Geana Angus, 25, of Lawrenceville says she was introverted and shy growing up in Jamaica, so her journey to becoming the senior class speaker at her graduation from Georgia Gwinnett College this week might seem unlikely, but sometimes people can surprise themselves.
She says: “If you told 15-year-old Geana Joie that she would be standing in front of a committee to have the opportunity to speak in front of the graduating class, she would think you were lying. I looked up to people who could do things like that. I never thought I could do it. But here I am!”
Angus came to the United States with her mother and younger brother to visit relatives in 2017 when she was 20 years old. Until then, the tropical island life was all she knew: beautiful rivers and beaches, lush forests and sunny days year-round. So coming to Georgia with its cities and sometimes colder seasons gave her a bit of culture shock. Even still, when she landed a job as an assistant teacher at Legacy Academy in Snellville, she knew she had to stay.
“I was so excited to work with children,” she remembers. “I have an accent, and the children did not hesitate to ask me about where I’m from.”
Her brother needed to finish high school and her mother had to finalize some things back home in Jamaica, so that meant Angus had to stay behind and take the next steps alone. She reached into herself and found confidence there she never knew she had.
Angus worked at Legacy Academy for a year, living with a friend of her grandmother’s. When she learned about a local college that offered world-class degrees in business administration, she decided to apply to GGC and later move onto campus as a resident assistant, “I knew I needed smaller class sizes and an education that was not only good but cost-effective because I would be the one financing it,” she says. “GGC offered everything I needed.”
She adds: “For that first year before I started attending GGC, I was unsure about meeting new people,” said Angus. “But moving onto campus, meeting people from different cultures and learning about them straight from the source themselves and not from books or documentaries opened my eyes and put me at ease. Additionally, the resident assistants and directors made it their duty to ensure that every new student felt welcomed. Before long, I knew I belonged here.”
“I have learned that sometimes the only thing in life that you have is your support system,” she says. “If I did not have my family supporting me from across the ocean or my best friend on Facetime in Canada while I stayed up cramming for tests, I don’t know how I would have kept going. There are people who want you to succeed here, and who want you to enjoy life as well as be successful.”
Angus is happy things are getting back to normal, but she said the challenges of the pandemic might have drawn her even closer to her new GGC family.
Angus received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in international business. After graduation, she plans to take a long-overdue trip home to Jamaica before pursuing a career in student affairs as a resident director.
This material is presented with permission from Elliott Brack’s GwinnettForum, an online site published Tuesdays and Fridays. To become better informed about Gwinnett, subscribe (at no cost) at GwinnettForum