She’s gotta have the wrong person, thought Nadia Garmon, ’10, confused. I didn’t apply for anything.
Garmon was on the phone with Geovanny Ragsdale, director of Development at Southern Adventist University. Ragsdale explained to the then-senior liberal arts education major that she was the recipient of a scholarship for single mothers. The Chattanooga chapter of Executive Women International (EWI) funded the $2,000 scholarship, adding to the more than $150,000 it has given to single mothers locally.
“Can you come to their benefactors dinner?” asked Ragsdale.
Garmon had never heard of EWI, or applied for any scholarships.
“Sure,” she said, still confused.
Garmon was asked to speak at the dinner, held at DoubleTree Hotel in Chattanooga, December 14, 2010. As she shared the story of her journey to Southern and the struggles and triumphs along the way, Garmon felt surreal.
“Even during the dinner, I kept thinking, They have the wrong girl,” recalls Garmon. “I was grateful to be among women who worked so hard to be where they are and share their success and accomplishments.”
Executive Women International is a network of professional women that empowers its members to further their careers and give back to the community.
The money came at just the right time for Garmon, who was used to figuring out how to pay tuition one semester at a time. Her final semester at Southern—when she received the scholarship—she was student teaching.
“It was nice not having to worry about my finances too much that semester,” recalls Garmon. “It felt like a big part of my stress was taken off and it helped me concentrate on my student teaching.”
In the past, Garmon’s financial setbacks turned into academic setbacks. She didn’t make good grades in high school because she had to work an almost full-time job, leaving her barely any time to study. Five years after graduating, she applied for college with little chance of getting in. Unable to pay for her transcripts, Garmon gave up.
That’s when Marc Grundy, vice president of Enrollment Services at Southern Adventist University, wrote a personal check for $150 to cover her application costs.
Garmon was accepted to Southern on academic probation. With hard work and lots of help from faculty and classmates, she learned to become a better student and educator.
“To say the word ‘supportive’ doesn’t begin to describe all they were for me,” says Garmon. “They pushed me to be a better student, professional, and mom.”
Garmon says her daughter, 8-year-old Jaleigh, benefitted from spending time on a Christian campus.
“She was surrounded with strong, spiritual women that were there for her when I was doing homework or papers,” says Garmon. “Jaleigh saw time and time again how God pulled me through classes and tough situations.”
Garmon is now teaching at Five Oaks Adventist Christian School in Durham, North Carolina, where she hopes to instill the spirit of service in her students.
“The women of EWI believe in reaching out and providing opportunities to women who need it, and I definitely hope to pass that gift on to others,” says Garmon. “I became an educator to positively impact and hopefully inspire future leaders. Even if I only reach one student, that’s one more person who believes in himself.”