Amanda Curley is a testament to what it means to ‘take charge’ at Georgia Highlands College (GHC). Through hard work, a commitment to graduate with a college degree, and while working a full-time job clocking over 50 hours a week, Amanda maintained a nearly 4.0 GPA while completing her degree in sociology at GHC.
But this hard grinding work ethic wasn’t always the norm, she will tell you. In fact, for Amanda, high school was a completely different story.
“I was not a good student in high school. I didn’t care about my grades or my education. I had a low GPA and decided not to participate in a graduation ceremony,” she said. “That’s why this event is so special to me. It’s a new memory that I can give to my family that’s long overdue.”
Despite not having a December commencement, GHC worked with Amanda and her family to provide a special diploma presentation this year giving Amanda’s mom, who has been diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, the opportunity to see her daughter walk in a graduation-style ceremony.
Amanda’s family came together for the special diploma presentation, and she said those are the ones who inspire her most. Without their motivation, starting college in her 30s while working full time wouldn’t have been possible.
“My mom is my greatest inspiration. She works harder than anyone I’ve ever known, first working with kids and adults with special needs and then with patients who live with Alzheimer’s,” Amanda said. “She’s my biggest supporter and best friend.”
Amanda explained her dad also started school later in life. After he spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy, he began school in his 50s and went full time while working a full-time job. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree on Father’s Day in 2021.
Amanda added that her journey to college completion wouldn’t have been possible without her husband, either, someone who she considers to be “the kindest and most supportive person” in her life.
With the degree from GHC under her belt, Amanda looks forward to using her skills to help college students. She currently works at Kennesaw State University as the Administrative Supervisor in the Wellstar School of Nursing, and she looks forward to continue her career in education while using her degree to help students navigate their journey during their college years and transition into the workplace.
Her advice for others in her shoes: just go for it.
“Take it at your own pace,” she said. “You might surprise yourself with how much you can accomplish. Also, don’t compare your life to others around you. I’m proud that I’m a non-traditional student. I needed to gain life experience before truly understanding the value of a college education. You can admire someone else’s journey without comparing it to your own.”
Amanda added coffee and making lists to stay organize also helps, as well as the flexibility offered at Georgia Highlands College. She noted GHC’s online options and asynchronous classes (or classes that can be attended online at any time and not a specific time) helped her work and complete all the courses she needed for her degree at her own pace.
The special diploma presentation at GHC is a moment she knows her family will never forget.
“This opportunity means so much to my family and I. Graduations are milestones, moments in time, that should be celebrated with the people you love,” she said. “I am very thankful to the people at GHC, who took a moment out of their holiday season, gave the gift of their time, and made this day special for us. We are able to celebrate the completion of my first academic milestone together and as a family.”