Community Benefits from Investment in Students

“Education is a profession in which you often sow tirelessly, and wait patiently for a harvest.” These wise words were spoken by Malisa Cawood, a graduate of Dalton State College and current teacher at City Park Elementary School. She added, “Hard work is required along with your patience. At the end of the day, week, year, you must trust that the elements of nature won’t affect your investment, your crop, your passions, your heart. We are continually in trust mode, waiting to reap the harvest of our labors.”

Malisa originally addressed these words to a room of donors at the University System of Georgia’s scholarship fundraiser event this March. The donors who financed her education had faith it would someday reap rewards for the community. Certainly the Acree family and the Kinards must agree that their scholarship donations which supported Malisa have been sound investments. Malisa delivered these same words again to the Rotary Club of Dalton recently and asserted that we should all look to the Acree and Kinard families as an example. I would add that Malisa has, in turn, been investing in this community herself.

In addition to working tirelessly at City Park Elementary, Malisa volunteers at the City of Refuge, a non-profit organization in Dalton that serves “the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of the homeless, low-income, poverty-level, and indigent families of Whitfield and Murray counties in Northwest Georgia.” Malisa is wise beyond her years, and I take to heart her insights. She also said, “We are all teachers. We teach from where we are, always influencing others.” This president of Dalton State could not be more proud of this alumna. Malisa is the best of the best, and she represents all that Dalton State has stood for during the past 50 years. She inspires us all to serve our communities in any capacity we can, to plant trees that will shade future generations. And I believe Malisa’s speech also illustrates why Dalton State College exists. Malisa is a product of this college and this community’s generosity, and she has chosen to reinvest her talents in the community that believed in her.

Dalton State has been celebrating its 50th anniversary since last October, and I frequently reflect on how far we have come. I also reflect with gratitude on the wisdom, foresight, and patience of the forbearers of this college. This community recognized the value of having a college where the youth (and the not-so-youthful) could obtain a quality college education at an affordable price without having to leave the community or region. Over these 50 years, we have educated countless students, many of whom are similar to Malisa. Many students have graduated but a number of our former students have transferred to complete their degrees elsewhere. Some only needed to take a few classes with us to retool for a new career field. Our alumni have benefited from their studies with us. We began, perhaps modestly, when we opened our doors as a “junior college” or “community college” in 1967 with approximately 500 students. But today we serve more than 5,000 students, and the majority of our students are pursuing one of the 23 four-year degrees we offer. We are no longer a community college, and in most cases our students do not need to transfer to another institution to complete their degrees.

Nevertheless, even as we grow in size and evolve in the programming we offer, I hope we will always be this community’s college and I hope the founding fathers of Dalton State College are as proud of this institution as I am of Malisa.

Dalton State College exists to serve the needs of this region, and I believe we are doing so more than ever today. Dalton State provides opportunities to students in Northwest Georgia and beyond to pursue baccalaureate degrees with options across a diverse range of career fields, to live on campus and engage in a robust array of student life activities, to participate in or attend exciting intercollegiate athletic competitions, and to engage in hands-on service, internships, and research endeavors. We are producing more graduates every year, and each semester we are able to spotlight many student success stories.

As we continue to celebrate our 50th anniversary this fall, I hope you will take the opportunity to become reacquainted with this community’s college and our students. I believe you will see how important investing in our students and our campus is for the community.