Commencement image with Chancellor Martin

Fall 2018 Commencement Stories

Deborah Peele Glasper

deborah glasper

In the spring of 1993, Deborah Glasper applied to graduate from North Carolina A&T – the only university she ever wanted to attend. After five long years, she was ecstatic and relieved. But in the time it took to read a few lines on a brief note, so did her dreams of graduating diminish. It was a hard pill for her to swallow. 

“I thought I was set to graduate. I got a letter saying that I wasn’t ready yet. I was devastated,” said Glasper. “I was devastated to the point that I just didn’t return. It was a hard blow for me.” 

Although Glasper didn’t receive her degree in computer science she went on to become extremely successful within the insurance profession. Despite her success, she still longed for a degree from A&T. She attempted to return – two times, in fact. 

“I returned in 2004, but then I learned I was pregnant. My dilemma was, do I continue with a small child? Am I going to be a mother or a student? I decided I wanted to be a mom. So I completed that semester, but I didn’t return,” she said. 

“In December 2016, I decided I wanted to return. I did everything and was readmitted, but I didn’t have any direction. Not that I intended for it to happen, but a whole year went by. But in December 2017, I saw a Facebook post of someone probably doing the same as what I’m doing now. It referenced Aggies at the Goal Line. I thought this is for me and this is my time.” 

Within a few days, Glasper had connected with someone in the Aggies at the Goal Line program. She discovered she only had 15 credit hours left to complete. 

Aggies at the Goal Line is a degree completion program designed to help former students who did not complete their undergraduate degrees to return to the university to earn their bachelor’s degree. To qualify, student have to have been stopped out of school for at least three years with a minimum 2.0 GPA at the time of the stop out and have earned 90 credits or more. 

“I started in May 2018 and now I’m preparing to graduate in December,” said Glasper. “I’m beyond excited.”

“This is absolutely about finishing what I started. Over the years I considered online degree programs, but none of them are A&T. No offense to them, but that just wasn’t good enough. I had to do this. Others can do it. There is support.”

Jesse Derouin

Jesse Derouin 

As a child, Jesse Derouin moved around quite a bit. He can name at least 35 different states in which he and his family lived, and all that movement significantly affected his primary education. 

“I have very little public education. I’ve completed a grand total of five grades of school. I was home schooled for part of my life. The rest came from working, and I started working very early in life,” said Derouin. “The concept of going back to school was very difficult – daunting, even. 

“I got my GED while working during the day as a construction supervisor. It took me a while to get to the point where I could think about going to a university. A GED in no way shape or form prepares you for a university classroom.” 

Nevertheless, he listened to sound advice from his wife, who is a North Carolina A&T State University alumna, and took the plunge into college life. The hardest part was convincing himself that he was capable. Once he did, the load he personally carried lifted. 

“A&T was great. They took some life experience into account during the application process. That was four and a half years ago, and here we are,” said Derouin. “I’m about to graduate with a degree in applied engineering technologies.” 

Not only has he earned a degree, he’s made a bit of history in the process. Derouin was a member of the campus team that won second place nationally in the NASA Glenn Research Center Higher Education University Student Design Challenge. 

“We designed an autonomous flight car and an artificial intelligence network to control it on the basis of what a future city would look like,” he said. 

“From GED to AET to NASA – it’s surreal. Now I’m talking about being on the advisory board for a university program, post-graduate research and graduate programs here. Had you asked me years ago the turn my life would have taken, I would have never imagined this.”

Ciara Davis

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Ciara Davis is somewhat of a novelty in the field of graphic communication systems. Being a female and African American with professional skills and passions that include graphic design, animation, gaming design and photography, she appreciates her workplace value as well as the battles she still faces. 

“The field that I’m in is white, male dominated. As an African American woman, it’s often hard to be taken seriously,” said Davis. “We often get boxed in to positions like human resources, rather than project manager, senior executive or senior graphic designer. It’s hard to show that you are capable of doing those jobs and be successful.” 

The Warrenton, North Carolina, native isn’t fazed about her future. She knows that she is prepared and looks forward to showing the world her capabilities, particularly for a chance to work in the studio for one of her dream companies – Spotify, Google or Microsoft. 

“Content creation, marketing, advertisement, branding – I love all of that,” she said. “I’m most passionate about photography, but graphics, animation and gaming are very close.” 

For as long as Davis can remember, she has been drawing, designing, sketching and photographing whatever grabbed her attention. While she could have chosen one of two other tracks within the graphic communication systems program at North Carolina A&T, she said the media track more closely resembled her desires and included marketing, which she believes will help in her corporate and entrepreneurial endeavors. 

A first-generation college student, Davis said many in her circles at home had never heard of her major, much less understood its viability, but that didn’t diminish the pride and hope she carries for them. 

“I consider myself a trailblazer and leader. I was even part of the team that won first place in the innovation challenge,” said Davis. “We designed a credit card with GPS tracking embedded in the chip for lost or stolen cards.” 

“There was a lot of skepticism about me being able to finish, but I ended up graduating a semester early with a 3.9 GPA,” she said. “I can’t wait for the future.”

Isaiah Garner 

Isaiah Garner

At 8 years old, Isaiah Garner and his family relocated from New Orleans to Atlanta. Hurricane Katrina had displaced many families, his included. 

“It affected me, but I will always look at it positively,” said Garner. “I think that Hurricane Katrina put me in a place to learn how to adapt to certain things. Just like, I’ve always thought I was a people person. Once I came to A&T and didn’t know anyone, it helped. You never know how good you are at meeting people until you are put in a place where you don’t know anyone.” 

Years later, that 8-year-old has grown and matured in ways he never imagined and is days from receiving a degree in sports science and fitness management with a concentration in physical therapy, or kinesiology. 

“Your body is a temple -- it recovers on its own. Most people don’t know that. Our bodies are like plants,” said Garner. 

Following graduation, he has a few options. He has been offered a position as a physical therapy technician in the Virgin Islands, and he is considering graduate school. Despite the path he takes, he vows to complete the doctor of physical therapy track. 

“The job in the Virgin Islands is definitely entry level, but I will gain a lot of experience. I haven’t completely decided. We’re still in negotiations,” he said. 

Physical therapy is his passion, but Garner is also interested in giving back. He has a nonprofit, SOAR, which stands for Soaring Over Average Requirements, and has already given out two scholarships. He has plans to give another in January 2019. 

A philanthropist in the making, Garner just wants to be known as someone who helps and makes a difference. 

“I’m the first son in my immediate family to graduate. I look up to [my family], but they also look up to me,” he said. “My legacy will be that I was here for a short, but sweet time. I came in and did what I had to do.”