Journey to the Degree: Aggies at the Goal Line Edition

By Tonya Dixon / 05/14/2022 Academic Affairs

Year over year, the Aggies at the Goal Line (AGL) program at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has provided an avenue for former students to complete their degrees through a specialized option utilizing previous academic credits.

Since its inception in 2016, AGL has served as a tremendous opportunity for adult learners to complete a college degree, improving their economic, professional and social profile.

AGL students have exceptional stories of grit, determination and inspiration. Many share stories of losing their way, but finding redemption through the program. Here are some of their stories.


Shirley Stephens Thompson


“I went to A&T when I was 17 years old, in 1968. Back then I was living in Long Island, New York. I made friends and had a really good time…too good of a time, which is why I didn’t stay for my full four years.

When I got to A&T and saw all those sciences they wanted me to take, I was overwhelmed and I didn’t develop the discipline to go to class and apply myself. I came from a Pinochle playing family. My father used to say our family put the “p” in Pinochle. So, I developed a strong game of double Pinochle, hung out with friends, sang in our little singing group and partied; but I didn’t go to class. I would even type my friends’ papers for them because I enjoyed doing it, but I wouldn’t do my own work. Shirley Thompson

My father was born in 1905. He had some college but didn’t complete. My mom didn’t go to college. They didn’t know anything about GPAs. After my second year, I had a 1.54. I’m sure I must have gotten a notice about academic probation, but by then I was ready to go home.

Born in 1950, the seeds of activism were planted in me before I ever set foot on campus. Still, it was a traumatic and unforgettable experience to live through the National Guard’s presence at A&T during the spring of 1970. I left there knowing, on some level, that my life’s work would be the continuing pursuit of the liberation of Black people.

I recently started getting together with four of my friends from my original time at A&T. We've done a few zoom calls together. And one of them reminded me of when I snuck out of the dorm because there was somebody that needed help during the uprising. It was a lot going on. Even though I wasn’t doing well academically, I was smart enough to see that I was running up a bill.

I began working for the Long Island Lighting Company. Then I moved to Rochester. Within a couple months I met my husband. I like to say we danced into each other’s arms. We met at a community dance class. Over the years I went back and forth to school. Community college, Empire State College. Life happened. I was raising a family and I just never finished.

I was living a very satisfying life. I had met more than a few people that were college graduates and I was not impressed with them. I thought, ‘I’m doing okay. I don’t need a college education.’ I was very involved in community activism and enjoyed it. There was something in me that was resistant to getting my college degree, because I didn't want to be one of those “eggheads” sitting around the table talking and talking.

But I found myself the last surviving child. All my siblings and my parents have passed away. None of my siblings completed college. I wanted it to be said that George and Ellen had one child that was a college graduate. I decided if I’m going back, I might as well finish 50 years after I should have graduated.

I applied to Aggies at the Goal line and was quickly brought into the fold. It’s doable. It feeds your motivation and confidence. That’s what happened to me. It’s worth the effort.

For adults considering returning to school, it doesn't have to be about employment. At 71-years-young and eleven years retired, I'm not looking to return to a paying job. As a community activist, I keep very busy working with others to create a strong, racially equitable community, which is one of the reasons I went back for my bachelor's degree. I'll use the knowledge, skills, and confidence I gained to enrich my efforts to liberate Black people.


Anthony Harris

I transferred to A&T from Lenoir–Rhyne College (now university) in 2000. I stayed until 2005, but I was just there. I majored in Electronic Computer Technology. Unfortunately, I didn’t really go to college that last year. I realized I had a child on the way so I started working. I didn’t want my girlfriend to drop out of school, so I did what I had to do. She completed her degree.

Anthony HarrisI always intended on going back, but I started making good money and I kept letting things get in the way. I finally decided to do it and went back in 2020 through the Aggies at the Goal Line program. One day I told my supervisor I had to go pick up my books. He questioned me about why I had to leave and why I was going back to school. Everybody knows I speak my mind. I told him I’m going to finish what I started. I use my money and time how I see fit. I’m doing this for me. He didn’t say anything after that. We see eye to eye now. He respects me and I respect him.

It's funny. When I started back, one of my teachers was actually my homegirl from back in the day at A&T.

I told a friend about the AGL program the other day. He’s going to try to complete his degree because he saw that I was able to do it. He started in the 90s. I tell everyone. Finish what you started. If you don’t want it bad enough and go get it someone else will pass you and get it in your place. I can say my advisor – Dr. Dick was great. She stayed on top of me. If I had an advisor like that when I first started, I would have never left.

I want to thank Ms. Jacobs for everything she has done to get me into AGL.





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