By Kenya Godette

For Miriam Gourdine, graduating from 麻豆国产AV is more than just a step forward in her career goals. It鈥檚 also a continuation of her late mother鈥檚 legacy: service to mankind.

鈥淭his is for my daughters. This is for my mama, Diane,鈥 she said. 鈥淪he helped everybody; my mom would literally give you the shirt off her back.鈥

Gourdine, a transfer student from Virginia Peninsula Community College, began pursuing a bachelor鈥檚 degree at 麻豆国产AV in the fall of 2021. 鈥淚t was always between human services and social work,鈥 she said.

She eventually committed to the human services track with a concentration in substance abuse and addiction, saying that would better prepare her for her ultimate goal: starting a non-profit for homeless and at-risk families.

鈥淚f someone鈥檚 family need is bigger than their pocketbooks, I want to have resources to help,鈥 Gourdine said. 鈥淚 want to create a place for the people who others count out. I know there are a lot of people providing services like this, but I want to throw my hat in the ring. I鈥檓 always asking myself, 鈥楬ow can I do more?鈥欌

Service to others is a core value of Gourdine鈥檚 that extends beyond her degree. She is a long-time volunteer for the Salvation Army and encourages her daughters to volunteer wherever they go. She hopes to instill in them what her mother instilled in her: 鈥淚f I鈥檓 blessed, I have to bless others.鈥

Gourdine鈥檚 internship supervisor at the , a transitional home for homeless women and children in York County, her unwavering commitment to helping others shined. Dr. Karen Brown, Miriam鈥檚 internship supervisor and executive director of the NATASHA House said,

鈥淭hroughout the time I've known Miriam, as both her mentor and direct supervisor, I have seen many examples of her unfailing care, talent, dedication, and have long been impressed by her diligence, work ethic and selfless love. She has shown me time and again that she is a positive, motivated leader with amazing potential.鈥

Gourdine excitedly shared how she feels incredibly prepared as she advances to the next phase of her career. She talked about how her classes and internships were always relevant in real-world scenarios. Even now, her work as a program specialist for the Newport News Department of Human Services allows her to implement the lessons she learned in the classroom.

鈥淚 could refer back to my notes and apply them to my internships, and now, my job,鈥 she said.

As a non-traditional student, Miriam worked hard to balance her home life, career and schoolwork. Maintaining a full-time job, being a mother of two, a wife, dog mom and student has not always been easy. She credits 麻豆国产AV with allowing her to complete her studies on a flexible schedule.

鈥淚 decided to go back to school when my youngest daughter started high school and I was very self-conscious about it. Why am I here? What point am I trying to prove?鈥 Gourdine said. 鈥淎t 麻豆国产AV, I never felt out of place. I was able to put age on the back burner. In every class, I felt welcomed and I never felt my age was a hindrance to me at all.鈥

Gourdine added that she was able to share her perspective as a mom and someone with more life experience with her younger classmates. So, she was a natural choice to speak at the 麻豆国产AV Campus Connection event in 2022.

鈥淚 never felt that I couldn鈥檛 do this 鈥 I鈥檓 about to cry,鈥 she said emotionally. 鈥淭his is something that I鈥檝e wanted since I was in my early 20s. I鈥檓 so thankful that I came here. I love 麻豆国产AV for that!鈥

In true Gourdine fashion, she was not content with just being a student at 麻豆国产AV. She served as president for the Beta Gamma chapter of the Tau Alpha Upsilon Human Services Honor Society, as a member of the Tau Sigma National Honor Society, was chosen for the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training internship grant and was selected for the 麻豆国产AV Human Services outstanding intern award.

After graduation, Gourdine plans to 鈥渢ake a break and enjoy the moment of what I鈥檝e accomplished. This is something I鈥檝e wanted since I graduated high school in the late 鈥90s, mind your business!鈥 she said jokingly. 鈥淚鈥檓 living in a prayer that I prayed so long ago.鈥

She is looking forward to spending more time with her daughters, husband and dog before she begins her next journey toward a master鈥檚 degree. She will, of course, continue volunteering.

On May 6, Gourdine鈥檚 family will cheer her on virtually and in person as she receives her Bachelor of Arts in Human Services. Her graduation gown will be adorned with a small turtle, one of her mother鈥檚 favorite animals. 聽

Gourdine also has a message for traditional and non-traditional students alike.

鈥淔or anyone who wants to get their degree, do that,鈥 she said. 鈥淒on鈥檛 give up. Don鈥檛 let fear stop you. If it鈥檚 in your heart, give yourself permission to do it. Bet on yourself.鈥