Perseverance: Georgia Gwinnett College graduates 600 students ready to face the world

Gwinnett County State Court Judge Veronica Cope

Gwinnett County State Court Judge Veronica Cope 

Stories of perseverance from a Gwinnett County State Court judge and a U.S. Army veteran were among the highlights of Georgia Gwinnett College’s (GGC) fall commencement, which took place this morning at the Gas South Arena in Duluth.

Keynote speaker Gwinnett County State Court Judge Veronica Cope knows perseverance. Cope, who is the second person of color on the Gwinnett state court bench, said she grew up “on the wrong side of the tracks” in a segregated small town in North Carolina.

Cope became a mother before she was a teenager. Still, she believed that education was “the great equalizer” and could lead her and her son out of poverty. The straight-A student juggled motherhood, classes and a part-time job. But perseverance paid off for Cope – she graduated from high school 4th in her class with more than 30 schools courting her with academic and athletic scholarships.

After graduating in the top 5% of her class from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earning her law degree from the same school, the woman from humble beginnings traveled to Atlanta where she practiced law for more than 20 years.

“I share this story of perseverance to inspire you and to encourage you to never give up, to realize the power of persistence, and to remind you that nothing is impossible no matter where you are from, no matter your pedigree and no matter what life may throw at you,” Cope said in her message to graduates. “You will face challenges in your life and sometimes life will throw you a curve ball and knock you down flat on your back. And when it does, get up, brush yourself off and keep running.”

Morgan K. George

Morgan K. George

It was perseverance that got commencement student speaker Morgan K. George to where she is today. The 31-year-old Lawrenceville resident dropped out of school in the 10th grade. She joined the U.S. Army where, as a veterinary technician, she served in Afghanistan, caring for bomb-sniffing dogs and serving as a liaison between local Afghan women, who often would not speak to men, and the military units that entered their villages. During her second deployment to Japan, George gave birth to a daughter and decided to transition to civilian life.

After a brief stint as a veterinary technician researcher, George enrolled at GGC and her life changed.

“I wanted to be involved in research. But the research I wanted to be a part of was something I had no experience in,” she said. “I didn’t even know what to call it. I only knew it as ‘saving the world.’”

As an environmental science major, George immersed herself in college life, serving in campus clubs, accessing academic resources, and garnering two National Science Foundation-funded research experiences. 

Along with more than 600 GGC students, the girl who dropped out of high school at age 16 persevered and today earned their bachelor’s degrees. 

George’s future plans include work in a pathogen lab and graduate school.

“I just want to make the world a little bit better.”

 
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