Camryn Gaines
Category: 2024 Quarter 1 Winner

Camryn Gaines

Throughout my high school career, I was often nervous about what life would be like after. I spent a lot of time wondering what I was going to do with my life. I often felt as though I was not smart enough to attend college, so, in a way, I developed a fear. Throughout the history of my family, attending college was not common, but my immediate family pushed me to go. It was not until my grandmother went back to school to complete her degrees that I realized I could be successful. My grandmother, Wilda Marshall, or “Nannan,” is one of the biggest inspirations in my life. Nannan decided to return to school to complete her degrees at 70 years of age and has now earned her associate’s degree (earned in 2021) and bachelor’s degree in Education and Human Sciences (earned in 2023).

Nannan finished high school at the age of 18 while six months pregnant with my mother. She got married young and would go on to have two more children. At the time, due to having children, she did not pursue higher education. As the years went by, Nannan felt as if something was missing or had been left unfulfilled in her life. As a high schooler, already with a fear of life after, watching Nannan be so motivated to get her degrees provided me with an inspiration. Watching her pull all-night study sessions, never miss a single class, and still continue to handle her day-to-day responsibilities inspired me to push myself even more to attend college. Not only did she decide to attend college, but, when she did, she excelled. Nannan completed her associate’s degree with a 3.8 GPA, is part of the Phi Theta Kappa honors society, and was able to earn and keep scholarships for both her associate’s degree and bachelor’s degree. Throughout the duration of this process, Nannan showed me that I can do anything I put my mind to.

Aside from Nannan excelling in the classroom, she also managed to form friendships and build relationships along the way. The professors in her department were rooting for her to finish. They believed she was a joy to be around and was always eager to learn. Witnessing the joy and journey Nannan had while back in school further led me to believe that I could do it and excel in my own right. Her confidence and positive attitude gave me confidence and inspired me to continue pushing no matter how hard things may get for me.

Working hard is important, but without a positive attitude or strong support system, it can be challenging to become successful. Nannan believes that if it wasn’t for her family, she would not have been able to earn two degrees. She continues to remind me of the support system I have around me every time college gets challenging. Because of her, I will continue to push myself to successfully complete my college education.