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Georgia Southern student overcomes hurdles to complete her degree after 21 years

“I chose education to educate others,” stated Alexis N. Washington, who will proudly walk across the commencement stage this weekend — 21 years after she first began her studies on the Armstrong Campus — to earn a bachelor of liberal arts and a minor in sociology.

For Washington, the path to graduation was a rocky one, but determination and commitment to complete a goal she set for herself more than two decades ago pushed her forward.

Born and raised in Savannah, Washington matriculated at Armstrong State University in 1998 to be close to home. As a new student, she became interested in nursing and was on track to pursue that path, however, a traumatic experience derailed her plans. Unable to cope with the trauma, her grades plummeted, she dropped out of college and later became self-employed.

“For the next 10 years, I focused solely on entrepreneurship but then began self-examinations of what success means to me,” said Washington. “It was at this point that I realized how important it is to finish everything that I’ve ever started.”

During those 10 years, she also suffered two strokes that affected her memory. Yet she didn’t let that deter her from pursuing an undergraduate degree and working with special education students in the school system, which inspired her to pursue a teaching career. Washington was recently accepted into Georgia Southern’s Master of Arts in Teaching in special education program.

“I have decided to make my biggest obstacles minute in comparison to my new-found pursuit of happiness,” said Washington.

Today, she is fully recovered and grateful for online classes that allowed her the flexibility of time management, as she continues to operate a business. Named to the President’s List and the Dean’s List during her college career, Washington is thankful for her professors at Georgia Southern.

As part of an individual project, criminal justice professor Maxine Bryant, Ph.D., mentored Washington as she worked to petition the Georgia parole board in pursuit of an inmate’s successful release. Abnormal psychology professor Wendy Wolfe, Ph.D., helped her prepare to assist exceptional students diagnosed with learning disabilities and apply strategies and principles in everyday life as they pertain to the psyche of working with this population of students in a high school setting.

“I have met the most amazing professors including Dr. Justin Montemarano, who challenged me in biology, and Dr. Nalanda Roy, who demonstrated her passion for international studies and research.”

Washington also participated in the Southern Women Leadership program on campus to strengthen her presence as a woman in leadership.

As she continues into the education arena upon graduation, she looks forward to sharing the culmination of her passion for teaching, business acumen and life experience to help young people overcome obstacles and succeed.

“I plan to teach high school students in the area of special education or healthcare science,” she explained. “I will continue to operate my family business and hope to educate others in entrepreneurship. In the midst of exploring my passion to teach, I also plan to instill hope in others by using available platforms to share my story of perseverance and resilience.”

The full-circle moment is especially gratifying for Washington.

“I realized after spending over a decade in pursuit of making everyone else in my life happy, I was left unfulfilled,” she said. “So I decided to come back and finish what I started 21 years ago to make me happy and complete.”

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving more than 26,000 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit


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