Persistence Pays Off for Motivated Student
By Tiffany King
"I think of it as our ship has changed from a small sail boat to almost a cruise ship," said Sheri Goss, describing how the College of Coastal Georgia has changed over the years, "because we've become bigger and bigger each year."
Goss, 31, started her academic career at Coastal Georgia in 2008 and will be graduating with a bachelor's degree in general business in December. She was born and raised in Camden County and graduated from Camden County High School in 2006. After high school, she went to cosmetology school, which she completed in 2008 and enrolled in the College that same year.
"I've seen this campus transition from being two years to a full four-year college. It has been an adventure seeing everything unfold," she said. "The culture across campus has changed, but it's all Mariner pride. It has expanded from a small sail to a big sail now."
When first deciding on her major, Goss wanted to pursue a career in the salon industry. But when she started working as a middle school substitute teacher in Camden, her aspirations changed. Goss has seen firsthand some of the areas where young students need help, and it has given her insight into how she can provide support.
"I think I want a business that caters to mentoring young people who are challenged in figuring out what they want to do in their life," she said. "It would be for middle and high school students before they transition into college. I would help them get focused on what they want as a future career, and we would visit college campuses to learn about available opportunities, so they don't waste time trying to decide."
Helping Others Find Redemption
Her drive to motivate others towards success in life can also be seen through her work with the D.E.M.P. Project, a non-profit faith-based organization in Jacksonville, Florida, that helps women who are victims of human trafficking and other sex-for-sale businesses. D.E.M.P stands for David, Esther, Moses, and Peter, four people who had redemption stories in the Bible, Goss said.
"We help them escape and the ones who don't want to or are not being sex trafficked but are in the adult entertainment industry, we do ministry with them. We help them connect with resources outside of places like strip clubs to help them build a stronger foundation for their family," she said. The organization helps women further their education and have a meaningful career.
Goss has worked with D.E.M.P. for a year and a half. She started as a volunteer and now interns as an executive administrative assistant. Her duties include completing background checks; registering concealed weapons and firearms; keeping bylaws in compliance with state and federal regulations; administration duties for the men's group, called Champions; building relationships with partnering organizations; and much more.
"I chose D.E.M.P. for my internship because I wanted to do more than just volunteer. Before, I was volunteering for service hours, but then I decided to do more and take on more responsibility," Goss said. "I'm already going to school for administration and I'm learning things here [at the College] that may help. I was able to use my new knowledge to meet their need for help in administration."
D.E.M.P. partners with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to work with women involved in sex trafficking. Volunteers go into strip clubs to meet with the women who work there. With a security detail outside and in the club, volunteers go into the dressing rooms to pray with the dancers, share inspirational messages, and provide other resources. D.E.M.P. hosts Bible studies during the week for children, women, and men, and is starting to partner with colleges and high schools to spread awareness about their organization.
"We're helping them walk out their redemption," Goss said. "Most of them are victims of sex trafficking and need help getting out of it. Sometimes they are showing signs that they're pulling away from that life. When we see that, we attach to them more because we want them to know that we're there. It's a humbling experience to go into the clubs and do ministry with the girls. Ultimately you don't ever look down on someone because that could be you one day."
Staying Balanced, Staying Connected
After graduation, Goss will continue to work with D.E.M.P. She's been pursuing different job opportunities, but said she would love to work for her alma mater. Goss loved her experience at the College, especially seeing the institution's growth.
During her time at the College, she served as secretary for the Business Students Society (BSS) and helped coordinate the first and only gala for the School of Business and Public Management. She was a member of the Student Government Association, participated in Mariner Leadership Academy, and was part of a gospel choir at the College. Her favorite moments include leadership trips with BSS to Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island for team building exercises, cheering on the athletes at games, attending the balls hosted by the College at the King and Prince Resort for the entire student body, and attending cultural events on campus.
"I just like being on campus period," she said.
Goss knows firsthand how difficult it can be to juggle the responsibilities of school, work, and family. She is the proud mother of two children. She chose to take a break from her studies when she first became a mom so she could spend more time at home. But she never lost sight of her goal: earning a degree from Coastal Georgia. Her advice to other students trying to balance school, children, and work is to take things one day at a time.
"There's always something coming up, but try to manage what you can handle in that moment," Goss said. "Take it one step at a time, one moment at a time, and you'll eventually conquer the day."
Goss also advises students who do have to take a break from their studies to stay in contact with their advisor or an employee of the College.
"If you want to finish your degree but you're getting really doubtful, they can push you and encourage you. Dr. T. David Reese [assistant professor of finance and economics] always made sure that I knew there was a place for me at the College even when I wasn't enrolled. He would say 'Sheri, you should come back. You should finish at Coastal,'" she said. He was right and now Goss will soon cross the stage with her degree.
"You have family here," Goss said "and we're always family no matter what."