Student’s Success Defies All Odds

kasey hayes on left and amanda floyd on right in their graduation regalia
(l-r) First-ever EAGLE Academy graduate Kasey Hayes stands with her student mentor Amanda Floyd at Georgia Southern’s Spring 2019 Commencement

Georgia Southern University’s Spring 2019 Commencement carried greater significance for Kasey Hayes. She became the first student to complete the University’s EAGLE Academy program and participate in the ceremony alongside Eagle Nation graduates.

“I was very emotional at graduation,” said Hayes. “I was picked on in high school and middle school. People would put me down. They told me I wouldn’t be able to make it in college or that I wouldn’t even be able to go to college.”

With the help of EAGLE Academy, an inclusive post-secondary education program offering Equal Access to Gainful Learning and Employment (EAGLE) to students with mild intellectual disabilities, Hayes was able to prove them wrong. She was one of the first students to enroll in the program when it began in fall 2017. Hayes says she worked harder in her college classes than she has ever worked before.

“I don’t think I would be the person I am now if I had not gone to Georgia Southern,” she said. “EAGLE Academy has made me a more sociable person. They taught me about finances and helped me learn how to be independent and responsible.”