Changing perspective: Ghanaian immigrant earns GGC degree

GGC Graduate Lois Osei
GGC Graduate Lois Osei

Lois Osei’s story began a world away from Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC), but on May 9, she will complete her latest chapter when she walks across the commencement stage to receive her degree.

Osei was born in Accra, the capital and largest city in Ghana. She still carries memories from her birth country, like climbing to the top of the mango tree in her grandmother’s yard to get the ripe mangos, and how blue and clear the ocean water was and how white the sand was on the beach.

“I remember seeing horses on the beach and being able to play, eat and swim with my mom and her friends,” says Osei.

When Osei was one year old, her father, Frank, moved to the U.S. to find work to make a better life for his family. He worked various jobs in the area, at one point working three jobs at once.  Four years later, he sent for Osei and her mother, Esther. The family settled in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

“Today, my dad is a delivery driver. His hard work and dedication inspired me to be the hardworking woman I am today,” said Osei.

Osei said she had no plans to attend a four-year college after graduating from Peachtree Ridge High School in 2019.

“I felt like a complete failure when I graduated high school. I was surrounded by peers who were attending big-named schools and I felt so inadequate,” she says. “I was filled with self-doubt and a huge wave of uncertainty about my future.” 

Her plans changed on the night of her senior prom when she saw a homeless man on the street. The juxtaposition of her – dressed to the nines and celebrating what’s historically one of the best nights of a young American's life – and a homeless person sharing the same space sparked something in her.

“I decided I was going to commit my life to making meaningful impacts in the lives of others, right then and there,” she says.

She knew she would have to seek a college education to do that. Fortunately, she didn’t have to look far. She was drawn to GGC’s small class sizes, affordability and the fact that it’s less than a ten-minute drive from her home in Lawrenceville. She applied and started her GGC journey in August 2019.

She says she still harbored some “college envy” for her friends attending larger schools, but that dissipated as soon as she started to get involved on campus.

“I decided to make my time at this institution count,” she says. “I pushed myself by joining organizations. The first one that really took me out of my comfort zone was the Student Government Association (SGA).”

In SGA, she witnessed an influential group of students who were involved and proud to be a part of GGC, who attended meetings and talked to administration officials as equals. Osei was so inspired she applied for the senate secretary position and served for half a term.

After SGA, she decided to re-vamp her department’s sociology club. She gathered a few other like-minded students, took it over and named it the Grizzly Organization for Human Services. In her two consecutive years as president, the club went from having five members to almost 30.

“We have done book drives, donated to the GGC care pantry, volunteered at the GGC microfarm, donated care packages to the NICU department at Northside Hospital, and we volunteer every month with Families 4 Families, which is a foster care agency outside of campus,” said Osei. “Getting involved on campus really made my time at GGC worthwhile. I'm so glad I decided to get a bit uncomfortable and venture out. I've grown more than I thought as a student and a person!”

Osei will receive a degree in human services with a concentration in social work and a minor in sociology. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school to earn a master’s in clinical social work.

Osei will be among more than 900 students who will graduate at GGC’s spring 2024 commencement, taking place at 10 a.m. May 9 at Gas South District in Duluth.

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