Aries Calaman came to Georgia Gwinnett College determined to build a better life. Fueled by this resolve, she has succeeded.
One of four siblings, the New Jersey native is the first to graduate from college. Raised by a young, single mother, Calaman experienced several life changes and misfortunes, one of which caused her to drop out of her senior year in high school.
After graduating the next year, Calaman was the first woman to complete the carpentry program at Job Corps Center in Gainesville, Florida. She decided she would be the master of her own fate.
In late 2007, she gave birth to fraternal twins.
“I knew at that moment I had to make something of myself,” Calaman said. Now a single mother working various jobs, sometimes two at a time, Calaman earned her CDL license, enabling her to drive buses for companies offering charter and school contract services. This afforded a mildly comfortable living for the family of three.
Calaman relocated her family to Georgia in 2015 after witnessing a murder in her community.
“That was it for me,” she said. “I was tired of having the bare minimum, and I knew for us to have more, I needed a change of environment.”
In 2016, Calaman’s life finally started to take a turn for the better when her partner encouraged her to go to college.
“I had always wanted to get a degree, so there was no debate,” Calaman said. “Learning has always been a big deal to me. And doing well in school has always been one of my gifts.” She enrolled at GGC that summer.
A business major, Calaman found herself drawn to the management information systems (MIS) concentration. She added a minor in information technology and sought opportunities to be involved.
“In my life, it has never been about what I knew but who I knew,” she said. “I was determined to get the most out of my college experience. If they needed a volunteer, a student representative, or just someone to help handout flyers, I would be the one they’d call on.”
True to her word, Calaman has served on the School of Business Student Advisory Board, and with the school’s AACSB Accreditation process. The school also chose her to speak at the dedication ceremony for the Stephens Family Executive Forum.
A standout student leader, she served as chapter president of the National Society of Leadership and Success Honor Society. She also was elected vice president of philanthropy for the Four Pillar Society.
She has volunteered for numerous activities, ranging from hosting campus tours for VIPs to helping facilitate a session for Leadership Gwinnett to representing GGC at on-and off-campus events. She also attended Grizzly LEAD conferences and received recognition as a presenter.
“I am always learning something about myself, like how I never knew how much this community meant to me until I realized that I would do anything I could to assist in its success,” she said of her time and experiences at GGC.
Last summer, Calaman completed an internship at Genuine Parts Company and soon after attended the world’s largest conference for women in technology, The Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando, Florida.
Her undeniable drive, passion to be the best, and networking skills led to a job offer with Cisco Systems in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park. She and her family will relocate after she graduates with honors this spring.
“When students ask me how to be successful, I tell them to be the person someone else thinks of when an opportunity arises,” said Dr. Jason Delaney, associate professor of economics and assistant dean of faculty development. “Aries has exemplified success. Her dedication to service, excellence in scholarship, and commitment to leadership are everything one hopes for in a Grizzly.”
“I am forever grateful for the support of all of my GGC family and friends,” said Calaman, who looks back on her challenging life with a new, positive perspective of the future.
Read more about the college, its student and alumni in GGC's Engage Magazine.