First generation student overcomes personal, financial and academic obstacles to excel at GGC

Sophomore Raquel Thompson came to Georgia Gwinnett College through Dual Enrollment her senior year of high school. Though she didn’t have the financial resources to pay for college, and her parents had not attended, she was determined to achieve a bachelor’s degree in human development and aging services to further her goal of one day advocating for mental health and wellbeing for people in need.

Her parents, emigrates from Jamaica, fully supported the idea of a degree, but were unable to help financially. The family often moved when she was growing up, which fueled Thompson’s introverted and mature nature. Dual Enrollment appealed to her as a way to bypass high school and get a head start in college without the tuition and fees.

“My goal was to avoid high school so I chose to go to GGC full-time,” she said. “Because there were certain courses I needed for high school graduation, such as economics and political systems, I took them at GGC and got my first C and F grades. Unfortunately, my GPA carried over into my official freshman year which impacted my financial aid.”

Thompson lost financial aid after not fully meeting the satisfactory academic progress (SAP) requirements, and her application for financial aid was denied. To qualify, she would have to pay for a semester out of pocket and obtain the higher grades to become eligible again.

“After being denied my SAP appeal and taking a semester off to grieve my brother who had recently died of suicide, I was extremely lost and confused and wanted to enter the mental health field to help those struggling,” Thompson said.

“Graduating high school was a challenge, and I had to go to a secondary school to complete the credits I couldn’t take or didn’t pass at GGC,” she continued. “I was doubtful about college and whether it was something I could actually do, but my dad was willing to cosign a loan to pay for my return semester. Eventually, I decided that I belonged in college and had a newfound determination. That fall, I earned A’s in every class and went on to receive the Federal Pell Grant and HOPE scholarship.”

Within the year, Thompson discovered a surplus of opportunity and support. She studied abroad in Ecuador, joined the Honors Program and became a student ambassador. Thompson currently works 30 hours a week as a bank teller and has plans to attend graduate school before going on to earn a doctorate in sociology.

“Avoiding a substantial amount of debt was an obvious benefit of attending GGC, but gaining broad experience, character and career development, and simply engaging to create network connections were unexpected and appreciated,” she said. “I am constantly awed by my professors who have broadened my horizons by telling me about their graduate school experiences or introducing career paths that I didn’t know existed. I am thankful that through patience, resiliency and the support of GGC faculty, I am attaining the education I sought.”