Mom juggles job, night school to be Dillard valedictorian

Nadia James graduated Saturday from the New Orleans-based historically Black college.

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A single mom who worked a full-time job while studying nights and weekends and raising her daughter is one of four students at Dillard University to be named valedictorian.

The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate reported that Nadia James earned a 4.0 GPA and a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice. She graduated Saturday from the New Orleans-based historically Black college.

“There were nights when I’d be up until 3 a.m. trying to get assignments done and still have to get up the next morning to get baby girl ready and still have to get ready for work,” James told the newspaper in an interview ahead of the graduation ceremony.

James was born and raised in New Orleans and during childhood often moved between relatives as her mother struggled with addiction. After her daughter was born she worked various jobs such as Family Dollar to care for her but when her daughter was five James decided she wanted to give her a different example and so she went to college.

She worked at the financial aid office at Nunez Community College in Chalmette while getting her associate degree and then started working there fulltime in 2019 after she got her degree. Then Dillard’s evening and weekend studies allowed her to continue her education while raising her daughter and working fulltime.

James told the newspaper about how she would get up before dawn in the room she shared with her daughter at her grandmother’s house in Chalmette to get her daughter ready for school and herself to work. She studied through her lunch break and slow times at work and then attended evening classes before going home to feed her daughter and do more school work.

She credits mentors like one of her professors, Brandon Hammann, with pulling her through difficult times such as when her father died last year. And when James discovered she was one of four valedictorians her daughter jumped with joy.

The other valedictorians are Chad Fuselier, Brinisha Hamilton and Iman Wells.

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