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Georgia Southern University

Personal hardships drive graduate to earn degree, advocate for others

As a wife to a U.S. Army soldier and mother to a young child, conditions for completing a college degree weren’t optimal, yet the drive to teach children pushed Mary Hayworth toward the finish line. 

“I want to instill a love of reading and writing for students,” said Hayworth. “Everything is cemented in reading and writing.”

Following a move from Oregon with her husband’s new military assignment in Savannah, Georgia, Hayworth and her family found themselves 3,000 miles from anything familiar in 2016. Situated a year later, Hayworth’s passion for education drove her to finish a degree she began years earlier but never finished.

On Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong Campus she pursued a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with a concentration in English. In three years, Hayworth completed her work in the program while navigating her husband’s 9-month, overseas deployment and taking on the role as sole parent to their school-age son. 

The accomplishment didn’t come without significant hurdles.

“My husband had been deployed previously, but I was able to stay with my parents during that time,” said Hayworth. “This time, I didn’t really know anyone in Savannah and my classmates were all 20 and 21 years old.”

During that same time, Hayworth also had to manage specialized care for their son, who broke his femur and was in a hip spica cast that immobilized both legs.

However, Hayworth remained optimistic, using her own personal experiences as motivation.

“I was bullied in high school, and that has only fueled my desire to work with students to alleviate that pressure and hardship they experience in schools,” she said. “It is important to teach content and teach it well, but it’s also about building relationships with the students you are working with.”

Hayworth wants to be an advocate for her future students.

“Looking back at my experiences, I was not afforded the basic opportunity of having teachers and administration believe me,” she said. “The issues I dealt with will not happen to my students because they will have me.”

Hayworth noted that her professors were instrumental in helping her reach graduation day, particularly College of Education’s Regina Rahimi, Ed.D., and College of Arts and Humanities’ Jane Rago, Ph.D.

“Dr. Rahimi is so smart and inspiring,” said Hayworth. “She cares about the well-being of others and you can feel that when she teaches. She makes me want to be a better person and teacher.”

Rago challenged her, she said, to forge new analytical skills.

“I will never hear a song or read a passage the same way,” said Hayworth. “She instilled a new sense of critical thinking that I will never forget.”

Hayworth has lined up a job in the fall to begin work at a high school in Muscogee County, Georgia, where her husband is currently stationed as a drill sergeant. Her hope is to earn experience in the classroom and then pursue an online graduate degree in education from Georgia Southern.

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 GeorgiaSouthern.edu.

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