May 6, 2016 – As a young elementary school student growing up in Perry, Ga. Shacandice Thomas always dreamed of stepping into a classroom of her own as a teacher.
“Ms. Buford was one of my favorite teachers,” she said of her Houston County Public Schools System experience. “She was my inspiration to become a teacher. She had that cheerful disposition, she was beautiful and so smart, and I remember saying that I wanted to be like her when I grow up. She was my second grade teacher.”
On May 7, when the 30-year-old nontraditional student graduates with her bachelor’s degree in childhood special education from Fort Valley State University, her dream of being a teacher will be closer to becoming a reality. Since graduating from Perry High School in 2004, Thomas has worked several full time jobs, but always held on to her dreams of becoming a teacher.
Eventually, Thomas was able to attend Middle Georgia Technical College, where she secured her associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Care.
“There was something in me that wanted more than an associate’s degree, so in 2012, I quit my full-time jobs at Long Horn Steak House and Happy Hours Service Center and came to Fort Valley State University.”
Thomas said she was encouraged to complete her educational journey because she wanted to make her father proud. He was former FVSU student, but had to quit school as a senior to support his family, she said.
“I felt as if I owed it to him to graduate,” Thomas said. “I felt as if it would make him proud, because he had some obstacles that got in the way of him graduating. He dropped out his senior year, because he started a family, and he was raising me and my sister. They couldn’t afford for him to continue his education there. FVSU was so close to home, and I heard that the campus had a great education program.”
Being a nontraditional student came with its challenges, but Thomas said she never let that stop her from moving forward.
“It was different being the oldest person in the class,” Thomas said. “I never had the college experience, so it was exciting to be on campus, but also overwhelming at the same time.”
While attending school fulltime, Thomas and her husband were raising her four sons. She held study sessions at her house with her fellow classmates who became her friends.
“It’s definitely like a family,” she said. “I have my school family, and they come to my house and we study together. They know my children and my kids now have adopted aunts and uncles.”
Thomas said it wasn’t always easy juggling school and family life.
“I did a lot of praying, and I had to rearrange my life, and I had to create a schedule and stick with it,” she said. “Basically, being at FVSU, I’ve been grateful, because of the unbelievable support of I’ve received from the faculty and staff, even with my very busy schedule. I believe this HBCU experience is unlike any other, and it goes beyond the classroom setting. I got a lot of support from my mom and dad.”
During the semester, Thomas completed her student practicum at Morning Side Elementary School, the school she attended as a little girl.
“It’s a dream come true, really it is,” she said. “I believe that I can be an effective teacher, like the one I had when I was in elementary school. I taught language arts and social studies as a full-time student teacher, from 8 a.m. in the morning until 4 p.m. in the afternoon. My cooperating teacher oversaw what I was doing and helped me.”
In October 2015, her fellow students nominated her as Miss Education for the FVSU 2015 Homecoming.
“It was just awesome,” Thomas said, who rode on the float during the parade. “I was honored to be considered a candidate among my peers, and they chose me. That meant they looked up to me. I was just honored to be able to represent the College of Education. It was a great experience.”
Thomas said she’s elated to be a part of the 2016 FVSU Spring graduating class.
“I’m excited about graduating,” she said. “Graduation is a long time coming. I was able to meet some really good people and get connected to lifelong friends on campus. I would like to thank Dr. Edward Hill, Dean of the College of Education, and the professors in my department for believing in me.”
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