Kimberly Dawn, or “Kimmy” as her friends know her, started her journey at Georgia Southern University because it was a place of comfort. A native of Ellabell, Georgia, Dawn grew up only 25 miles from the Statesboro Campus. When her stepmother suddenly passed away during her senior year of high school, Dawn’s decision was final. She would stay close to family and attend the university she always cared for as an almost local.
It was during her first school observations that are required of Georgia Southern’s education students that Dawn met a paraprofessional who inspired her to pursue a dual certification degree in both elementary and special education.
“I watched as she addressed students in the classroom who were struggling with techniques I had never considered,” said Dawn. “Her experience in both general and special education classroom settings gave her different strategies to utilize with all students. That’s when I knew I wanted to have that knowledge and be able to do the same.”
A member of the Chi Omega sorority on campus, Dawn’s college experience was “amazing,” even though her junior year brought a new and difficult challenge. At 21 years old, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system.
“I found a lump in my neck,” she explained. “It didn’t go away, and even the doctor said it was probably nothing. Then everything moved really fast from there.”
After a biopsy on her birthday in February, Dawn was faced with a decision. Treatment would need to begin the Friday before spring break. Should she medically withdraw?
“I kept thinking I was halfway through the semester, and a secretary of an organization, and I don’t like quitting,” said Dawn.
With the support of her community, including her family, sorority, education cohort and professors, Dawn made it through the semester and today, proudly can say she is in remission from cancer. She graduated last week.
“My professors were so flexible and supportive during treatment,” she explained. “In the dual certification program at Georgia Southern, you grow close to your cohort and your professors, as you spend four years with them and grow with them.”
Dawn has accepted an elementary teaching position in Columbus, Georgia, where she will relocate this summer.
“I am very excited to be in my own classroom and shaping the foundation of students’ knowledge,” she said. “I cannot imagine doing anything else.”