Packaging systems and design major Lamont “Gucci” Livingston of Newport News, Virginia, received the Division of Student Affairs Aspire! Award, which recognizes a student who is preparing for a life of courageous leadership. Not only is Livingston preparing for such a life, he is living it.

Livingston began his studies as an engineering student on scholarship in 2012. However, he soon faced unexpected challenges — including his girlfriend’s pregnancy — that prevented him from maintaining his scholarship, and he had to leave Virginia Tech.

He spent a year and a half working, single parenting, and house hopping, yet he was determined to continue his education. He returned to Blacksburg in fall 2015 to resume his studies, bringing with him his son, Jaiden, who was his inspiration while readjusting to academic life.

Upon returning, he started looking at new majors within his interests. He found packaging systems and design and instantly fell in love, thrilled that the work he would be doing is still hands-on creation. He also felt welcomed, especially by Professor Robert Bush, who was the first faculty member to allow Livingston to bring Jaiden to class.

Livingston spent his first two semesters back working and studying hard, all while living on a friend’s couch with his son. He brought Jaiden to every class, group project, and organizational meeting.

Bush said that he finds Livingston to be thoughtful and talented, and believes he is a good example to other students of the diversity of peers’ college and life experiences. “I get the impression that he has talent and capabilities that we have not yet seen bloom,” Bush said.

In spring 2016, Livingston earned his way to the dean’s list and got a room in an apartment for Jaiden and himself. That fall he was granted childcare. He has raised his cumulative GPA to a 2.65 since returning to Tech. “I second-guessed myself every day, but my son’s face was all I could see when I wanted to give up,” said Livingston who is on target to graduate next May. “Knowing that it could be done gave me the fight to finish.”

Read the full press release.