Vincent inspired to serve children and adults with developmental disabilities
By Justin Madden
Cynthia Totimeh-Vincent, a native of Liberia in West Africa, has a special reason to celebrate earning her college degree from Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC). She joins more than 800 graduates for the college’s Aug. 8 virtual commencement, she will complete a goal she started in 1995.
Originally a Georgia Southern University student, Vincent encountered personal and financial challenges after her sophomore year and had to put her studies on hold.
Disappointed, but not discouraged, Vincent had a strong resolve to finish her education, and promised herself that she would someday.
“After spending more than two decades in the work force and raising a family, it was time to finish my education,” Vincent said. “I was in a better position financially, and with the addition of my husband and son, I had an even greater support system.”
Living in Gwinnett and working in the Winder area, Vincent was aware of Georgia Gwinnett College. Its location, affordability and small class sizes convinced her to enroll.
Vincent had some apprehension about returning to college as a middle-aged student and hoped she wouldn’t stand out. However, it wasn’t long after enrolling at GGC that she discovered just how diverse its student body was.
“The diversity was completely a different experience – a great number of students with different gender, ethnic and cultural background. It was amazing,” she said. “Coming into class as an older student and working with younger and diverse students was actually great and reduced my fears. Sharing new knowledge, creativity and productivity were all part of the experience.”
Vincent quickly began to flourish in GGC’s small-class environment, in which a student could get one-on-one time with all of their professors and was encouraged to work together with their peers.
Vincent discovered a new passion in the human development and aging services (HDAS) degree program offered at GGC. She had originally majored in health science at Georgia Southern University and was attracted to the more human and social behavior-focused human development studies. Involving development across the lifespan, social behavior in learning and how people relate to one another, the program enabled Vincent to study how best to help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, ranging from children to seniors.
She found no shortage of professors eager to help her along in her journey. It was her initial advisor, Dr. Marni Brown, assistant professor of sociology, who first encouraged her study of human development during her first semester at GGC. Vincent also cited the support she received from her current advisor, Dr. William Sweatman.
“I am grateful to have had so many great professors who really helped me,” she said.
During the course of her studies, Vincent continued working in a leadership role at Dolly’s PCH, a local community residential alternative organization. Her 10 years of experience with this organization also sparked her interest in the HDAS degree program.
“Working with a non-profit organization that allows you to put your actions to service is very important to me. You have to always be intentional about what you do.” Vincent said.
Armed with her bachelor’s degree, Vincent plans to continue her work with developmental disabilities organizations while getting ready to attend graduate school.
“Once I found out there was a degree program that focuses on human and social behavior and making a difference in their lives, I knew I had made the right decision,” she said. “Even after graduate school, I plan to continue working in this field, and launching additional programs that will aid individuals with developmental disabilities in both private and public sectors. I want to continue my civic duty in this world. If you can make life beautiful for someone who needs help, then why not do it?”
Vincent said she celebrates her degree with her mother, Minnie Wah Jallah, who has been her source of strength and encouraged her throughout this journey.
“I thank my entire village of family, friends, coworkers and fellow students for their love and support along the way,” she said.
Georgia Gwinnett College’s virtual commencement will be broadcast at 10 a.m., Aug. 8, at www.ggc.edu/commencement.