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GGC Awards Nearly 150 Degrees at Summer Commencement

Almost 150 students were awarded bachelor’s degrees during Georgia Gwinnett College’s summer commencement ceremony, held August 2nd at the Infinite Energy Center Arena in Duluth, Ga. The event was attended by nearly 1,000 people.

Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal presented the ceremony’s keynote address.

The daughter of educators and a retired teacher herself, Deal has dedicated her life to encouraging childhood education. As part of her “Read Across Georgia” tour, Deal has visited and read in all 159 counties and 181 school districts to encourage student reading, and is believed to be the state’s only First Lady to do so. To date, she has visited more than 630 Georgia schools, encouraging students to love reading and to become “life-long learners.” Like her husband, Governor Nathan Deal, she believes a good education is the key to future success.

She serves as chairwoman of the Georgia Children’s Cabinet, which coordinates policies and resources to improve outcomes for children and families. Among other issues, the First Lady provides leadership on child welfare and juvenile justice issues in Georgia. Nationally, she serves as a Scholastic Reading Ambassador and a national representative for Jumpstart’s “We Give Books: Read for the Record” campaign.

“You have had an opportunity to study and learn, and hopefully, it will impact your heart and mind and will stick with you,” Deal said of the students’ educational journey. “But it is what you will do with it that will make the difference.”

She encouraged the students to observe and learn from others they encountered in their workplaces and other life experiences.

“We all learn from others, but remember that you are also teaching others,” she said.

Also addressing the audience was Kareem Adekunle, a business major, honors graduate and Nigerian native who spoke on behalf of the graduates in describing his Georgia Gwinnett College experience.

Wanting a brighter future than what awaited him in Nigeria, Adekunle originally came to the United States through a high school program designed to position him for a college basketball scholarship. However, after graduating from Providence Christian Academy with an impressive record including being named Gwinnett County’s leading rebounder, no scholarship offer came.

That was when his American host parents, Peter and Mary Hage, encouraged him to consider Georgia Gwinnett. The college had just started enrolling individuals under student visas, so Adekunle became one of the first.

Today, the college has students from more than 100 nations. International students on a variety of visa programs represent about 10 percent of the student body. GGC has twice been recognized by U.S. News & World Report (2015, 2016) as the most diverse Southern regional college, reflective of the rich diversity of the Atlanta region.

Adekunle became heavily involved in the GGC community, serving as president of the student cultural organization African Voice, career ambassador for the Career Development and Advising Center, and student ambassador for the Office of Development. He worked several jobs on campus, and often greeted people at the Student Center information desk by saying, “It is always a great day to be a Grizzly.”

Adekunle reminded his classmates to acknowledge those who have helped them achieve their degrees. He cited professors who had inspired him, his mother, whom he has not seen in seven years, and the Hages, whose support made his education possible.

“Papa and Mama Hage, saying thank you is the least I can do for all the sacrifices you both have made to mold this man that stands before you, and I am very grateful for everything you have done for me,” he said. “I would not be here were it not for you.”

In reflecting on the obstacles he faced in his own life, Adekunle advised his fellow graduates, “Do not let life’s challenges keep you from achieving all that you are meant to be. We all have a story. But, do not let your story hinder you from achieving what God has called you to do.”

Georgia Gwinnett College expects more than 12,000 students for fall semester, which begins Aug. 15.