Atlanta Technical College (ATC), part of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG), is an urban campus with a student population consisting of over 90% people of color. Fairly or unfairly, some local legal employers have used these statistics to justify underestimating ATC students and graduates, dismissing the program as mediocre. Attitudes about the program have changed significantly, however, since earning our ABA approval in 2017 and, in large part, due to students such as Mr. Cremeithius Riggins.
On paper, Mr. Riggins is a story of academic excellence. He graduated with an Associate of Applied Science from ATC’s paralegal program in May 2015 with a 3.8 GPA. He was inducted into the Paralegal Honor Society (LEX) and the National Technical Honor Society and served as a member of Student Government Association. I vividly remember him attending every class in a suit, sitting in the first row, ready to learn. He never missed a class or an assignment in the years that I taught him. He participated in class, got along well with his classmates, and exhibited excellent leadership skills. He was a model student.
After graduating from ATC, Cremeithius matriculated to Morehouse College, majoring in Political Science and Government. Once again, he stood out both academically and as a leader. He graduated summa cum laude in 2017, was the Vice President of the Morehouse Prelaw Program, served as a student director, and was a member of the Morehouse-Spelman Prelaw Society. Continuing his academic journey, Cremeithius was accepted to the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Law in 2017. He graduated in May 2020 and returned to Atlanta where he accepted a position with Alston & Bird, a top international law firm headquartered in the city. He is currently waiting to take the Georgia Bar exam amidst the COVID-19 national emergency.
What his CV does not tell you is that as a 13-year old Cremeithius had been evicted from his home four times. “I would come home, and everything I owned would be out on the curb,” he said. Also not included is that he became a father at the age of 17 with custody of his child, nor how he began his academic journey at Jacksonville University in Florida, but despite a 3.7 GPA, could not afford to stay and had to return to Atlanta after one semester. Then determined not to abandon his education and “become a statistic,” he took a security job and enrolled at ATC.
This college, located within his own community, bridged the gap and stood as a beacon of opportunity for all of his accomplishments yet to come. ATC’s flexible classes, welcoming student environment, dedicated instructors, and focus on teaching practical skills needed to become a successful, contributing paralegal, were exactly what Cremeithius needed to build up his confidence. Cremeithius represents Atlanta Technical College’s philosophy that well-prepared, industry competent students are the lynchpin to Atlanta’s continued attractiveness to business and industry. Students like Cremeithius contribute to and embody the economic and social growth of the residents of Atlanta.
Cremeithius has returned to ATC to talk with students on several occasions since graduating. His public speaking skills and community connection with the students gives them a valuable role model and provides information that they cannot learn from textbooks. During these talks Cremeithius has urged students to “double up in life by working harder and smarter.”
We have no doubt that Cremeithius will do great things at the firm and throughout his career. And most significantly, he will never forget that it all began at Atlanta Technical College.
-Submitted by Keisha D. Hudson, Program Director, Paralegal Studies Program, Atlanta Technical College