ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Simone Barnes is one of six seniors in the Bulldog ROTC Battalion who received their commissions as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army on Thursday. She graduated from South Carolina State University with a bachelors degree in communications on Friday.
Barnes said growing up, she could have gone down a different path until she had a wakeup call.
“I think my wakeup call was when I got arrested. I got arrested in the tenth grade for disorderly conduct and they took me down to JDC holding area," she said.
Barnes said this experience made her realize she needed structure and discipline. She enlisted in the U.S. Army at 18 and got seven years of experience under her belt before enrolling in SC State's Green to Gold program, which allows enlisted personnel to earn bachelor’s degrees toward becoming commissioned officers.
Barnes says her academic process was anything but easy, and at one point, she was juggling classes with being a drill sergeant. She finally walked the stage and received her degree on Friday night.
“People from high school, people from base ... people have looked me in my face and told me, like, I never even thought you were gonna graduate," said Barnes.
After graduation, Barnes' next stop is Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where she will fulfill an 11 year commitment in the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army. She hopes she can use her position to inspire others looking to enter the Armed Forces.
"I can pull more African American men and women to do the same thing I’m doing," said Barnes.