Shaunda Shaw & Shineil Taylor
Brianna Ebony Simpson
When Hamilton Cunningham was in high school, he was more interested in playing the trumpet than studying. So, he dropped out of high school.
Cunningham earned his GED through a program for at-risk youth. He then joined the U.S. Air Force and worked as an aircraft weapons loader for two years.
He left the military to continue his education at Georgia Perimeter College. Cunningham chose GPC because he wanted to improve his high school record and it was affordable.
The music major's first college course was Algebra. It was his first math class in years. He felt so lost in the class that he begged for a D, but his GPC professor told him to aim for an A. With his professor’s support, extra tutoring and a lot of hard work, Cunningham got a B in Algebra.
That was the beginning of his success at GPC. Cunningham won the Outstanding Freshman Music Student award and the Lewis Belcher Jr. Leadership Award. He was active in the Leadership Academy and began volunteering for Refugee Family Services, in Stone Mountain, GA.
Cunningham credits the support he received at GPC for changing his life. “The GPC faculty believed in me more than I did when I first got there,” he said.
Cunningham became the fifth GPC student to be awarded the prominent Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The $90,000 award helps high-achieving community college students continue their studies at a four year college or university. Cunningham pursued a bachelor’s degree in economics at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
He is also a prestigious national Truman Scholar. This award provides up to $30,000 toward graduate school for students committed to working in public service. Cunningham hopes to combine music and economics to help struggling non-profit organizations.