Dynamic duo defeat obstacles, gain rewards

Struggling and surviving is part of every college student’s life. But behind every struggle there is a story and within each story there is inspiration to survive, there is inspiration to move forward without looking back.

Jacqui and De’An Hagan are no strangers to struggle.

For Jacqui Hagan, 45, a native of Shre veport, La. survival meant making it out of a divorce with a positive outlook, raising two children on her own and going to school for 13 years to earn a degree.

“I started out [as an employee] at Florida State. I worked there with Dr. Larry Hazelrigg, [who was] chairperson in the sociology department at the time,” said Jacqui about her beginnings as a student.

“I was the department staff assistant, Dr. Hazelrigg thought I was too bright not to have a club card [a degree], he encouraged me to go back to school,” she said while reminiscing on his kindness.

“He cut off my typewriter and escorted me to the registration office to ensure I signed up.”

Jacqui however decided to continue her education at FAMU because of the environment. She knew she would enjoy being a name and not a number.

“You’re taught by a professor not a T.A., you have professors who are genuinely interested in you as a student, there is that feeling of family,” she said fondly remembering her time at FAMU.

While at FAMU she made an impact on the student body.

“I have had an impact on students,” she said. “Being a non-traditional student, I’ve been a mother away from home … I always take students in.”

Although Jacqui had more weighing on her shoulder than the average student, she continued to work a professional job (which included working with government officials like Gov. Lawton Chiles) while taking two classes a semester to not loose sight of her degree.

She strived to be there for her children whether it was attending her sons basketball games or studying with her daughter. She new that raising her kids came first and let nothing get in the way of that.

“I always understood education was secondary and providing for my children was first,” she said.

Not only did Jacqui, who is active in the community and with her church, Bethel A.M.E, ensure that her children were properly cared for she worked hard to ensure that they had a good education.

This is evident in the success of her daughter De’An 22, a native of Tallahasee, who along with her mother will be graduating with honors with a bachelor’s degree in English on May 3.

At the age of 17, De’An was already a published writer. After writing a poem for a class she ended up winning a contest and the poem fell into the hands of McGregor publishing. De’An later went on to receive a perfect score on the English portion of the FCAT and recieved a presidential scholarship to FAMU.

Joining her mother as an English student De’An, who was the first cheerleading mascot for FAMU, is an active Gamma Sigma Sigma member,president of Alpha Kappa Mui and a presidential ambassador. She successfully fulfilled expectations teachers had for her

“I wish I had many more like them, they fulfill a teachers dream of what a student should be like,” said Frances Stallworth, an associate English professor, about the dynamic duo.

“They are personable, wonderful, individuals … brains run in the family,” she added.

Brains do run in the family. Jacqui’s son Lance has evolved into a mature and respectful young man who is also an honor student.

Lance, 15, a student at Florida State University High School, recently left the school’s basketball team in order to focus on his education. He attributes his dedication to watching the efforts of his mother and sister.

“She [Jacqui] is a hard worker, she did the best she could … she is strong.”

“De’An is smart, she is very intelligent…and down to earth,” Lance said.

Although the Hagan’s have encountered many obstacles, their outlook on life remains positive.

“I’ve always been a self-striver it [obstacles] did help me push farther; obstacles make you stronger they build character, while it’s been hard for me, it’s made things better,” De’An said. “I can relate more with people.”

“You are more human when you have things in your life that test you and keep you humble.”

Kanya Simon can be reached at KanyaSimon@aol.com