In August 2012, 16-year-old Allison Higgins stepped foot into Clayton State University full of dreams and determination. Today, having achieved everything she set out to and more, the now 21-year-old is preparing to step across stage on December 9 and begin her career in the tech industry.
"I thoroughly enjoyed my time here, " she says. "I'm happy that the school, itself, has just really embraced me and helped mold me."
When Allison first arrived at Clayton State, she had not yet developed her passion for computers. It wasn't until she participated in the 2013 International Hour of Code that she formed a strong interest in computer science.
"I really liked the problem-solving aspect," she says. "I actually stayed up all night—eight hours—just trying to figure out one part I couldn't get."
After the experience, Higgins was eager to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science and Clayton State was there to help her every step of the way.
"I talked to Dr. Jarrett Terry, he was the advisor for STEM at that time," she says. "We decided what all I needed to do and essentially prepared me to march into fall semester ready to hit the ground running."
Higgins's experience at Clayton State has provided her with many opportunities to explore her career interests.
She has volunteered with Black Girls Code and Women Who Code Atlanta in an effort to increase the number of minorities and women in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM).
Higgins has also been an active member and leader of several student organizations including Women in Science Technology and Math (Wi2STEM); Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., Rho Lambda Chapter; and Partnering Academic and Community Engagement (PACE).
Most recently, she completed a software engineering internship for Cisco Systems Inc. in San Jose, California. She made such an impression with the company that she will be starting her career as a software engineer at their headquarters in January 2018.
"I'll be working with the people that make the applications that Cisco engineers use in the field," she says.
For Higgins, her success not only impacts her but also the students she mentors, especially minority youth.
"I believe representation is very key," she says. "That when our kids in our communities see people that look like them, that come from where they're from and make it. They learn that they too can make it."