A Rumination on Graduation

By Beth Waller February 3, 2022

I recently read a book about the writing of a book, specifically the Oxford English Dictionary. I am now acutely and somewhat annoyingly aware that every word has a rich history and is constantly evolving. Take the word “graduate” for example. This is a common word that most of us have used in conversation. Did you know that graduate is derived from medieval Latin, was first used in the 15th century and is a noun, an adjective and two types of verbs? 

I have a favorite verb definition for graduate: to pass from one stage of experience, proficiency or prestige to a usually higher one. I love this description because it is universally achievable by all people regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, class or location in the world. It simply reflects positive change.

I am ruminating on graduate because someone special in my life has this aspiration for positive change. I am a mentor volunteer for the Single Mothers Program (SMP) run by the Georgia chapter of Women in Technology (WIT). The overall goal of the SMP is to educate single mothers living in poverty in Cybersecurity and Information Security. This WIT program is a win-win. Single mothers looking to improve the quality of their lives and the lives of their children are given experience and proficiency in one of the fastest growing fields in technology with a large workforce gap and shortage of talent.

My mentee (MM) has overcome great odds. MM grew up in the foster care system in the Midwest and moved her family to Atlanta looking for a fresh start and greater opportunity. She has a disrupted technical education and work history as she prioritized the health, welfare and education of her child. But MM never stopped dreaming of better for herself and her family, so she took a chance, applied and was accepted to the Fall 2021 WIT SMP.

The SMP program is made possible by the dedicated women at WIT along with generous corporate and private donations. The program provides so many benefits free of charge for all single moms selected:

  • Cybersecurity and Information Security Certificate from Emory University Continuing Education
  • New laptop, monitor and mouse for the participants to keep
  • Transportation and childcare
  • Professional development and career planning
  • Free lunches on class days
  • Job placement services
  • Mentorship

As a mentor to MM, I serve as a role model and advocate as she progresses through the education and professional plan. It is supposed to be a mutually beneficial and rewarding experience for both the mentor and mentee, and it is! But it is so much more. I find it hard to express what it is like to see dreams, talent and opportunity come together in such an inclusive and supportive way as it does through WIT SMP. I can’t wait to watch MM graduate this weekend as we have graduated to friends.