“Going for a bachelor’s degree was definitely a step outside the norm for me,” Paul Fowlkes said through a smile.

 

When Paul talks about chasing this milestone, you can tell he’s proud of it. And he should be. He’s worked hard.

 

And when he graduates, Paul will become the first in his family to receive a college degree.

 

Right now, he’s on track to get his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Southern New Hampshire University, after taking advantage of Walmart’s associate education benefit Live Better U.

 

“Paul is taking great advantage of an incredible program,” said Grady Brown, the store manager at Store 3658 in Greensboro, North Carolina, where Paul works. “It’s not easy to work every day from 1:00 to 10:00 – and then still make the President’s List.”

 

But Paul’s journey to higher education has been a difficult one.

Paul Fowlkes is getting his degree

“That time in my life, it was just so hard to focus on being in school. But I always knew I wanted to go back.”

— Paul Fowlkes

He was forced to drop out of high school when he was 17 years old. He lost his mother and grandmother in less than a year, and was forced to step up and take care of his little sisters. He got his GED. Things were starting to take a turn for the better when tragedy struck again. Paul got the call that his brother had been killed. He was now the sole provider and caretaker for his family.

 

“That time in my life, it was just so hard to focus on being in school,” Paul said. “But I always knew I wanted to go back.”

 

In fact, Paul says one reason he came to Walmart was because he’d researched employers that helped their employees get degrees. He admits that, at first, getting his degree for only a dollar a day sounded too good to be true. But he also remembers the exact moment that skepticism left him.

 

“Once I got through my first term at LBU, I remember getting the statement that showed I owed $60 for the term,” Paul said. “They showed me that statement, which showed that Walmart paid the rest of my tuition – it was a little surreal.”

Paul Fowlkes is getting his degree

“With an education from LBU, you can go anywhere in the world and be proud of that degree on your resume.”

— Paul Fowlkes

Now, Paul is working toward his degree in computer science. He’s yet to get a single ‘B’ and his 4.0 GPA means he made the President’s List this past semester. He says his decision to study computer science was an easy one.

 

“I’m just so interested in it,” Paul said. “I don’t necessarily find it difficult, because it’s just something I love doing. When you find something you love doing, like I love working on computers, you really don’t think it’s that hard!”

 

Though it’s his own hard work that’s driving Paul’s success, he also appreciates the flexibility that comes with going to school online.

 

“I can work at my own pace,” Paul said. “I know I have certain things due on certain days, like this essay needs to be ready on Sunday – and I can see all that at the start of the semester, which allows me to schedule time for class and time for work easily.”

 

When he’s not busy working or going to school, Paul makes music. He’s a guy who spends a lot of time doing the things he loves and trying to better himself and his family along the way.

 

“With an education from LBU, you can go anywhere in the world and be proud of that degree on your resume,” Paul said. We agree, and we’re proud to be preparing associates for success at Walmart or wherever their degree takes them.