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College student paves his own way

Man wins $30,000 scholarship

POSTED: April 27, 2014 1:00 a.m.

A home-schooled kid with a father who dropped out of high school and a mother who dropped out of college doesn’t quite fit the typical profile for a stellar college student.

So when Matthew Tate won the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship — a $30,000 award for tuition, book fees and cost of living for three years when he transfers to Georgia Tech from Georgia Perimeter College for electrical engineering in the fall — it’s safe to wonder where he got it from.

“I grew up thinking I was stupid,” the 22-year-old newlywed said. “I never had college in my sights at all.”

Tate’s parents think school is a waste of time and money, he said. His dad is a network operations manager, and his mom travels the world as a motivational speaker.

“They make good money, so they don’t see the need for attending school,” Tate said.

However, Tate is not hesitant to thank his parents and even attribute his recent success to them, brushing off the fact that they still don’t understand his choice to go to school.

“I would not be doing so well in college now had I not seen then all that hard work they put in,” Tate said.

A modest and deeply religious man, Tate said although he enjoys school, he does not want to be in debt after graduating because the Bible cautions against such misfortune.

Even before he began college, he worked for a company in Social Circle that creates solar-powered innovations for community development projects. When he was 19, his boss pushed him to apply for school. Tate said he didn’t think much of it then, but he took a placement test and “blew it out of the water.”

So he started taking classes.

Tate received no money from his parents to help pay for tuition and books, so he financed his own education. Most of his time at GPC has been as a part-time student because he continues to work for his boss in Social Circle, who personally helped him through his first two semesters. (Tate asked to keep his boss’s name anonymous, so as not to thrust him in an unwanted spotlight.)

“Getting into this, someone once told me, ‘I have a feeling God is going to pay for your school.’ And so far, he has,” Tate said.

Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship and Federal Pell Grant Program have retroactively paid for most of the costs incurred at GPC. But further schooling would not be possible without the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship.

“When I applied, I just knew I would get it,” he said in a humble, self-mocking tone. “Not at all because of some academic greatness,” “but because I had about 30 people praying for me. So I just knew.”

“This was a make-or-break situation for Matthew,” said Salli Vargis, professor of history and honors coordinator at GPC.


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