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GGC graduate pays forward her grade school teachers’ inspiration

Selma Kebo graduated from Georgia Gwinnett College with a purposeful intention to make a difference in the lives of elementary school students in Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) – because her GCPS teachers made a difference in her own life.

Selma Kebo in the fourth grade class at Lilburn Elementary School in Lilburn, where she completed her student teaching experience, and where she has been hired to teach.

“I was not the smartest student,” Kebo said. “I was inspired to work hard by how my teachers pushed me and believed in me. I want to be able to share that inspiration with future generations. My decision to become a teacher stems from what my teachers and GGC professors have instilled in me.” Her parents, Nijaz and Nura Kebo wanted their three children to have access to a better life and better opportunities. The family immigrated to the United States from Bosnia and Herzegovina when she was seven years old and settled in Gwinnett County. Throughout her childhood, Kebo attended GCPS schools, for which her parents work as custodians.

After graduating from Archer High School, the Lawrenceville resident enrolled at Georgia Gwinnett College and majored in early childhood education. During her time in college, she worked in child care at Gold’s Gym. She completed her degree in four years, graduated with honors, and was selected to present remarks in today’s commencement ceremony on the GGC campus.

In her remarks, Kebo cited her third- and fourth-grade teacher, Kim Looney of Harbins Elementary School in Dacula, as being particularly influential. Unknown to Kebo, the college made arrangements for Looney to introduce her. “The American Dream is about to stand before you. Selma is a young lady living out what has made our country so strong,” Looney said. She shared memories of Kebo’s early struggle with English, and how determined she was to have full access to learning. “She shows us that perseverance, dedication, hard work and grit are still what it takes to make dreams reality.”

After a brief but emotional reunion with Looney at the podium, Kebo proceeded with her remarks to the crowd of more than 3,000. She shared her family’s story and expressed gratitude to her family, professors and fellow classmates for their support.
Kim Looney greets Selma Kebo after introducing her for her graduation remarks at this spring’s commencement ceremony at Georgia Gwinnett College. Looney was Kebo’s fourth grade teacher at Harbins Elementary School in Dacula. Kebo did not know the college made arrangements for Looney to introduce her.
“I charge you to not let your education stop here,” Kebo said to her graduating class of more than 300. “I charge you to never give up on your passions. I charge you to follow your heart. Finally, I charge you to pride yourself on being a lifelong learner. …Remember these words spoken by Muhammad Ali. ‘If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.’”

Kebo has been hired to teach fourth grade at Lilburn Elementary School, where she received her student-teaching experience. Like about half of GGC’s students, she is the first member of her family to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Georgia Gwinnett College is a four-year, accredited liberal arts college that provides access to targeted baccalaureate level degrees that meet the economic development needs of the growing and diverse population of Gwinnett County and the northeast Atlanta metropolitan region. GGC opened its doors in August 2006 as the nation’s first four-year public college founded in the 21st century, and the first four-year public college founded in Georgia in more than 100 years. Georgia Gwinnett produces contributing citizens and future leaders for Georgia and the nation. Its graduates are inspired to contribute to their local, state, national and international communities and are prepared to anticipate and respond effectively to an uncertain and changing world. Visit Georgia Gwinnett College’s Web site at