During the commencement season at Fort Valley State University, Michael Gregory is always busy. You can find him at one of FVSU’s landmarks – the Hunt Bond Troup Memorial, Wildcat Stadium, the Historic Quad, and near FVSU’s signage on State University Drive.
The Savannah, Ga. native, is usually behind the camera, helping FVSU graduates shine through photography and videography with his business MG Experience.
Others also know Michael Gregory as a campus minister and as a resident advisor in the Wildcat Commons.
On Sat. December 14, the guy usually putting others in the spotlight will be in the center of his own when he walks across the stage to receive his bachelor’s degree in Media Studies.
Gregory said he’s proud to be graduating and is excited about having his family there to witness his big day. Along with being a twin, the soon-to-be-graduate said he is the youngest of 13 children and the only male in the bunch.
“I was last for everything, getting a plate at dinner,” he said with a laugh on being raised to be a gentleman and allow ladies to come first. “We always had enough; I was just last in line.”
Growing up surrounded by women, Gregory said he also learned to be intuitive about what women want and how to be more responsible.
“My sisters taught me how to become a better man and be more accountable. They forced me to be responsible. I’m the only one whose name won’t change,” he said.
During his freshman year, Gregory said he took on two jobs to earn his own money. He says balancing two jobs, being a mentor and full-time student was tough, but he prevailed and worked out in the end.
“I started taking photos with my iPhone 7,” he said of becoming a photographer. “I would see people smile and I wanted to help them keep their memories.”
He started using the moniker MG Experience because of the subject of one of his many photographs.
“I did a photoshoot one day and the person I was shooting prayed with me, we had a conversation and during that conversation, she gave her life to Jesus Christ,” said Gregory who was ordained as a minister in the 6th grade and received his ministerial license two years later. “Afterwards, she told me my photoshoot was an experience.”
Along with being a photographer, Gregory has also been the president of FVSU Collegiate Ministries since 2015. Through this role, he has served as a mentor to students. He says being at FVSU has helped him connect to people and do many things he never thought he would be able to do. He said if there is one thing he has enjoyed most about his experience at FVSU, it would be the people.
“FVSU has the most diverse group of individuals,” he said. “It’s amazing how we all have different backgrounds, but the same goal of graduation. I’ve met lifelong friends here.”
On being a minister and mentor, he said, “People always seemed to cherish what I had to say. I love to give guidance and be the voice of reason to those around me, and I love being a blessing to students, I truly believe you don’t have to boast and believe what God said that He would make your name great.”
“As a resident advisor and campus minister, I wanted to be for others, what no one was to me as a freshman,” Gregory said. “Students inspire me, I tell to them let them know who you are and more than anything I tell them, ‘You will always be too much for the people who can’t handle you.’”
The summer before Gregory’s senior year, he began noticing problems with his health. He visited an urgent care facility and learned his blood sugar/ glucose level was higher than normal and registered at a level of 564, when the normal level is in the low 100’s. He was prescribed medicine to alleviate the problem.
He returned to campus and began thinking of ways to get his health back in order.
“I could have easily died, I said to myself, ‘Let me slow down and get this thing right,’” Gregory said.
On his social media channels, he started the #KeepMikeAlive accountability challenge.
He started walking the track at Wildcat Stadium every day at least eight times.
He decided to forgo FVSU’s famous Fried Chicken Wednesday and have baked chicken instead and started eating all the salads he could take. He began making better food choices and sharing them online.
He wasn’t in this fight alone.
Almost every walk at Wildcat Stadium a fellow student or a team of students joined him and friends begin tweeting #KeepMikeAlive to continue to encourage him.
“Consistency requires discipline,” Gregory said.
He’s continuing to keep up his healthy lifestyle and is no longer on medication.
After graduation, Gregory plans to move to Texas to further his photography business and attend graduate school.