March 1, 2024

From High School Dropout to Student Organization Leader

Author: Online Learning Tips Staff Writer
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Start a degree program at American Military University.

By Jennifer Souza and Shun McGhee
Student Affairs Liaisons, APUS

AMU student Gabriel Hamilton knows the value of an education. But the path to his college degree was far from easy.

In high school, Gabriel felt that his classes didn’t offer many challenges to interest him. His mother worked two jobs, which took away some of the time she could spend with her family and supervise him.

Gabriel often skipped class and later learned from a guidance counselor that he needed to attend summer school to meet the minimum requirements to graduate. The counselor also told Gabriel about a program called “Urban League,” which would allow him to take night classes, get the education he needed to complete his high school education on time, and receive his diploma.

Gabriel decided to drop out of high school and finish his high school education at Urban League. It was a fortunate decision that would later lead him to military service.

Entering the Army

One day, Gabriel and some friends walked into the Urban League building to see Army recruiter SFC Raymond Gadson talking with Urban League’s receptionist. Gadson was there to find recruits who were close to finishing their high school degree and the receptionist pointed out Gabriel as a possible choice.

After a conversation with Gadson, Gabriel went to Gadson’s office, was interviewed and signed a delayed entry contract to join the U.S. Army on July 27, 2000. He finished his graduation requirements and later began working for the Army on May 25, 2001 as a Unit Supply Specialist.

Starting a College Education during Active Duty

Starting in 2005, Gabriel took some college courses through a different university. However, he experienced frustration in continuing his education due to a family death and difficulty accessing the classroom while deployed.

In 2012, the lack of a college degree was holding him back professionally. He later heard about AMU from one of his peers, who emphasized how friendly the school was to servicemembers.

After earning his associate’s degree in General Studies from AMU in 2013, Gabriel moved on to a bachelor’s in transportation and logistics management in 2018.

He initially chose a degree plan that directly aligned with his military career field, which is logistics. Gabriel says, “That degree was most comfortable for me because I had over 12 years of experience in the field. Later, I learned that the chosen degree plan was in great demand and had earning potential in the civilian sector.”

Gabriel continues to serve as a Unit Supply Specialist today. He is currently at the Headquarters Department of the Army G4 Property Accountability Division as the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge. He and his team develop policies that provide guidance for commanders across the Army.

His job involves ensuring that policies that are created meet the Department of Defense’s guidance and do not hinder the commanders’ ability to perform their wartime missions. Additionally, these policies are carefully written to not go against any national, state or local laws, which can pose a problem when training is involved.

Through his Army training, Gabriel gained a lot of experience in transportation and logistics management. He also asked a lot of questions and volunteered for work that gave him more knowledge in the field.

Currently, Gabriel is working on a master’s in transportation and logistics management with a concentration in reverse logistics. For people seeking a career in logistics, Gabriel advises, “Always seek to understand the ‘why’ in every situation. Once the why is understood, cross-level policy can be developed to determine the ‘how’ and executed to the best of your abilities.”

Gabriel adds, “Aside from the family aspect of things, I would have to say my greatest accomplishment to date has been being selected for promotion to Master Sergeant (E-8) in the Army and earning a bachelor’s degree in transportation in logistics management after technically being a high school dropout.”

Becoming a Leader in Student Organizations

At AMU, Gabriel has dedicated his energy to the university community and to student organizations. He has been an integral part in helping student organizations grow, adding to the overall membership experience.

In addition, Gabriel has filled many roles within various student organizations. For example, he currently serves as the president for the Mu Zeta Chapter of the Delta Mu Delta Honor Society for Business, Management and Administration, Vice President for the African-American Learning Inclusion and Guidance Network (AALIGN) and as secretary for the Ancient Order of the Craft.

AALIGN strives to discover and respond to the academic, professional, cultural, and social needs of African-American students and alumni. Under Gabriel’s leadership, AALIGN supports a speaker’s series called “Get Up, Stand Up!”, where social activists are invited to virtually share how they use social media to support their activism.

Keeping Student Organization Members Active and Informed

Gabriel is instrumental in keeping the members of his various student organizations informed through newsletters, welcoming members to the groups’ Facebook pages, creating webinars and much more. Aside from his current leadership roles, he remains an active member of the Golden Key International Honour Society and the Student Veterans of America.

“If any person seeks to join a university club or organization, I recommend that they just do it!” Gabriel advises. “Being a part of any organization can be very rewarding if a person simply becomes involved. Many organizations stagnate because members graduate or members are hesitant to become involved. Your involvement could be that change agent or the person to take the organization to the next level.”

Members of AALIGN are also hosting a Black History Lunch and Learn and giving a presentation on Muhammad Ali, the National Action Network and the history of Black History Month. These are just some of the projects the group will be undertaking in 2019. Because the work is abundant, new members are always welcome and they can join AALIGN by submitting a membership application today!

About the Authors

Jennifer Souza has been with American Public University System (APUS) since 2008 and joined the Office of Student and Alumni Affairs in 2012.

The Office of Student and Alumni Affairs supports programs and services intended to increase APUS community engagement and retention. Jennifer works closely with the student organization management, primarily focusing on the professional and honor society aspect of these organizations. She works to build relationships with students, alumni, and university leaders to oversee these co-curricular programs and coordinated services, provide onboarding and training to new leadership, maintain virtual communities and to coordinate the establishment of new student organizations at the university.

Jennifer is also a Chapter Advisor to the Alpha Eta Phi Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi at APUS and was a key contributor to the establishment and overall success of this organization.

Jennifer received her bachelor’s in English Education from Virginia State University in 2006 and her master of education in school counseling from American Public University System in 2011.

Shun McGhee is a graduate of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. Shun has nearly 15 years serving as an education professional. First, he was an English and history teacher for 9th, 11th and 12th grade high school students. In 2008, Shun began his tenure as a student advisor, career coach and student affairs alumni liaison at American Public University System.

Shun’s favorite part of working in education is assisting students to achieve and exceed their goals. He believes education is his life’s purpose and is passionately committed to it.

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