Students accept diplomas

By Kathy Jefcoats

College n it's not just for kids anymore.

Among the fresh-faced early 20-somethings collecting their college degrees during Clayton College and State University's spring commencement Saturday was Carolina Roman. Caught somewhere between rock 'n' roll and a rocking chair, Roman at 30 is a nontraditional student who returned to college in 2000.

The Hampton resident earned her bachelor degree in business administration in management, to the delight of her family.

"I'm happy for her," said daughter Christine Roman, 13. "I hope I do as good as her when I get into college."

Carolina Roman is a station manager for Hertz and said she needs the college education to further her career.

"I wanted to get the opportunity to advance in my company," she said. "And give my children a better future."

Roman is a single mother to Christine and son Kyle Snapp, 6. Although she started college in her younger years, Roman dropped out when she got pregnant with her daughter. Her family always knew she'd return and supported her decision to do so. They were on hand Saturday to watch her achieve her lifelong goal.

"I am very proud of my granddaughter," said Francesca Herrera of Morrow, "because she made a great sacrifice to do this. When she had her baby, she said she'd go back to school and she did."

Clayton College and State University held two ceremonies Saturday, at 9 a.m. and noon. Chick-fil-A founder and chairman S. Truett Cathy gave the commencement address at both, urging graduates to look to the future and make the best of their lives. Each graduate got a signed copy of his autobiography.

Roman is a second-generation college graduate. Her father, Carlos Roman, came up from Miami to watch his daughter walk across the stage and get her degree. He works as a CPA in Florida.

"I never doubted that she'd do it," he said. "She fought for her effort to go back to school, she had to take care of her kids at the same time and I know it wasn't easy."

Carolina said getting back into the groove of books and studying was hard but worth it.

"It was very hard because you have to get back into studying, have to take care of the kids and work too," she said. "It was tough but we made it through. I got a lot of support from my family."

Her aunt, Carolina Schmutzler, videotaped the milestone event, while her cousin, Carolina Collado of Gwinnett tried to figure out how to get the new graduate to take time from her children to celebrate.

"I'm trying to convince her to go out tonight, just the grown-ups, for cocktails or something," said Collado. "But for now, we're going to celebrate at home with the family."

Just as Carlos Roman set the example for his daughter, the new graduate continues that tradition for her own children.

"I'm definitely going to college," said Christine Roman. "Either UGA or Florida but I like Alabama and Auburn too."

Her hard work behind her, Carolina Roman is back to the 9-5 grind this week n but without the added pressure of homework and tests.

"It's back to work as usual for me Monday," she said.