A 45-year-old single mother is the Columbus Technical College 2017 Student of the Year.
Columbus Tech instructors chose Melissa Forsythe out of the institution’s approximately 3,000 students as their representative for GOAL, the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership, based on her academic achievement and personal leadership, the college announced Wednesday.
Forsythe had some college credits but never completed her degree. So after losing her job in 2014, she returned to school and now is on track to graduate this spring with an associate degree in dental hygiene.
“I had been out for so long,” Forsythe said in Columbus Tech’s news release, “I didn’t know where to start. It was so overwhelming.”
Encouraged by the guidance she received from a Columbus Tech financial aid counselor, Forsythe realized money wasn’t an obstacle to earning her degree.
“I feel like I’ve waited my whole life to do what I’m doing so I’m making the most of it,” Forsythe said. “I sit in the front of the classroom to pay attention and spend most of my time studying.”
Noting her 22-year-old daughter is enrolled at Columbus State University, Forsythe said, “We may be in the same room at the same time doing homework, but we both have to tune everything else out. We have the exact same study habits.”
Forsythe plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree and start a mobile clinic to bring dental hygiene to folks who have trouble getting to a dentist. She also is interested in giving back by teaching other dental hygiene students.
Regardless, she is hopeful about her future because she decided to rise above her misfortune.
“We all fight battles behind closed doors — including me — but I choose to look forward,” she said. “I don’t let the past define me.”
Forsythe will compete for the regional GOAL title in March. The state winner receives a new car and serves for one year as an ambassador of technical college education in Georgia.