Bachelor of Science in Education: Special education

Hannah McAdams refuses to let circumstances define her destiny

Staring through the lens of her camera, McAdams focuses on the subject before her, skillfully capturing images she hopes will last a lifetime. Her photography hobby has turned into a side business, providing McAdams with a creative outlet and nurturing an inherited love for an art form that transcends time – and loss.

“My inspiration for my photography is my mother; she was an avid photographer,” McAdams said.

Her mother remains a constant source of motivation, never far from McAdams’ mind. McAdams was just six when she lost her mother in a traffic accident. The life-altering event caused a ripple effect which continued long after her loss. Her family structure was fractured. Frequently moving from county to county each year throughout her childhood, McAdams fell behind in school. Her pursuit of higher education seemed unattainable; college was not mentioned at home. 

Hannah McAdams taking photos in the park.

However, with an eighth-grade education, McAdams earned her GED, set her sights on college and never looked back.

“I have seen my family struggle with finances because they did not have college degrees, and I wanted to break the cycle. I have always loved learning. Knowledge is power!” said McAdams. “My destiny was not going to be restricted by my circumstances growing up.”

Having the financial means to attend college was yet another challenge to conquer. After exhausting all student loan funding, McAdams needed additional financial assistance to remain in school.

“I did not come this far to stop here. Giving up has never been an option,” she said. For the hard-working McAdams, earning the Peach State Federal Credit Union Scholarship afforded her the opportunity to pursue her degree in special education.

McAdams was able to personally thank the organization’s president and CEO, Marshall Boutwell, for the financial assistance at GGC’s annual Scholarship Reception. In fact, she was selected to speak at the reception as a representative of all GGC scholarship recipients.

“I hope to one day make an impact in someone’s life the way you have impacted mine,” McAdams said to Boutwell in her remarks.

“Hannah’s story reaffirms why we continue to support GGC and its remarkable students,” said Boutwell. “She has persevered through challenging circumstances to obtain her degree. All of us at Peach State look forward to the many successes that lie ahead for her.”

For the young woman who spent years in continuous transition, McAdams found her home at Georgia Gwinnett College. As a student, she cultivated her passion for education. As a student teacher, she looked to positively influence her first-, third- and fourth-grade students at Craig Elementary and Baggett Elementary schools in Gwinnett County.

“If I inspired one student to be self-driven and realize their goals, it would make every bit of the hard road that has led me here worthwhile,” McAdams said.

During her time at GGC, McAdams found a mentor in Dr. Yvonne Hefner, assistant professor of special education. She cited Hefner’s knowledge, encouragement and expertise as leading her to where she is today. The fondness is reciprocated.

“Hannah is a highly motivated student who takes her work seriously. Her dedication to her work, flexibility and the willingness to grow has been obvious throughout her classes in GGC’s special education program. Other teacher candidates admire and turn to her for advice or collegial sharing,” Hefner said. “Hannah has transformed her own life and is committed to continually bettering herself and the lives of those around her. She is an amazing person and truly shines!”

McAdams received her bachelor’s degree in December 2017, the first in her family to do so. She plans to earn a doctorate in occupational therapy, allowing her to continue working with individuals with special needs. She said she feels her past was the decisive motivator to pursue an education.

“I knew there was more to life than what I had experienced early on,” she said. “Circumstances will not define me, my character will.”

Read more about the college, its student and alumni in GGC's Engage Magazine.