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It’s Never too Late to Earn a College Degree

By the end of this year, Jerome Mills will achieve his goal of earning a college degree. He graduates from the University of West Georgia with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Management in December 2016. Like many people, he knew he wanted to pursue a college degree since he was in high school. But for Mills, now 58 years old, the path to a college degree was never easy or certain.

As a native of rural, southern Georgia, Mills grew up on a farm. He was one of 7 children raised by his farmer father and his mother, who worked as a maid to help to supplement the family income. Neither of his parents had the opportunity to finish high school and they were determined to send their eldest child to college. They succeeded in sending Mills’ older brother to Tuskegee University but they could not afford to send all of their children to college. Mills’ father advised him and his younger brothers to join the military and take advantage of the educational opportunities offered there.

Mills’ father advised him to join the military and take advantage of the educational opportunities offered there.

Following his father’s advice, Mills joined the U.S. Army in 1976 and served for 3 years. At the close of that service, he joined the U.S. Army Reserves where he served a total of 34 years. In the Reserves, Mills achieved the rank of Sergeant Major, serving as a medic. He had 4 deployments which included Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002- 2003, 2008 – 2009, and 2012 – 2013.

While in the U.S. Army Reserves, Mills worked full time for Lockheed Martin in Marietta, Georgia from 1980 to 1986. He then worked for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) from 1986 until he retired in 2014. In his career with USPS, he served in multiple management positions.

During these years, Mills also got married and had children. Although most of his time was occupied with career and family, he never forgot his long-held goal to earn a college degree. He took advantage of every opportunity to take college classes through the military. He also took courses at Kennesaw State University and Georgia State University. Eventually, he was able to enroll at Atlanta Junior College (now Atlanta Metropolitan State College) and earned an associate’s degree in computer programming in 1989.

Mills retired from both the U.S. Army Reserves in 2013 and USPS in 2014. For the first time in his life he had time to pursue a college degree. He decided to look into the University of West Georgia (UWG) since it is close to his home. Employees of the admissions office at UWG helped him gather records of all the college credit he had earned since the early 1980s. He thought he would pursue a degree in computers but his advisors at UWG explained that his previous college credit and work experience fit more closely to a degree in management. In 2014, he entered UWG just a few classes short of being a junior.

“Education is a life-long journey. I believe hard work and perseverance will pay off.”

Going to college as an older, non-traditional student can be intimidating and Mills admits he had doubts but the faculty and staff of UWG welcomed and encouraged him every step of the way. He admits he struggled with certain math and technology classes, but at 58 years of age, Mills has the dedication and perseverance that make any college student successful. He has spent his evenings studying in the library and has even slept in his truck on occasion. “Education is a life-long journey. I believe hard work and perseverance will pay off.”

“My hope is that this story will encourage or inspire my son and daughter and grand-children, and others to finish their education.”

When he graduates in December 2016, Mills achieves the goal he set for himself as a young man and fulfills his parent’s dream of higher education for their children. He has the same hopes for his children and grandchildren. “My hope is that this story will encourage or inspire my son and daughter and grand-children, and others to finish their education, set goals, and never give up. I did it. I know you can, too.”

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