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WGU Graduate Speaker, Marvin Perkins, Winter 2014
WGU Graduate Speaker, Marvin Perkins, Winter 2014
Western Governors University
<p>Growing up in a poor area of upstate New York, Marvin Perkins received no support or encouragement from teachers and counselors to attend college. However, a college education was his dream, so while on vacation in Southern California he decided to stay there and go to school. It was there where he met a woman and became a father—but three years later, they divorced, and he was awarded custody of his young son. A single father with heavy work responsibilities, he decided his dream of college would have to wait. Over the years, he managed to grow in his career and become very successful, achieving a six-figure salary and ultimately deciding that he may not need a degree after all. Then the economy crashed and he found himself unable to get a job without a degree. Thanks to Western Governors University, he now has that degree--and a successful career. Marvin shared his story as a graduate speaker at WGU's Winter 2014 Commencement at Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center on February 8, 2014.</p> <p>Marvin Perkins earned his Bachelor of Science, Business Management degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Good morning, family, friends, fellow students, fellow graduates, faculty, those that're here, and those that're watching livestreaming. It is an incredible honor for me to be standing here representing the college of business. Being able to tell my story. All of you graduates have a story. It would be great to hear those. And all those current students have a story. And the alumni as well. So thank you for indulging me with mine.</p> <p>My story starts in Niagara Falls, New York. I was born and raised in a poor area. One of six children. My mother and father were tremendous. They both attended higher education after having six children. And that is difficult. What would it have been like if they would've have had WGU around when they were trying to get their education? I knew my parents wouldn't be able to help me pay for college. And so I threw myself into everything. I excelled in athletics and academics in hopes to get a scholarship to go to college. I had to fight many obstacles in order to try to obtain a college degree.</p> <p>No scholarships came. And later on, I would find out that you actually have to apply for scholarships. [Laughter] No wonder no scholarships came. So but that was the mindset in my area. The teachers would try to really encourage the African American kids not to go to college, but to just go into the Armed Services. And so there were those obstacles. So I had to get a college education. I was determined. So round one failed. So I joined right after high school, I did my first semester at the community college. And during the semester break, I got on a bus. Took me four days to get from Niagara Falls, New York to Los Angeles. And after four days on a bus, I wasn't coming back. And so I made my life out in Los Angeles.</p> <p>And so I got back in school again. And I was geared and excited to get this degree. But then I met a girl. [Laughter] All right. And so Marv Junior was born. [Laughter] And I had to drop out of school again. And so once we got settled as a little family, I got back into school and things didn't work out in that marriage and I had to go through a divorce.</p> <p>And so during that tough time, I had to ask myself one of the toughest questions that I've ever had to ask myself to date, and it was, was my son better off with his mother? Since this wasn't going to work, with his mother or with his father. And after a lot of soul searching, after I had come to the conclusion that he would be better off with his father, I fought for custody. And thus I had to drop out of school again. That took up all of my time.</p> <p>And so a year later, I was awarded custody and now, I'm a single parent. The thought is to go back to school, however, [Applause] I appreciate the applause for fathers, but kids deserve two parents at home. [Applause] But I decided I would defer school again until he was raised. He was already missing half of his family and he needed me to be there full-time.</p> <p>And so by the time he finished school or graduated from high school and he was ready to leave the nest as well, I was making a six-figure income, and I did not need college, [Laughter] so I thought. The market crashed in 2008. The real estate market. And I thought, "No problem. My successful sales track record would be enough to sustain me. What employer would not want to hire all of this greatness?" Talk about delusions of grandeur. [Laughter]</p> <p>What was interesting is that companies now were trying to interview receiving about 1500 applications for one position where they used to receive 20. So they had to adopt new policies. New policies that the minimum requirement would be a college degree. Now they have applicant tracking system, these where you apply online and they actually keep recruiters from having to look through 1500 applications for one job because they bring the most qualified to the top.</p> <p>Now you want to hear irony? I sell applicant-tracking systems. [Laughter] I was selling the systems that was keeping me from moving into a better job. I had to get my degree. There was not a choice. I had to get it done. But it wouldn't be easy now. Now I'm married again. I've got two daughters in addition to my son. I've got a granddaughter at this point as well. And I had published a series of DVDs called Blacks in the Scriptures. And started an outreach program, the African American Outreach program that's here nationally and internationally. I'm speaking doing lectures all over the world. I'm working a full-time sales job. My girls are active in sports. My wife is active in shopping. I mean, there is just -- [Laughter] I had no clue how I was going to finish school. But so I had to get it done.</p> <p>So I started with research. And so part of my research was not only which school would be the best school for me, because mind you, this would be my fifth attempt at a college degree. I will not give up. Like a pit bull. But not only did I research the schools and what would be the best fit, but I would also do research and poll employers, because I was a little skeptical about receiving an online degree. I wanted to see what their perceptions and their perspective was. I talked to students who graduated with online degrees to see how they were treated in the marketplace.</p> <p>I was amazed that the stigma had gone down. I was impressed with WGU and the competency-based model. And so I got into school. And I was raring to go. And it's like I'm going to do it this time, guys. I'm going to do it this time. I have to do it this time. I cannot move ahead without my college degree. So I start in June and in September, I have to move my family from Los Angeles to Oregon to change jobs and to expand our outreach program in the Pacific Northwest. Going to a traditional school would not have allowed that flexibility. The flexibility of WGU allowed me to start fast out the gate and then take a few months off while I adjusted my family in Oregon and then move them back 18 months later. [Laughter]</p> <p>It was an incredible journey, but the flexibility allowed that for me. I could not have done this. I attempted, again, my fifth attempt for college, but it was this model that allowed me to get it done with everything else that I had going on. I've got to take my hat off to my mentor. These mentors here are absolutely tremendous. Absolutely tremendous. [Applause]</p> <p>And mine is the best though. [Laughter] So Deborah Long is absolutely tremendous. If you don't know her, I'd say get to know her. So I got off to a rocky start. A really rocky start. Again, I had to move my family after a few months of just starting school. But then Deborah and I -- I said, "Deborah, again, here's what I need from you. I need you to keep me on track. Make sure I don't get off -- I don't miss a deadline. I'm too busy. This is what I need you for the most." So a couple months into this, I get this notice that I've missed a deadline. And I said, "Okay." So I called WGU student services and said, "You know, I want a new mentor. [Laughter] I love Deborah. She's great and don't tell her I requested this, but I want a new mentor. I missed this deadline. I can't afford it. I've just got to have a new mentor. Just don't let her find out that I requested this." So I get a call from Deborah. "I understand you requested a new mentor." [Laughter] I was like, "What kind of school did I sign up for here?" And so here I am having this very difficult conversation that I did not want to have. And I explained to her why and here's what Deborah said. She said, "I'm sorry. Can you forgive me and give me another chance?"</p> <p>Sounds similar to a conversation I have with the Savior every day. And I said, "Of course. Of course I can. But Deborah, I just need you. I can't miss anything. Too busy. Da, da, da, da, da." "Okay. Great. Thank you. So we're good?" "Yes, we're good." "You didn't miss a deadline. That was just a reminder." [Laughter]</p> <p>Talk about the quality of mentors at WGU. Deborah Long, thank you. [Applause] Deborah kept me on track. She made sure I didn't miss a thing and she helped me all the way through. In three years, I was able to finish my degree program. And you know the beauty of it? Three weeks after that, I was able to check the box on an application that said, "Yes, I do have a college degree. Give me that job." [Applause]</p> <p>So I finished in August. And I started working with IBM in October. And I couldn't have done it without my WGU degree. So thank you guys. My fifth attempt to get this done finally got it done. What an incredible feeling. It is worth every single effort you can put forth. Those who are involved in this, do not give up. Those who don't have it, get involved and get it done. There's nothing like that feeling of having that college degree that no one can ever take away from you. [Applause] So enjoy it. Thank you. God bless you.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
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