This May, Drew Keim will be the first person in his family to graduate from college – a feat he's managed to accomplish while simultaneously raising his three-year-old daughter.
With two part-time jobs and a full course load, Keim quickly learned how to balance his busy academic life with his responsibilities at home.
"I came up here, and the moment I walked on campus, I had a two-week-old," said Keim, who is preparing to graduate from the University of Georgia College of Education with a dual degree in Spanish and world language education. "People always worried that having a kid was going to stop me, but no – it drove me to do better."
Originally from Franklin, Ga., Keim already has a job waiting for him after graduation as a Spanish teacher at Carrollton High School. He developed a passion for Spanish as a high school student and said it was hard not to fall in love with the language.
"For me, I grew up in a place that was very rural, and I was like, 'is this what the entire world's like?'" he said. "Spanish gave me a glimpse into a different culture, so I held on… I held on real tight."
As both a drama team leader and a regular volunteer at Sunday school, it made sense for Keim to combine his love for Spanish with his passion for helping children. He recently completed his student teaching at Malcolm Bridge Middle School in Oconee County, and has learned a lot about how to help students accomplish their goals at a young age.
As a college student, Keim has held two separate jobs, one as a desk assistant at Russell Hall and another as a compliance officer at a background screening company.
While he said he is naturally stubborn and determined, Keim is also committed to paying for his daughter's day care and gymnastics practice.
"When my daughter was done with diapers, I was like 'thank god!'" said Keim. "But then when she started day care, I was like 'oh god,' because day care is almost as expensive as rent."
During his time at UGA, Keim was awarded five scholarships from the College of Education, which gave him the opportunity to leave both of his part-time jobs and focus on schoolwork. With less financial stress, he could spend more of his free time with his wife and daughter.
Together, they have visited several attractions in Athens, including the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, the Georgia Museum of Art and Bear Hollow Zoo.
"I grew up very poor, so I didn't get to do all of these fun things, and I knew I wanted to change that for my daughter," he said. "For her to see those animals, I know I'm doing okay."
As a student ambassador for the College of Education, Keim has had the opportunity to enhance the College's presence both on and off campus.
"It's been such a surreal, amazing experience to actually serve the college that has done so much for me," said Keim. "It felt amazing to actually come and serve others that maybe didn't know much about the College of Education."
With a family to support, Keim is eager to start his new job in July. But before he makes his way back home, he will attend his graduation with 14 of his family and friends cheering him on.
"There are some people who don't really care about graduation, and that's fine," he said. "But for me, I'm the first person in my family to go to college, so I'm excited."
In the future, Keim is interested in pursuing an advanced degree and ultimately wants to be a school principal. He has already been accepted into the College of Education's M.Ed. program for educational administration and policy, but wants to avoid spreading himself too thin.
"I want to be able to commit myself to the classroom," he said. "Honestly, it's for the best. You never know what's going to happen, so I'm just keeping my options open."