Inspired by tragic loss, Warner Robins woman graduates from Middle Georgia State with honors

alopez@macon.comMay 8, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Sylvia Moore will talk about her son -- who was killed in 2003 at the age of 19 -- during her commencement speech next week as Middle Georgia State College’s 2014 President’s Scholar.

Jacob Hardy attended classes at Macon State College, which would later become Middle Georgia State, before he died and had encouraged his mother to follow him in seeking a business and information technology degree.

Now Moore is graduating with the degree her son was cut short from completing, and she will be recognized for excelling as a student.

The President’s Scholar award is the highest given to a graduating senior and is based on academics and extracurricular activities. Moore, 52, is a non-traditional student and has been working since 2007 to earn her bachelor’s degree. She maintained a 3.8 grade point average and also donated her time to several nonprofit organizations, including Habitat for Humanity and Donate Life.

“She is an incredibly positive person who is a real role model for what a person can accomplish with determination and hard work,” said Shane Trayers, one of the professors who worked with Moore on her speech.

The average age for the more than 1,300 Middle Georgia State graduates this spring is 28, but Moore is one of 49 graduates above the age of 50.

“I enjoyed it,” Moore said of her time as a student. “It dawns on you very quickly that you are becoming a better person. You’re becoming smart, wiser, fuller.”

Moore said she applied her life experience -- she has worked as a paralegal and owned title research and real estate companies -- to her assignments. Her favorite college classes covered information technology and business management.

“I wish I could go back to that first company that I opened and those first employees that I had and have what I have now in my head,” she said. “I would have done things differently.”

In 2008, Moore got out of the real estate business to focus on obtaining her bachelor’s degree. Doing so required her move into a smaller home and live on a tight budget, she said.

Balancing a full-time job, classes and family, she returned to real estate three years later. In her commencement speech, Moore will talk about driving thousands of miles over the course of several years for classes on three campuses and about studying biology terms during red lights, participating in her online geology class from her dining room table, working on a business contract from a campus bathroom and sacrificing spending time with her family.

Besides working 70 hours per week and studying for classes, she also kept up with her responsibilities as a mother, said her second youngest son, Isaac Hardy, 26.

“How she does it I don’t know,” he said. “It’s like supermom or something.”

In the early days, Moore sometimes took her youngest son, Daniel Moore, to some of her classes, so she could attend them without leaving him home alone. Daniel is now 18, and in the fall he will officially enroll in Middle Georgia State after graduating from Houston County High School.

Sometimes, Moore said, she ran into friends of Jacob, who died after a random act of violence at a gas station in Warner Robins.

“There wasn’t a semester that went by where someone didn’t say, ‘Are you Jacob Hardy’s mom?’ ” she said. “That was pretty cool because there was always that little presence.”

Isaac, who was 16 at the time of Jacob’s death, said his brother having a positive attitude toward college influenced his mother’s and his own decision to pursue higher education.

“Her going to school wasn’t just something for herself,” he said.

Along with excelling as a student, Moore also is active in several nonprofit organizations. Through her work with Donate Life, she has advocated for organ donation, and earlier this week she worked with Habitat for Humanity to start construction on a house for a family in need. She also teaches real estate classes and would like to continue learning, so she can be certified for more students.

She said Jacob’s death taught her to take advantage of the years she has and work toward the goals she sets.

“It’s not like I’m going to get a second chance to do all this,” she said. “By golly I need to go do it now.”

To contact writer Andres David Lopez call 478-256-9751.

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