GPC Middle-Agers Win Full Scholarships to Alabama State

04/17/2013
Contact: Beverly James
Phone: 678-891-2686
Fax: 678-891-2966
Author: Beverly James

For Immediate Release

It could be the theme of a reality show that Georgia Perimeter College middle-age students Oliver Peterson and Tyrone Matthews plan to share a dormitory room at Alabama State University in the fall. Josette Ivory might rent a room nearby. But all three are about to make history as the oldest students to ever receive full academic scholarships from the institution.

“We’re probably going to be the oldest students ever to live on campus,” says Peterson, 58. “But that’s okay,” adds Matthews, 45. “The kids will just have to get used to us.”

Peterson, Matthews and Ivory, 42, students at Georgia Perimeter College Decatur Campus, have earned full scholarships to attend Alabama State in the fall. Matthews will graduate from Georgia Perimeter in May; Peterson and Ivory will finish up this summer.

All three students are members of Phi Theta Kappa, the national community college honor society. Ivory, Matthews and Peterson deserve top honors, says chapter advisor Terry Bozeman.

“When the call came in from Alabama State University asking about meeting with a group of our best students, I immediately thought of these three. They are each very hard workers who have shown the dedication it takes to make substantial changes to their individual life circumstances,” Bozeman says. “No matter a student’s age or background, Georgia Perimeter College is a transformative place. I am confident that the foundation they have gotten here at GPC will serve them well as they move on in their life’s journey.”

And all three were shocked to learn that Alabama State was willing to pay tuition, fees, room and board to get them to attend the institution.

“We are very excited about these future Hornets joining the Alabama State University family” says Freddie Williams, Jr., director of Admissions and Recruitment. “We set out to recruit the best of the best, regardless of race, or age. We know that these students will add value and diversity to ASU, and we are confident that they will fit right in.”

Josette Ivory

Ivory had been a stay-at-home mom to seven children for years, putting everyone else’s needs before her own. As her children got older, Ivory ran a successful home repair business, but it still didn’t feel like enough.

“I was feeling incomplete, like my life lacked direction,” she says. “I realized that the one goal I always wanted to accomplish was to earn a college degree. I decided to go for it.”

The full ride to Alabama State came as a shock. “I felt unworthy of the rewards that I was being given, but at the end of day I realized that I earned it like any other student,” Ivory says.

She lives two hours away from the Montgomery, Ala., campus, but Ivory plans to rent a room and commute home on weekends. She will major in education and business administration with hopes of becoming a school administrator.

Though excited about the opportunity, Ivory admits to some nervousness. “It makes me feel better to know Tyrone and Oliver will be there,” she says. “And I would love to see more of my fellow classmates take advantage of these opportunities. This challenges me to spread the word to tell other GPC students that this is possible for them as well.”

Tyrone Matthews

Matthews found out just how costly not having a college degree can be. His company, which contracted with the state of Georgia, lost a bid and was forced to lay off workers. Matthews saw an opportunity to transfer to another position, but he didn’t have the required education.

“A light bulb went off, and I became determined to never hear that again. I was deprived of a position that I could do, but didn’t have the degree for,” he says. “But the job loss has allowed me to see possibilities that I never imagined for myself. So, in the long run it was a blessing.”

Nervous that he would repeat a less than stellar high school career, Matthews threw himself into his classes at Georgia Perimeter. The psychology and criminal justice major plans to earn a master’s and doctorate so he can eventually become an academic counselor for at-risk youth.

Though two of Matthews’ children also attend GPC, it’s his 13-year-old son who has been most impacted by dad’s success.

“My son now says things like, ‘Man, I’m going to get me a scholarship and earn a college degree,’” Matthews says. “Coming back to school and being offered a full scholarship to a four-year institution has allows us to be pioneers and trailblazers for our own children and especially for non-traditional students. We prove that it’s never too late to put in the hard work and reap the reward.”

Oliver Peterson

Peterson worked in collections for 15 years when he received a call from a woman desperate to settle a six-figure bill. “There was no way she could pay the full amount and I knew that it would ruin her life if she tried,” Peterson says. In an act of kindness that he still can’t explain, Peterson allowed the woman to settle the bill for a fraction of the original debt.

“I was fired and blackballed from the industry,” Peterson says. “I couldn’t get a job anywhere and I couldn’t collect unemployment benefits. So, I decided to go to college.”

Peterson, a sports management major, jumped into college life with both feet. He is serving a second term as president of the Decatur Campus Student Government Association, is an honors student and was the physical trainer for the GPC cheerleaders. He is the oldest person to attend Alabama State on a full scholarship.

Peterson’s son, a paralegal, and daughter, who graduates from the University of Georgia School of Law in May, are fretting over their father’s impending departure. “I am so happy, but my children are even more excited for me. My son and daughter plan to ride with me to Alabama State and help me get settled into my dorm room,” he quips. “I knew I had the grades and the ability, but I never thought a college would give me a free education. A whole new world of opportunities has opened for me.”

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Georgia Perimeter College, the largest state college of the University System of Georgia, serves approximately 23,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit www.gpc.edu.