THE COMEBACK KID
The Come Back, Pounce Forward program is giving Christopher See and others a second chance to earn a degree.
In the fall of 2011, Christopher See was thriving academically after struggling to balance work and school.
See had a scholarship, was on the dean’s list and was in what he believed would be his final semester, only two classes away from graduation. He was as happy as he’d ever been, excelling in academic life and even thinking about pursuing a Ph.D.
But then life got complicated.
“I found myself panicking about my living situation,” he says. “I had food insecurity. It was one thing after another, just piling up. And I just couldn’t make school and work happen.”
See stopped attending classes regularly, triggering an automatic administrative withdrawal. He was having trouble paying his bills. Months passed, then years. Finally, he just gave up on college altogether.
Then, last spring, See learned about Come Back, Pounce Forward, a new College of Arts & Sciences initiative that brings back students who had dropped out and gives them another chance to finish their degree.
“I broke down in tears. I was so overwhelmed,” he says. “Now I’m back. My head is in a different place, and I’m super excited about it. I’m going to have to work at it, but I have no doubt in my mind that I will succeed.”
See expects to graduate this spring with a B.A. in religious studies and a minor in psychology.
The program isn’t open to just anyone. To be eligible, students must have gotten within 12 credit hours of graduation, have had a minimum 2.0 GPA when they left and have applied for graduation.
That might sound like a small pool, but when the Office of Academic Assistance (or OAA) went through student records, they found more than 700 students eligible to apply.
Getting them through can take some work. Students may need help navigating complicated work schedules, past tuition debts, a single tough academic requirement or more.
When the college established Come Back, Pounce Forward, Dean Sara Rosen knew the program would rely heavily on support from OAA. Adviser Nika Daryooni jumped at the challenge, seeing an opportunity to help others beyond her existing advisement portfolio.
“Witnessing the joy and gratitude that Come Back, Pounce Forward students show solidifies my work as an academic support professional,” says Daryooni. “This is an opportunity unique to Georgia State, and it underscores our commitment to giving students from all walks of life the same chances for success.”
The Arts & Sciences community has come out strong in support of the program. The college’s Board of Visitors seeded the initial fund, raising more than $10,000 in a single day. Faculty, staff, alumni and members of the Georgia State Foundation Board of Trustees followed with gifts. Most recently, the Deepak Raghavan Family Foundation committed to support the program.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step — and sometimes falls short by just one more seemingly impossible step,” says Kay Cothran Craigie (B.A. ’68), a member of the Board of Visitors. “Enabling people to take that final step and experience the life-changing, empowering, personal, family and community benefits of a college degree is in line with what Georgia State has been about since day one.”
See says donors should know that graduates like him are not just success stories but role models for their families and friends.
“People said, ‘Your experience is helping other people.’ So, in a way, I’ve already been successful, and I am proud of that,” he says.
Kay Cothran Craigie