Stories Of Perseverance

Whenever I have a chance to visit with our students, I always come away re-energized for the work we do. I am impressed with how humble and grateful they are for all we offer them at Dalton State. I believe our students’ accomplishments are simply remarkable, even before I hear stories from their academic journeys.

But their stories make their accomplishments all the more remarkable.

Many of our students’ stories stand out to me as I learn how hard they worked to get to Dalton State and stay here. I am inspired by their passion for obtaining a college credential despite the obstacles so many have overcome. I remember the first time (and not the last time) a student told me he had worked three part-time jobs while attending Dalton State. He described his daily schedule, and it was clear there was little time for sleep. He was so proud of himself for graduating and I wanted to hug him and thank him for persevering. He is sure to succeed as an employee with work ethic like that!

I recall another student who described her life as a foster child. She aged out of the system and was on her own as a college student. I can’t imagine going through college without family support. She found her own support network and pushed through to graduation. I have no doubt she will make significant contributions to the world.

More than one student leader endured cancer while they completed their degree at Dalton State. For these students, medical expenses, days of treatment and/or surgery and days they surely felt awful were part of their stories, yet what many would see was friendly, smiling, enthusiastic college students whom you would likely never guess had any worries. Despite their challenges while students, they never lost their passion for pursuing their education or for our college, and we are grateful to have been a part of their journeys.

We traditionally ask a student who is graduating to deliver the commencement speech at our spring commencement ceremony. Over the years, I have been repeatedly bowled over by the stories our graduating students share with their peers and the families in attendance. It underscores the reason for the pride in the eyes and on the faces of our students and their families at this ceremony. And it reinforces our passion for serving our students.

When elected officials visit Dalton State, we typically offer a brief meeting with the president and then tour them around campus to see some of the highlights such as our turtle assurance colony, health professions simulation lab, first-class science labs and modern equipment, Bandy Heritage Center, and so on. But when our senator recently visited, he asked to meet with a small group of students. He wanted to hear from them directly about their experiences and the challenges they were managing. He became so enthralled by our students he asked to skip the tour and continue listening to our students. Their stories are THAT powerful.

Our students’ stories don’t stop at graduation.

I look at where some of our alumni are today and I know our current students and recent graduates have the same opportunities for success. Dalton State alumni like David Pennington (Mayor of Dalton), Scott Chitwood (Whitfield County Sheriff), Bryan Hair (CEO of Marketing Alliance Group) and C. Lamar Wright (business leader and philanthropist) not only lead our community but serve as role models for our students.

One of the things I say to our students as they graduate and leave the nest is “Please stay in touch.” I mean it and I hope they know that. They are the fruits of our labors, and I can’t wait to see what chapter comes next for each of them.