Fort Valley State grad didn’t let setbacks derail him

Joshua Butler is graduating from Fort Valley State University on Saturday.
Joshua Butler is graduating from Fort Valley State University on Saturday.

Joshua Butler got off to a rocky start in college, but he finished strong.

The 27-year-old graduates from Fort Valley State University Saturday with a degree in electronic engineering technology.

He did well in high school and started college in 2008. But away from home and with free rein, he neglected his studies. His grades had plummeted by his sophomore year, and he was suspended for a year and went back home to Brunswick.

“I felt like I was a disappointment,” he said. “I had never failed anything until I got to college. During that time (at home), I had time to plan out what I was going to do when I got back to school.”

His mom helped him learn to grow up, and his family and friends kept him in check, he said. Butler worked to help pay bills and focused on getting his mind right.

In fall 2012, he went back to Fort Valley State with a renewed sense of purpose. Butler got involved in student government and the National Society of Black Engineers. He became a volunteer ambassador for the school and helped recruit hundreds of students.

“I hit the ground running, and I haven’t looked back since,” Butler said. “You’ve got to buckle up that seat belt and go for that ride. It’s all about the hunger of the competition, just knowing that you have to get something and you have to get there fast.”

Butler always loved building things while he was growing up, so a career in engineering was a natural choice. He needed something that would challenge and engage him. He is now in the second phase of interviews for jobs with six companies, including General Motors and Lockheed Martin.

If one of those jobs doesn’t work out, he plans to spend six months researching the field, then trying again. He hopes to one day start his own business.

“You know, life happens to all of us. It’s how you choose to handle it, not what happens to you,” said Archie Williams, the head of the Fort Valley State’s engineering technology department. “He took the positive outlook. He never let life get in the way of trying to reach his goal.”

Andrea Honaker: 478-744-4382, @TelegraphAndrea