For J’Arius Taylor, enlisting in the National Guard seemed natural. After all, his brother, father, grandfather and great grandfather all served in the Army.
His uncle served in the Marines and another uncle served in the Navy.
But he has followed his own calling by pursuing a college degree.
“I wanted to further my education because it was something my father and his father before him didn’t get a chance to do,” said Taylor, who graduates this week from Georgia State with a B.A. in journalism with a concentration in public relations.
Juggling school and the National Guard has been challenging because it often meant having to take time off from his studies.
“A lot of people don’t understand that the National Guard doesn’t just sit around,” Taylor said. “Anytime there’s some kind of hurricane or national disaster in the states, my unit is usually the one that gets called up to assist.”
During his freshman year, Taylor had to put school on hold from December until mid-July to go to training. He also took off school to help with hurricane relief efforts in Savannah and for annual training.
Taylor also took about a year off during his junior year after the birth of his son. Taylor said when his son was born, he had to refocus so he could finish his undergraduate program strong. He started working at an ice cream shop in Decatur to help with finances and allow him to re-enroll in school.
“I was just constantly working,” Taylor said. “My son was my motivation. I would just look at him every day and think about how I wanted to create a better life for him.”
Taylor joined Iota Phi Theta fraternity and worked as a building manager at Georgia State’s student center. During his undergraduate years, he was also recognized by the Atlanta Falcons as a Hometown Hero, a recognition program for military members and thesacrifice.
Taylor was invited to a preseason Falcons game, toured the stadium, met a few NFL players and was brought down to the field with his family. For Taylor, who aspires to work as a general manager for a professional sports team, it was a special moment in his life.
“It was unforgettable,” he said. “There’s no greater view in sports than actually being on the field or the court and watching the game. That made my year.”
After graduation, Taylor plans to pursue a master’s degree in sports administration at Georgia State.
Taylor said he’s thankful his hard work has paid off. As he looks forward to the next stage of his journey, he wants to continue to be an inspiration for his son.
“Statistically, I’m not supposed to be able to balance everything I did and still graduate. Being an African American male from College Park and to succeed and graduate — this is big for me,” Taylor said.
— Story by Horace Holloman. Video by Melanie Fan. Photo courtesy of J’Arius Taylor.