FVSU Graduate Finishes Degree 26 Years Later

by Pamela Berry-Johnson

Posted on Dec 13, 2019

Cherryl A. Williams-Smith said it has been quite a long journey to receive her Fort Valley State University degree. On Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, Williams-Smith will be one of approximately 239 graduates at the fall 2019 commencement ceremony. She will receive her bachelor's degree in psychology.

Williams-Smith said it has taken her 26 years to complete her undergraduate degree through the online program. And although she is 54 years old, she still considers herself a lifelong student and is ready to continue pursuing her education.

Over the past 23 years, Williams-Smith worked with the Phoenix City Public Schools as a teacher's aide. During her career of working with the juvenile justice system, she said she wanted to help students who had emotional and psychological problems.

"This is really a special time for me," Williams-Smith said. "I officially started college in 1993. In the course of these 26 years, I raised two kids as a single parent. I had to be a responsible parent and my kids were always the top priority. I took classes when life permitted, but I never gave up. It is only by the grace and mercies of God that I'm able to accomplish this milestone, Williams-Smith said.

Williams-Smith says being a college student, working a full-time job, and often being faced with various health issues in her family, her journey has been tough, but she never gave up.

During her college career, Williams said she has been a part of FVSU's Honors Convocation several times and maintained a 3.2 GPA. Although she struggled with several classes, she said she always told herself she had to keep moving forward and even sought help with a math tutor.

She's shown her discipline being a fully online student and says this experience has taught her discipline, perseverance, to dream big, and be tenacious.

Williams knows all about perseverance, she's also an Army Veteran and served as a medical specialist for eight years.

"I have enjoyed the fellowship and school pride that comes with FVSU," Williams-Smith said. "Although our HBCU has had its trials and tribulations, we have always stood firm on our resilience and pressed forward. This has made me very proud to be a part of FVSU."

More than anything she thanks Dr. Jerry Haywood, her adviser, who she has been such a blessing.

"He helped my academic pursuit in any way he could and kept me motivated at all times."

She plans to begin graduate school in January of 2020 for Child and Adolescent Psychology.

"If you really want to do it, it can be done," Williams-Smith said.

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