of the college’s culture of excellence.
“She is a contributing author to the Polishing Cloth student magazine and an incredible force in community service,” Tricoli said. “Her projects include toy drives for a local hospital, a campus workshop on domestic violence, an observance of Veterans Day and book drives for local schools. She carried a rigorous academic load, for which she has earned a 3.9 GPA.
Another example of excellence in this year’s class was demonstrated by graduates Natalee Dukes and Michelle Borg, both Dual Enrollment students from Heritage High School.
“Michelle graduates with a 3.8 GPA and an associate degree in psychology. She will continue her studies at the University Of Georgia’s pharmacy school,” Tricoli said. “As a pre-med major at GPC, Natalie Dukes was named to the prestigious Phi Theta Kappa All-Georgia Academic Team and earned a $1,250 scholarship from the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. Natalie plans to study neuroscience at the University of Georgia this fall.”
Borg and Dukes were not the only early college graduates. Nine students from GPC’s DeKalb Early College Academy—Tyana Baker, Dezsarae Gill, Kaitlyn Hackett, Aaron Klaft, Zakery Mizell, Patience Shepard, Simone Thompson, Eric Williams and Amber Worthy—also graduated. Like Borg and Dukes, the DECA students received their high school diplomas days after collecting their associate college degrees. All the early college students will continue their educations in the fall as college juniors.
While the early college students used GPC to get a head start on their postsecondary education, graduate Joanne Butler found it a perfect place to re-start her education. At the end of her senior year of high school in Ohio, GPC graduate Joanne Butler found that she needed one more class to graduate, so she left without her diploma. Butler moved to Georgia, started a family, found work in an attorney’s office but realized there was no growth for her at that job.
“Joanne said, ‘I completed a GED, and I put this vision into place that I’m going to be a nurse. Now I’m achieving it,’” Tricoli said. “Joanne represents the first generation in her family to graduate from college. Not only that, she is an honors graduate, a community service volunteer and was named to the Phi Theta Kappa All Georgia Academic team. She graduated today with a Health Sciences degree and has been accepted to the nursing schools at Emory and Mercer University.
“Graduates, these are just a few examples,” Tricoli continued. “Each of you has your own story, your own achievements, and Georgia Perimeter is proud of you.”