Fulfilling immigrant father’s wish, Ruth Colquitt returns to school after 16 years


Amazing and exhausting. Two words that Ruth Colquitt uses to describe her journey back to school.

16 years after dropping out of school, she realized that she needed a degree in order to gain a steady career in an increasingly competitive environment.

Perhaps, though, her desire started much earlier.

At 12 years old, Ruth’s father brought her to the United States, fleeing a communist country and searching for a better life. Part of that better life was the ability to set personal goals and obtain them through hard work, perseverance and education — regardless of age, gender or race.

To fulfill her father’s wishes and her own hopes and dreams, she went back to school.

“I cannot say that the path to my success has been easy or smooth,” Ruth said. “But what I can say is that it’s been totally worth it.”

Ruth originally started college in 1996 but had to leave due to financial circumstances—she was laid off of work—and family obligations—she was raising two boys.

“I was discouraged and disappointed, but not defeated,” Ruth said.

Today, she doesn’t focus on how long it has taken to get there; instead, she focuses only on the fact that she got there.

During the years in between Ruth’s college career, she worked as a teacher’s assistant at a private school. Though rewarding, she felt “stuck” in her position — unable to apply for more advanced roles or transition to a public school system.

Her sons were much older now — one close to graduating high school and the other about to enroll at a public middle school.

Ruth recognized the opportunity, and she seized it.

In 2007, she enrolled at Georgia Perimeter College, receiving financial assistance through the federal Pell Grant. She was able to transfer earned credits from her initial years in school.

Working a full-time 9am-5pm job, Ruth attended night classes, finding a way to make college work for her. In 2009, she graduated with an associate degree in psychology.

Ruth is very honest about her journey back to school — it wasn’t always easy.

“The second time around was difficult because of technology changes and processes,” she said.

“But, there were more resources available for nontraditional students, which helped me as I returned.”

Soon after leaving GPC, Ruth enrolled at Georgia Gwinnett College to complete her bachelor’s degree. There, she has enjoyed smaller classes, diversity and her professors’ commitment to her education.

“The resources available today for students who are struggling in any or all areas are incredibly beneficial and easily obtained,” Ruth said.

As she nears graduation, she sees a light at the end of the tunnel for her and her family.

“Finally, the future I’ve always wanted for my family is within reach, thanks to the resources in place to help me in completing my college degree.”

Ruth credits her success to her teachers, her faith and her family.

Her mother’s advice resonates most deeply: “Time is going to pass you no matter what you do, so go for it.”

We’re glad she went.