Georgia Gwinnett College commencement speaker learns "It’s All About the Journey"
By Justin Madden
“Everything is not for everybody.” These were the words of advice that Dr. Marquita Jackson-Bradley, associate professor of curriculum and instruction at Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC), gave to student Andrea Devereux after several attempts of taking the math portion of the pre-GACE or Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators and scoring just under the passing mark.
“I didn’t understand what Dr. Jackson-Bradley meant at first. I was mad, humiliated and frustrated,” said Devereux. “Then I had my ‘ah, ha’ moment that ‘no’ actually meant ‘next opportunity.’ Those five words that Dr. Jackson-Bradley left with me during our conversation at a Black History Read-In have stayed with me throughout my journey.”
After her ‘ah, ha’ moment, Devereux changed her major to human development and aging services (HDAS), in which she excelled. She earned a spot on the Dean’s List her first two years and the President’s List the next two years, leading to membership in the National Society of Leadership and Success and the Golden Key Club International Honor Society.
Devereux also was involved in numerous extracurricular activities. She served as co-founder and vice president of the Sociology and Human Development Club, treasurer of the Golden Key International Honor Society and vice president of the Rotaract Club. In addition, Devereux was a member and ally of the Faces of Gender and Sexuality Club and a member of the Black Student Union, Black History Committee and So So Natural Clubs. Devereux also is currently working on helping to establish a food pantry at GGC with Dr. Marni Brown, associate professor of sociology.
Although it is inspirational, Devereux’s degree program change is only one small part of her journey. To truly be inspired, one must start at the beginning with Devereux’s desire to reinvent herself after working as a master cosmetologist for nearly 28 years.
“I kept making excuses, such as waiting until my children graduated from college or being in the right financial spot. It wasn’t until one day when I was scrolling through Facebook and saw my friend’s 80-year-old grandmother walk across the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree, that I knew it was time,” said Devereux.
“With tears in my eyes, I made the ultimate sacrifice and enrolled full time at GGC,” said Devereux. “I lost half my clientele, but I was determined to be a pre-k teacher and a good one at that!”
While her dreams of being a pre-k teacher did not transpire, Devereux found a new calling through her involvement with GGC’s HDAS degree program. With a knack for leadership as well as always having a strong desire to help others, Devereux naturally gravitated to the social services field. Even more so, Devereux’s personal experience in the foster care setting and then going through the adoption process with her daughter made HDAS a natural fit. Furthermore, Devereux has first-hand experience in the health care setting through her time spent navigating her son’s sickle cell treatment.
“Through my experience with my son’s sickle cell treatment, I was inspired by how the social workers made me feel at ease and like I had a voice,” said Devereux. “They were a mediator between myself and the often intimidating medical jargon. I want to be that same person for someone else.”
Devereux’s dream job is to work at Scottish Rite to help children and their parents navigate the medical world and then work with the elderly.
“The elderly are often an overlooked cohort, especially those with dementia,” said Devereux. “I want to be able to help them and work with the elderly population as well.”
Throughout her journey, Devereux has learned to expect the unexpected especially during the recent transition to remote learning during the pandemic.
“Throughout it all, I have learned to make the best of what you have and to remember that you can’t control most situations,” advised Devereux. “Don’t ponder on the negative, rejoice in the positive and find ways to succeed and encourage others.”
While Devereux’s time at GGC has come to an end, she will continue her educational journey this fall at Georgia State University in the master of social work program and the gerontology certificate program.
Devereux, who was recently named commencement student speaker, will join more than 800 of her classmates at GGC’s virtual commencement, scheduled for 10 a.m., Aug. 8. The ceremony can be viewed at www.ggc.edu/commencement.