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WGU Graduate Speaker, Gussie Hopkins
WGU Graduate Speaker, Gussie Hopkins
Western Governors University
<p>Saturday, February 9, 2019 WGU Commencement in Orlando, Florida. Gussie Hopkins was a graduate speaker at the WGU Bachelor's Commencement. Gussie Hopkins earned a B.S. Business - IT Management degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Scott Pulsipher: Let's hear it one more time for Simon. Thank you so much. [Cheers and applause] Thank you for also living up to the power of your high expectations for yourself, and only being limited by that which you can imagine. It is so great to be among you. </p> <p>We now will have the opportunity to actually hear from two of our graduates. First we'll hear from Gussie Hopkins, who is receiving her Bachelor of Science in Business IT Management from Buford, Georgia. After her, we will hear from D'Lynn Linger, who is receiving her Bachelor of Arts Educational Studies from Flagler, Colorado. Gussie, welcome. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Gussie Hopkins: Good afternoon, graduates, friends, and family. My name is Gussie Hopkins, and I would like to speak to you today about your story, my story, and the why that drives them. </p> <p>Every graduate present here today has a story that illustrates what it took to become successful and finally graduate. Well, my story took 16 years. [Laughter] And I wouldn't change any aspect of it because every hurdle that I overcame, showed me just how strong these little short legs of mine are. Thanks, Mom. [Laughter] </p> <p>Through a glimpse of my story, hopefully you can see that we have some commonalities together in your story. Now, my degree journey started in 2002 when I graduated high school with academic and athletic scholarships. During my first semester, I found out that I would be blessed with our first son, Chris. So what this meant is that I would need to stop going to school because you gotta take care of your kid. That's kind of how it works. The law says so. [Laughter] </p> <p>So, soon after his birth, I decided, and I was determined that I was going to finish school. So I enrolled at a community college. So, several times a week, I would load my newborn in a carry on the front of me, a book bag on my back, and a diaper bag on my shoulder for a 90 minute ride in Chicago winter. Now, let that sink in, okay? Anyone who has ever lived in or been to the windy city of Chicago during winter knows that Old Man Winter can care less about your hopes, your dreams, or your aspirations. </p> <p>[Holler from audience member] </p> <p>Obviously they know Chicago. [Laughter] So, after some time I realized, well, I gotta pay the bills. Kid gotta eat. So I had to stop going to school because I had to work to provide for Chris. This saddened me of course because I had this goal and I had to put it on the back burner, but for a good reason. So, what I realized is that I had to keep going though. But what I researched was the Women's Institute of Policy Research found that only 28 percent of single mothers graduate in six years. I decided that wasn't gonna be me. I didn't care what it took, or how long it took 16 years [Ahem] to graduate, I was going to do that because I had to set an example for our son. </p> <p>Fast forward two years. The Lord decided to bless us with our second son, Caleb.</p> <p>[Holler from audience member]</p> <p>That was Caleb by the way. [Laughter] Though his birth was a blessing, we had some hard times that came during that time period. First thing first was we had not one, but two layoffs. How many know that no money coming in is a challenge? [Laughter] Number two, we had multiple health scares. We had surgeries, my dad got really sick, and just a lot of health things going on. </p> <p>Number three, we relocated to Georgia. That was expensive. Our home in Chicago was foreclosed on because we could no longer afford it. Lastly, I could not afford to go to the school. I didn't have money to go to college. But, worst of all, we experienced two losses: The loss of my father, and the loss of my cousin who was more like a sister, who was only 33 years old. Well, it seemed like we just could not get a break, right? </p> <p>Well, from outside looking in, one would look at our story and say, "Whoo, that's a lot of darkness, that's a lot of darkness." But guess what? Fortunately for our family, there was always an abundance of love and joy that outshined every ounce of darkness that was put in our path. </p> <p>Well, I'll give you a couple of examples. First and foremost, in 2014 I met and married my best friend, Bernardo. I love you. </p> <p>[Holler from audience member] </p> <p>That's Bernardo. [Laughter] My mother and I ended up developing an amazing relationship because we had to learn how to bond together a lot more than what we were doing before because my dad was the mediator. So, these situations were presented, but they forced us to come together and be a tighter family. Also, our sons are excellent students, and they are Boy Scouts working toward their Eagle ranks. [Applause] Go Scouts! We are a Scouting family. Once a week at least, twice on Sundays. [Laughter] </p> <p>I earned my certification in project management and I became gainfully employed, so eventually our finances were restored. Lastly, we bought a home in Georgia. So we set down, and we have now settled in Georgia and we absolutely </p> <p>[Holler from audience member] </p> <p>UGA fans, there it is, all right. [Laughter] But one thing I would say is that these experiences have taught me regardless of what's going on, you have to find the good in your situation. I challenge you to do the same. You'll smile more. </p> <p>Now, even though things were looking up, I was still determined to get my bachelor's degree by any means necessary. So in June of 2015, I started my search and I was looking for colleges. And because time is short, we have to work. And because you have other things going on in a schedule, I had to go to an online university. So in that search, I ended up narrowing it down to three colleges. Now, of those three colleges there were two factors that became important. I had already had a lot of life experiences and I had been in my field for a while. So I wanted something that would allow me to take my competencies that I had already, and apply them. WGU, checkmark, right? </p> <p>Also, I needed the flexibility where I could work at my own self pace, and not be penalized for it. WGU, checkmark. So with that being said, I chose WGU because everything I researched and reviewed, they had a very supportive staff which is absolutely important for you to be able to make it through that process. Thank you so much. [Cheers and applause] WGU's faculty and self paced environment allowed for me to have the structure that I needed. And it was instrumental in my ability to complete this chapter of my life. And for that, my family and I are forever thankful. </p> <p>Now, my program mentor, Miranda... sorry, but I love you. She must have been tired of me because there were so many different things going on, but yet she was kind, and she was patient. And she pulled together whatever resources that WGU had to offer in order to assist me. For example, she linked me with a course mentor, Bruce in finance. Bruce helped me a lot, okay? </p> <p>[Holler from audience member] </p> <p>Yeah, see? Somebody else struggled in finance, okay? He had as many one on one sessions that I needed until I finally passed finance. </p> <p>Now, this degree has absolutely unlocked some new potentials for me, and for that I'm absolutely thankful. So I'm currently a senior project manager back home in Georgia, and that came from the accomplishment of being able to tie in my certification with my degree and show not only am I competent, but I can handle your business and more. </p> <p>If I can leave you with anything today, it would be these three things: Number one, do not measure yourself against society's standards or their timelines. Obviously 16 years, I just said forget the timeline, just kind of threw it out. But because of that, it allowed me to stay focus on what was important to me, and that was my family. </p> <p>Number two, give yourself a break sometime or you'll run yourself into the ground literally. Number three, always, always, always remember your why. Why do you sacrifice? Why did you enroll into WGU in the first place? Why do you take the time and dedicate yourself to your goal, whatever that goal may be? That's the reason why you're here today. Congratulations and I wish you the best of luck. </p> <p>[Cheers and applause] </p>
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