Photo by Brian Giandelone
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Myron Miles' path to becoming a college graduate took a detour when he was injured in a car accident.
Miles was a student at Alabama State University, where he played golf. After the car wreck, he moved to Lawrenceville and, upon a friend's suggestion, enrolled at Georgia Gwinnett College in 2008.
On Saturday, Miles and 39 other students graduated from the University System of Georgia's newest institution. It was the college's fourth graduation since it opened in 2006 in Lawrenceville.
"I feel like it's a beautiful moment -- a moment you can cherish for life," Miles said of his graduation.
Amy Fondren, who spoke during the commencement ceremony, said she attended two other institutions before she transferred to Georgia Gwinnett. She said the college's dedication to service learning, along with her involvement with the Fight Back for Children club, helped her discover the extent of her passion for serving the community.
Fondren encouraged her peers to strive for excellence and make a difference with their lives.
"I know that graduation today is not the pinnacle of our success," Fondren said. "It's only a step in our journey."
In a prerecorded video message, Sen. Johnny Isakson urged the graduated to embrace what he called the "six silent secrets of life."
Isakson was scheduled to visit Georgia Gwinnett College to deliver the keynote address, but the blizzard-like storm that hit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast prevented him from flying out of Washington, D.C., on Saturday morning.
In his message, Isakson encouraged the graduates to embrace lifelong learning and seek out knowledge wherever they go. He also told them that life is about relationships, so it's important for them to treat people they way they would like to be treated and to give back to those who have given to them.
Isakson also stressed the importance of faith.
"It's very important to find that support structure you need to take you through the difficult times in life," he said.
Lastly, he told the students to dream. He said they could be anything they aspire to be.
"Everyone can realize their dreams if they're only willing to dream," he said.
Georgia Gwinnett College President Daniel Kaufman told the graduates they should strive to emulate some of Isakson's traits, including his integrity.
"The first lesson I want you to take from (Isakson's) biography is that he became a productive and engaged citizen in the community right after he graduated -- hint, hint -- and remained so throughout his life," Kaufman said. "The second lesson I want you to take with you is that he became a dedicated public servant in addition to his role as a productive and engaged citizen."
A graduation ceremony is called a commencement for a reason -- it's a beginning, Kaufman said. He asked the graduates to use the ceremony as a spark to renew their commitment to a lifetime of personal learning and growth, as well as engagement in the community.
"The economic environment in which you are graduating today seems particularly roiled, but this, too, will pass," Kaufman said. "Remember, potential counts for nothing. Only performance matters. ... Go and make your world what it needs to be."
Buford resident Derrick Ables said he started working toward a college degree 18 years ago.
"It's been a long road while working full time with a family," he said. "... It feels good to finish the journey."
Ables worked in the construction equipment industry for 16 years, but he was laid off. With his diploma in hand, the business administration major said he'll now start looking for a marketing job.
"Hopefully, that's my first marketing job -- to market myself," he said.