CLARKSTON, Ga.— Graduation has been "a long time coming,” said Kishara Allen.
The military veteran and mother of two walked across the stage Dec. 13 during commencement ceremonies at Georgia State University Perimeter College’s Clarkston Campus.
Allen is one of more than 800 candidates, ranging in age from 18 to older than 60, who were on track to receive their associate of arts and associate of science degrees. The students pursued 36 subject areas, including business administration, health sciences, engineering, radiologic technology and film and media studies.
Although Allen, who followed the business administration pathway, transitioned to Georgia State’s Atlanta Campus in August to continue her studies toward her bachelor’s degree, she was determined to come back to Perimeter College to celebrate her associate degree, she said. At Perimeter, Allen took Honors courses and was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
A veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army specialist joined the military directly out of high school. She experienced brushes with mortar and gunfire attacks while serving in Iraq in 2007. Her prolonged service in Afghanistan is what she remembers fondly. Allen set up phone lines and internet for military personnel and civilians. The job allowed her to interact with local communities.
“I enjoyed my time there,” she said.
But when she came home, knew she needed more than experience — she needed a college degree, she said.
“I’m in my 30s, and it’s been 10-plus years since I was in school,” she said. “Even though I have a military background and certification, a lot of jobs require you to have a college degree. I also went to college so I could have a greater influence on my kids to get a college education.”
A member of the Army Reserve, Allen balanced her college studies with her reserve work and raising her 7- and 10-year-old children.
“My reserve work was once a month,” she said. “Once I got home from school, I helped my children with their studies. When they went to bed, I worked on my studies.”
Allen reflected on her academic journey.
“Coming to college was an easy transition for me,” she said. “I loved the interaction with my professors — it made it pretty interesting and easy for me to learn. I’m proud of my accomplishments and the goals I set for myself.”
Amaad Blades also was among the candidates for graduation who celebrated completion of associate degree programs during two ceremonies on Georgia State’s Clarkston Campus. In fact, he was the first student in the first of the two ceremonies to walk across the stage to shake Perimeter College Dean and Vice Provost Peter Lyons’ hand.
Blades rejoiced with his family on a job well done. The road he took to graduation was worth it, he said.
When the Henry County resident first came to Georgia State’s Perimeter College from high school in 2016, he was distracted, he said.
“I spent some time meeting new people, learning how to manage my time and joining different organizations,” Blades said. “I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do.”
Now he knows his next step. He is going to the University of Georgia, where he will major in ecology.
“Since I was a little kid, I’ve been interested in paleontology, but my interest grew to (living) plants and animals and how they interact with each other,” he said. Researching plants while a student in the National Science Foundation Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program helped seal the deal for him, he said.
During his time at Perimeter College, Blades took Honors courses and was involved in the LSAMP program doing undergraduate research at the Native Plant Botanical Garden on the Decatur Campus. He also was a work-study student, gardening in the Decatur Community Garden.
“It’s been a great experience,” Blades said. “It was best for me to get my associate degree first. Now it is easier to go and get my bachelor’s. I would tell anyone who is starting out in college that you won’t always have everything figured out, but it pays off to be dedicated, to take time and reflect and, above all, don’t stress yourself.”
He’s taking his own advice.
“Before I start next semester, I’m going to take a break and enjoy hanging out with friends and family,” he said. “I haven’t had much chance to do that, with school and work.”
At top: Amaad Blades was the first student in the first Perimeter commencement ceremony to cross the stage.
Above, left: Kishara Allen receives her diploma folder from Perimeter Dean and Vice Provost Peter Lyons.
Photos by Bill Roa