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The struggle is real for non-traditional students

Life has an uncanny way of throwing twists, turns, a few bumps, and, occasionally, a bruise or two right at you. They can cross your path at any given time and more often than not change your life forever.

Lorretta Arrington
Lorretta Arrington (photo by Woody Bass)

Lorretta Arrington, who is a Georgia State University Perimeter College graduate and currently serves as the college’s Military Outreach Advocate on the Dunwoody campus, ran into such life altering events. After developing a successful career in operational management and logistics to a six figure salary, Arrington was laid off during the recession and began a job search only to find she was unable to open doors to new opportunities in the job market even with 20 years of experience – because she didn’t have that piece of paper we are all working toward today.

So she made a brave decision and set forth to fill the void missing from her resume by meeting with admissions at the then Georgia Perimeter College after 30 years of being out of school of any form.

In 2012, Arrington was officially enrolled in classes as an unemployed first year college student and on the road to complete her resume, but, as she explained as a guest speaker at the Second Wind Club, life had a few bumps in the road through academia as well. Arrington met with the club to speak with them about what it was like for her as a non-traditional student and her path to obtain a four year degree.

Second Wind is a club at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College that meets the second Thursday of every month at the Dunwoody campus and is for non-traditional students who are returning to college after a significant break in their formal education. “Having that extra support and being part of a community really gives you that added strength to persevere,” says Lynn Summer, an assistant professor of English at Perimeter College and Faculty Advisor to Second Wind.

“It provides a lot of information we need,” said Louis Cheng, a computer science major and Co-President of Second Wind at Perimeter College. Cheng joined the Navy right out of high school before coming to Perimeter College. “We offer a lot of scholarship information,” said Cheng, among other valuable information that he feels is valuable particularly for non-traditional students.

A Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia report states that over 1,100 non-traditional students attend classes at the Dunwoody campus alone. That is the largest concentration of any physical campus within Perimeter College.

Arrington says the struggle was real for her as she maneuvered through her collegiate classes noting that she failed the COMPASS the first time and took two tries before she passed MATH 0989; her dedication, lots of tutoring and hard work started to pay off.

Once Arrington found her groove, it was smooth sailing and the void was starting to close as she started to see academic success and the next thing she knew she was involved in campus activities and earned numerous scholarships not to mention her degree.

At a luncheon for one scholarship she was awarded she was asked “What are you doing after GPC?” It wasn’t something she had really thought about. Suddenly she realized her associate degree wasn’t going to be enough to fill the void and decided to pursue a bachelor’s of Business Administration at University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business online.

Arrington gave a word of caution to those students who may be considering transferring to a four year institution before obtaining their associate degree.

“Life happens,” she said pointing out how unexpected divergences can happen to anyone when they least expect it. “It is better to have a degree than no degree. Not at any time in your life will you apply for a job and it will ask you ‘How many credit hours do you have?’”

Duena Taylor, who graduated high school in 1980, is a social work major and has been taking classes at Perimeter College since 2014. Taylor felt “encouraged and strengthened” after hearing Arrington’s story as a non-traditional college student and feels empowered to continue to earn her own associate degree at Perimeter College.

After this semester, Arrington will be 24 credit hours from graduating at UGA with her bachelor’s. Her story is proof that life is always going to throw hurdles at you, but that should never prevent you from filling that void in your own resume and keeping doors to future opportunities closed.

About Woody Bass

Woody Bass is a staff writer at The Collegian.

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  • LaVerne Robinson

    I am a non traditional student, in fact I am a senior citizen that returned to college after being absent for 30 years. I just learned about the second wind club, does it also include senior citizens? I live near the Clarkston Campus and I am on online campus, however, I have not seen this on Clarkston campus? Thanks for any information.

  • Clarence Portee

    I love this article, it was very encouraging. Relevant topic and great job!