After enjoying such a great experience earning his BA in human services from Saint Leo University's Gwinnett, GA Education Center, Navy vet Antoine Wilson says it was a "no-brainer" to also attain a graduate degree there.
Now 31, the Navy veteran was born in Loraine, Ohio, raised in San Diego and presently resides in Atlanta with his two-year-old daughter, L, , who is affectionately known as "El Boogie." He has a part-time job as a front desk associate at a local gym.
How It Was Anchors Away for Him
Wilson was in the Navy for over four years and worked as a chaplain assistant. He was stationed in Jacksonville, Fla. and – fittingly – Jacksonville, N.C.
"I went through lots of personal growth in the Navy," he confides. "You learn about so many things you can accomplish, and it helps you break down certain mental barriers. It teaches you how to push yourself. I'd say enlisting was the best decision I've made in my 31 years."
He was also deployed to Afghanistan for a year and spent time at Camp Leatherneck when not on the move.
"Seeing everything over there was such a great experience for me," he recalls. "We traveled through all the southern provinces and hit all the small bases. We basically went wherever a helicopter could take us. Our chaplain would do the services for our troops."
In addition, his team visited medical facilities and brought care packages to troops in need of some comfort and prayer.
Following his Navy service, he spent two years working as a health benefits advisor at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"Working at the VA gave me the opportunity to see how healthcare is run from a business standpoint and how certain decisions are made," he explains. "I learned that there is a gap between the 'older' generation of veterans and the ones coming back to civilian life these days. They go through different things. I think I can help bridge that gap because I know what both generations are going through. I think our younger generation needs more of a voice at the table."
Embarking on a Pair of Saint Leo Degrees
Wilson already proudly owns a bachelor's degree in human services from Saint Leo. He is currently working on an MBA with a focus on healthcare management. He says has truly enjoyed his experience attending the university's Gwinnett Education Center.
"It's a great environment there," he says. "It's small and feels very personal. The professors are amazing and will totally work with you because they want you to succeed. The same can be said for the academic advisors."
He adds that being around such a diverse group of students is very motivating.
"We have people from all walks of life there, from young people just out of high school to those with full-time jobs. Everyone is there for the same ultimate goal."
Robin Rudd, an English faculty member who taught him academic writing, really stood out in his eyes.
"She was incredible. The dedication and passion for what she did came through in her teaching. It was always a pleasure to come to class."
He also was positively impacted by a class that covered building a multicultural society.
"It was a great class," he recalls. "The material was interesting and engaging. We had some wonderful discussions in that class."
Thanks to his excellent academic performance, Wilson was inducted into Phi Gamma Mu, an honor society for students with a 3.5 GPA or higher. He received a certificate, a pin and a lanyard to wear at commencement.
"I thought it was really nice that the president of the university came to our induction ceremony," he says.
In terms of career goals, he aspires to work in management in a hospital setting.
Advice for Prospective College Students
He has some recommendations for both adult learners and traditional-age college students.
"For older individuals with families and kids, you have to dig deep and put in a lot of dedication and commitment," he suggests. "It's all about keeping the end goal at the forefront and knowing deep down why you're going back to school and why you want to make a difference in the world. For someone young just coming out of high school, you should keep your mind open to learning as much as you can. You may use a lot of what you learn throughout the rest of your life, even if you don't think so at the time. Knowledge is power."
Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Antoine Wilson and is used with permission.