Editorial and Production Coordinator
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DECATUR, Ga. — Opportunity and follow-through.
For biology student Mariah Ward, Iyanna Miller, who studies film and media, and Mary Sousa, who wants a career in aerospace engineering, the opportunity to pursue an associate degree debt-free was presented two years ago when they became State Farm Scholars® at Georgia State’s Perimeter College.
The scholarship helped support them through their college journey and finance their education, providing up to $4,000 a year in tuition.
Wednesday, all three followed through on that educational promise, joining seven other State Farm Scholars who were recognized during Perimeter College’s graduation ceremony.
For Sousa, who will officially graduate this summer, walking during the ceremony was the realization of a dream deferred.
“I missed walking at my graduation at Stone Mountain High School because everything was virtual due to the pandemic,” she said. “This is a big deal.”
Sousa said she jumped at the opportunity to attend the first-year student success program known as Perimeter Academy and was offered the chance at the State Farm Scholarship. She studied computer science while on the Decatur Campus.
“I love the State Farm Scholars program, especially how they get to know all the students,” Sousa said.
This spring marks the fifth anniversary of the program, which began in 2017 to help first-generation and underserved students make the leap from high school to college, said Eric Cuevas, Georgia State’s senior director of Student Success.
Aimed at students from more modestly resourced schools — with students from low-income and minority backgrounds who are often the first in their families to go to college — the scholarship is part of Georgia State’s Learning, Income and Family Transformation (LIFT) Program, which State Farm helped fund with a $14.5 million gift.
The LIFT Program was created to improve Perimeter student graduation outcomes by combining data-driven academic advisement with scholarships, employment opportunities and leadership training to help students from every background stay on track for graduation.
Since that initial cohort of students in 2017, 235 students have been accepted as State Farm Scholars — 85 of whom have received their associate degrees from Perimeter.
Many have continued on to Georgia State’s Atlanta Campus, like Tigsty Abraha, who graduated from Perimeter in 2021 and is seeking her undergraduate degree in biology. So far, 13 State Farm Scholars have received their bachelor degree from Georgia State.
(Both Miller and Ward plan to continue their undergraduate education on the Atlanta Campus. Sousa is planning to attend Georgia Tech.)
As a corporate responsibility analyst for State Farm, Mark Robinson has helped connect the scholars to leadership development, community engagement and mentoring opportunities since 2019, when the first cohort of scholars graduated.
He spoke to the current cohort during a pre-graduation event on the Decatur Campus in late April.
“I always say I have the best job in the world,” Robinson told the graduates. “What you have been through these past few years with COVID-19 has been unprecedented, but you rose to the challenge and now you’re graduating. Congratulations to you all.”