GPC Graduates 1,100 in Fall Commencement

Contact: Roger Barnes
Phone: 678-891-2693
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Author: Roger Barnes

Muriel Hunter was so impressed with the experience her son Brandon was having at Georgia Perimeter College, she decided to also enroll for classes. On Monday, both mother and son donned cap and gown and graduated together, Muriel earning an associate degree in General Studies and Brandon taking home an associate of arts in Film.

“Graduation provided a great sense of accomplishing for both of us,” Muriel said. “It was a wonderful experience. Graduating together I hope has been sort of an inspiration to him that if he sets a goal he can accomplish anything.”

More than 1,100 Georgia Perimeter students were eligible to receive an associate degree during fall commencement, held on Dec. 13.

“Each of you traveled different paths to Georgia Perimeter College,” GPC President Dr. Anthony S. Tricoli told the graduates. “Each of you brought different needs, experiences, goals and dreams with you. Your presence here today shows that you have taken hold of your life and are actively creating the future you want.”

Tricoli, who enjoys woodcarving as a hobby, told the graduates they are artists designing their vision of their future.

“There are not two pieces of driftwood that are alike,” Tricoli said. “Each piece has strength, each one has imperfections, and each one has beauty. If you carve the wood to take advantage of all of those individual qualities, a true piece of art can emerge.”
“You (graduates) are the artists,” he said. “You have started the process of carving out your future, shaping what you will become and I am inspired by what I am seeing.”

During the ceremony, keynote speaker Rep. Karla Drenner shared the story of her road to higher education. Drenner was first elected to the Georgia General Assembly in 2000 and represents house district 86, which includes Avondale Estates, as well as Georgia Perimeter College Clarkston Campus, where commencement was held.

“After high school, my plan was to become one of those young women who wear a neon vest and wave a flag to direct traffic around construction sites,” Drenner said. “I would make money, have my own place and my own car.”

Those early plans did not work out and Drenner soon found herself working odd jobs.

“There I was, wandering around, making $4.25 an hour and living in a hole-in-the-wall apartment,” she recalled. “I knew I needed an education. I needed to go to college.”

Drenner said she returned to college determined to be successful.

“I began to value education as something that was truly mine,” she said. “Something I could depend on, something that would open doors for me. I now have five degrees, even two doctorates.

“Each and every one of you has faced similar struggles,” Drenner told the graduates. “But each and every one of you is here today because you did not give up. You knew what was important and stayed the course. That is a testament to your strength, and that strength will carry you to your next goal.”

GPC graduate Erica Dumas found it easy to relate to Drenner’s keynote address.

“I knew I needed to be somewhere to do something constructive with my life,” Dumas said. “I just knew college was the place I needed to be.”

On Monday, Dumas became the first member of her family to earn a college degree. Her degree is in Business Administration.

Graduate Shawna Stephens had been in the workforce for a few years before deciding to enroll at GPC.

“I had worked just about every job there is to work,” Stephens said. “I’ve been a bookkeeper, customer service rep, you name it. But I went as far as I could go without a college degree.”

Stephens, the mother of two, enrolled in GPC with the hopes of being an average “C” student like she was in high school, but something happened.
“When I got that first ‘A’ it became contagious,” Stephens said. “I began thinking I can do this. I’m older, more mature and I can be a straight A student.”

Stephens graduated on Monday with a 3.79 GPC and the honor of being named the Decatur Campus Outstanding Scholar for 2010. She plans on continuing her education in Business Administration at Clayton State.

“These are just a few examples of the students graduating today,” Tricoli said. “There are hundreds more, all with compelling stories. You are the businessmen and businessmen women, the health care providers, the teachers and community leaders of the future.

“Graduates, we are glad you traveled the path to GPC,“ Tricoli said. “We feel privileged you entrusted us with your hopes and dreams, and we know you leave here with the tools you need to bring those dreams and hopes into reach.”

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Georgia Perimeter College, the third largest institution of the University System of Georgia, serves more than 25,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit