It only took 20 year old Deja Clay two years to graduate from FVSU with a degree in biology and a 3.96 grade point average. She walks around with a quote from Greek playwright Sophocles echoing in her head, “Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.” She hasn’t had to worry much about failure however. Spring 2017’s youngest graduate also happens to have earned the second highest grade point average in the class (a feat she achieved in high school as well). A student in FVSU’s famed Cooperative Development Energy Program (CDEP), she had the highest GPA in the school during the prior academic year, and nearly topped the list for the graduating class as a whole. This year, she was selected by the faculty to be the student given the Al Knox Award, a cash presentation based on personality, scholarship, and potential.
The Oglethorpe, GA is obviously not your typical twenty-something woman. When she is not studying, she is either spending time with her family or playing video games—she loves the action-adventure games Dishonored and Assassin’s Creed. In addition to earning dozens of college credits during high school, she participated each summer in CDEP’s pre-collegiate program, studying geosciences, engineering, and other sciences, and has been a Wildcat ever since. At FVSU, she has been able to excel while developing close relationships with her peers and professors, and enjoys watching other African-Americans succeed. Her professors, she says, taught her that “failure is not an option. You only fail if you give up trying.”
After graduating from Fort Valley, she will be attending the University of Nevada Las Vegas to earn another bachelor’s degree in health physics. She plans to become a cardiovascular physician. Fort Valley State University has always been great, she says, but she hopes she has added to its legacy by “showing that African-American women can succeed in anything they choose to.