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Released Februrary 4, 2004

By Chris Rolley

LONG BEACH -- Dealing with life's little surprises, Michelle Fleming is like many other college students who have experienced hiccups, but find ways to reach their goals.

That's why she has started a scholarship for people just like her. Fleming, an administrative assistant at The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, has created an annual $900 scholarship she calls GOALS, which stands for Go Over and Above Life's Surprises.

"My purpose for starting this scholarship is to help students who are working to reach their goals," said Fleming. "Being a single parent, coupled with my experience working in financial aid, proved that all types of students struggle to get through school. I have been blessed with many gifts and feel that God would want me to help others."

Fleming, a single mom at age 18, planned to join the Air Force but instead accepted sole responsibility for raising her daughter, Jolene. Fleming said she and her daughter grew up together and made the best of the situation. They lived paycheck to paycheck but still made it. Her work history before joining Southern Miss Gulf Coast included the fast food industry, factory work and clerical duties.

Fleming started working at Southern Miss Gulf Coast in September 1995 as a part-time financial aid clerk. The following August she was transferred to full-time and remained in Financial Aid until August 1999. At that time she went to work for the nursing program as an administrative assistant. In January 2000, she moved into the academic adviser position there. She remained in that position until September 2002, when she decided to go to school full time. During that time, she transferred to the Admissions and Records Office and worked part time. When the administrative assistant position opened in nursing, she decided to go back to a much quieter environment to work and finish her degree.

She started taking classes at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) in January 1996. She had been out of school for 15 years and decided to begin slowly, one class at a time. The first year she spent relearning how to be a student and sharpening her math skills. After the first year, she started taking six credit hours each semester. More than that wasn't an option for her because she had a teenage daughter who was involved in sports - primarily swimming.

Her determination paid off. In May 2001, she graduated with an associate's degree from MGCCC. She is scheduled to graduate this May with a bachelor of science in business administration (BSBA) with an emphasis in management information systems (MIS) from Southern Miss Gulf Coast.

"It has taken me eight years, but my persistence has paid off," said Fleming.

The first GOALS scholarship will be awarded next fall for the 2004-05 year, which will be in the amount of $600. Thereafter, the scholarship will be $900 annually.

GOALS will be given to a Southern Miss Gulf Coast junior or senior, enrolled in six or more semester hours to pursue a business degree (MIS preferred, with management as the alternative). Consideration will be given to well-rounded students with a 2.5 or higher grade point average rather than those who are eligible for financial aid or academic awards.

For more information about this scholarship and other donor/scholarship opportunities, contact the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Development Office at (228) 865-4522.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM