Multiple people at graduating at Sanford Stadium.

Sense of community helps first-gen student graduate early

Emelynn Arroyave developed leadership skills thanks to support system at UGA

Emelynn Arroyave was dead set on getting out of Georgia after high school graduation. She grew up in Dacula, and was hoping to go someplace different than her home state. “I wanted to go to New York or maybe Boston,” she said. “I had this idea that I could go somewhere new and be a new person.”

Ingrid Lopez helps her daughter Emelynn Arroyave put on her graduation cap in her apartment on Commencement Day. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

But with several scholarships on hand, including the Zell Miller Scholarship, staying close to home made the most financial sense. Arroyave, a first-generation student, embraced the University of Georgia by deciding to go outside of her comfort zone and get involved in as many different organizations as she could. She went so far as to make an Excel sheet with all of the options that interested her, then narrowed these down and started getting involved.

“I thought I wouldn’t find my place in such a big school. But the community at UGA really does make a big school feel small,” she said.

The place where she found the greatest sense of purpose and affinity turned out to be the Hispanic Student Association. “Getting close to this amazing and inspiring group of people had a huge impact on me,” she said.

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