Award Recipients

Award Recipients

Award Recipients: In Their Own Words


HOPE Scholarship - Miguel Ramirez Zell Miller Scholarship - Qasim Hassan
Tuition Equalization Grant - Hannah Collins

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Name: Miguel Ramirez

High School: Rockmart High School; Cedartown High School

College (Current or Future): Georgia Northwestern Technical College

Major/Intended Major: Business Management

Financial Aid Program: HOPE Scholarship


Miguel Ramirez has proven it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.

“Growing up in a low-income family, I learned about financial aid programs when I was in middle school,” said Ramirez. “I knew if I was ever going to go to college, financial aid was my only hope.”

But his aspirations of attending college were put on hold when unexpected family events forced Ramirez to drop out of high school during his junior year and work full-time to help pay bills and rent.

“I had a great support system with my family,” Ramirez said to The Calhoun Times. “When family events prevented me from finishing high school, I eventually went back and got my GED from Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC).”

Once he received his GED, Ramirez returned to the workforce but never lost sight of his ultimate goal.

“I had economic and personal obstacles that made me put a halt on my dreams of attending college,” said Ramirez. “Thankfully, we have technical colleges that have been designed to turn people’s dreams into reality.”

Ramirez excelled as a full-time student at GNTC; volunteering for the Human Rights Campaign, serving as a member of the National Honor Society and making the President’s List each semester with a 4.0 GPA that qualified him for the HOPE Scholarship.

“Our best hope for the future are students like Miguel,” said Gerald McFry, director of GNTC’s Business Management program and Ramirez’s instructor. “He’s a full-time student and he holds a full-time job and a part-time job, all while maintaining a perfect grade point average.”

McFry nominated Ramirez for GNTC’s 2017 Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) award, an honor he won January 31, 2017.

“The benefits of attending a technical college are one of the reasons I decided to go back to school,” said Ramirez. “Technical college allows people to be prepared to enter the workforce without running up a lot of student debt.”

Ramirez is already using the knowledge learned at GNTC as a Human Resources Assistant at Apache Mills, a global manufacturer of commercial and domestic floor mats based in Calhoun.

“My degree helps out a lot in my current job,” Ramirez said. “I understand how the manufacturing environment works, as well as the importance of positive employee relations.”

Ramirez was once in a position where a postsecondary education was out of reach, but he now advises others to remember their goals and seek support to make them a reality.

“We sometimes get so caught up in the competitive mindset that we lose sight of the benefits and opportunities that are in front of us,” Ramirez said. “Make friends, constructive friends; friends that will help you in achieving your dreams and inspire you to keep moving forward.”

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Name: Qasim Hassan

High School: Central Gwinnett High School

College (Current or Future): Georgia Institute of Technology

Major/Intended Major: Mechanical Engineering

Financial Aid Program: Zell Miller Scholarship


Qasim Hassan plans to major in mechanical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, taking full advantage of the Zell Miller Scholarship he earned as the valedictorian at Central Gwinnett High School.

Qasim’s valedictorian speech paid homage to his favorite epic film series, Star Wars. While he wasn’t able to deliver it cos-playing as Darth Vader, his life had some similarities to the famous saga: a traumatic past and heroic resolution.

“I was abandoned at two years old and the feeling of isolation never left. Nobody seemed to care enough to break through the cold shell of a lonely young boy,” Hassan said. “I never felt that I could amount to anything more than a failure, but I was wrong. There was something out there waiting for me. I couldn’t see it yet, but it was time to follow my dreams wherever they led.

“My father was the one who helped me feel that I was at home with my family despite all the visions from the past.”

Qasim’s father also told him about the Zell Miller Scholarship “years ago, to emphasize the importance of pursuing high academic goals,” and he steadily worked towards those goals during his time in high school.

“Today, the force is strong with me as I continue my training to become the person I hope to be.”

Hassan provides Yoda-like advice for students, advocating for unlimited ambition when planning for their future.

“You should set big targets for yourself,” Hassan said, “and focus on achieving them by working hard every day.”

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Name: Hannah Collins

High School: Ola High School (Henry County)

College (Current or Future): Piedmont College

Major/Intended Major: Biology & Chemistry

Financial Aid Program: Tuition Equalization Grant


Hannah Collins helped Ola High School’s volleyball team to be one of the best in school history, compiling a 44-8 record and the school’s seventh Henry County championship while still maintaining a 3.52 GPA to make her eligible for the HOPE Scholarship.

“It’s not overwhelming,” Collins told the Hoof Print. “You just do the work whenever you have time.”

Collins will attempt to strike a similar balance as a freshman at Piedmont College. While Piedmont, a Division III school, does not offer athletic scholarships, they have presented Collins with a Presidential Merit Scholarship.

In addition, Piedmont College encouraged Collins to take advantage of the Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant (GTEG), which is another state financial aid program administered by GSFC. The grant provides non-need based funding for Georgia residents to attend in-state private colleges.

“Any financial help that I can receive will reduce the burden that my family will have to pay out of pocket for my college education,” Collins said. “This will enable me to take my education to a higher level.”

Collins plans to major in biology and chemistry, preparing for medical school in the future. Her advice to younger students is to use their time wisely.

“Don’t procrastinate. High school graduation and college will be here before you know it,” Collins said. “So be sure to learn about all the possible scholarships that are available.”

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Name: Jamie Grady

High School: Pierce County High School

College (Current or Future): Wiregrass Georgia Technical College – Valdosta

Major/Intended Major: Esthetics/Chemistry

Financial Aid Program: Zell Miller Grant


Since she was a young girl, Jamie Grady had a passion for beauty.

“When I began researching options for my career path,” Grady told Valdosta Today, “Esthetics revealed itself as a great opportunity for me and an outlet for all of my interests.”

Esthetics is the principles of beauty, and the program at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College (WGTC) teaches everything from facial treatments and skin care procedures to salon management. However, Grady’s career goals are to formulate her own makeup and skincare line.

“After I finish my core education at WGTC, I will transfer to a university where I will study chemistry,” Grady said. “I plan to pursue a career in cosmetic chemistry upon college graduation.”

Her technical college tuition has been paid for thanks to the Zell Miller Grant.

“I have known about the Zell Miller Grant since my senior year of high school and I have thought the award was an unmatched advantage,” Grady said. “It was so humbling to learn that my grades from my first semester of college were good enough to receive the award.”

This summer, Grady was awarded a gold medal in Esthetics at the National SkillsUSA competition after winning the state competition in the spring. The competition features 100 different technical, trade and leadership fields with challenges designed, ran and judged by experts in the field.

“Taking gold at Nationals, she competed against 19 candidates,” said Talarie Giddens, the WGTC Esthetics Program Coordinator. “She truly brought her best, and I could not be more proud.”

Grady is proud of the fact that her grades have provided financial relief for her family.

“As a motivator for my future, the Zell Miller Grant has allowed me to worry less about financial burdens,” Grady said, “and focus on what is truly important – my education.”

Grady advises other Georgia students to remain focused on their goals and take advantage of available opportunities.

“Apply for EVERY SINGLE scholarship that you are eligible for,” she said. “Think forward and keep in mind how every little bit of financial aid will positively affect you even 20 years down the road.”

“The feeling of accomplishment is irreplaceable and the best reward for hard work. Keeping your focus, doing what’s necessary, and overlooking the miniscule setbacks will help you get where you want to be. Trust me, it is worth it!”

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Name: Karan Lakhwani

High School: LaGrange High School

College (Current or Future): Georgia Institute of Technology

Major/Intended Major: Aerospace Engineering

Financial Aid Program: Zell Miller Scholarship


Karan Lakhwani is quick to praise his older sister when discussing the Zell Miller Scholarship.

“My sister Sonika gave me first-hand knowledge about the scholarship,” said Karan, who also got information about the Zell Miller Scholarship from Bernice Thomas, his guidance counselor at LaGrange High School.

Sonika Lakhwani received Zell Miller for four years at the University of Georgia before graduating in May 2017.

“She spent a lot of effort trying to get me to go to Georgia, but she’s supportive of me,” Karan told the LaGrange Daily News about his decision to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology. “She’s happy with what I’m doing.”

What he’s doing is attempting to turn a youthful passion of building airplanes into a potential future profession.

“As a kid I always got to travel and airplanes always fascinated me,” Lakhwani said. “To be able to build those and problem solve and figure out how to make them more productive and more efficient, I was always fascinated and it was always something I wanted to do.”

While at LaGrange, Karan co-founded and co-captained the school’s science bowl team and volunteered for four years at WellStar West Georgia Medical Center. He also took advantage of Georgia's Dual Enrollment, formerly the Move On When Ready (MOWR) program, taking classes at both the University of West Georgia and West Georgia Technical College.

“Using MOWR and the Zell Miller Scholarship means I will have little to no debt when I graduate college,” said Lakhwani, who plans to major in aerospace engineering. “I would love to have the opportunity to design, produce and test new aircraft that have better fuel efficiency and a longer range than current aircraft.”

Lakhwani advises other students to take advantage of opportunities to better themselves.

“I would tell students to challenge themselves in high school. High school is all about becoming a better, smarter person and this can only be accomplished by challenging yourself,” Lakhwani said. “I would advise them to take a harder course load, but also save time for friends and family.”

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Name: Hayden Lee Harris

High School: Grovetown High School (Columbia County)

College (Current or Future): Georgia Southern University

Major/Intended Major: Business Management

Financial Aid Program: HOPE Scholarship


With a 40-round draft and multiple teams associated with each franchise, Major League Baseball has the most opportunities for athletes like Augusta’s Hayden Harris to fulfill a lifelong goal.

“I hope to pursue my dream as a professional baseball player,” Harris said, “however in the event that doesn’t work out, I plan to own my own business.”

Harris intends to major in Business Management at Georgia Southern University, using an athletic scholarship and the HOPE Scholarship to pay for his education.

“I was raised by a single mom,” said Harris, who graduated from Grovetown High School with a 3.5 GPA, “and there was no way that she could have afforded to pay for me to attend college without financial assistance.”

Georgia Southern head baseball coach Rodney Hennon believes Harris and his incoming recruiting class can assist his team. An All-Region 3-AAAAAA First Team selection, Harris led Grovetown as a junior with a 4-2 record and 1.40 ERA, with 57 strikeouts in 50 innings.

"We are very excited about our early signing class," said Coach Hennon in a Georgia Southern press release. “These young men will be outstanding additions to our program as we fill the needs of our roster for the 2018 season.”

Even with his athletic scholarship, Harris looked into the HOPE Scholarship after speaking with his counselor.

“The more that I researched state programs like HOPE, the easier it became to make the decision to go to an in-state college,” said Harris, who received offers from out-of-state schools like Furman, Newberry and USC Aiken. “I truly wanted to minimize using student loans as much as I could.”

Harris has advice for any students looking to minimize student loans.

“Start looking into financial aid early, study hard and get the highest GPA possible,” Harris said. “Be a dedicated citizen, and most importantly, have a plan.”

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Name: Ashley Kramer

High School: Bryan County High School

College (Current or Future): Georgia Southern University

Major/Intended Major: Biology with Chemistry Minor (Pre-Med)

Financial Aid Program: Dual Enrollment


A relative’s advice sparked Ashley Kramer to forgo a traditional high school education for something different.

“I was in the ninth grade at Bryan County High School,” Kramer said, “and my aunt, a principal in Orlando, encouraged me to learn more about dual enrollment.”

She cites working with counselor Joanne Grossman for guiding her through the Move On When Ready (MOWR) process. The results were that Kramer already completed her sophomore year at Georgia Southern University in May as she received her high school diploma.

“One of the greatest benefits of MOWR is that it has relieved my parents of a great financial burden,” Kramer said, “and prevented me from acquiring years of college debt.”

She was accepted into Georgia Southern after completing her sophomore year of high school and, according to Grossman, has served as an inspiration.

“Ashley has been a tremendous student role model for our school and the program for the last two years and has experienced great success,” Grossman told the Bryan County News.  “All of us at BCHS wish her the best.”

Kramer has done her best to give back, working with non-profit organizations - D.A.R.E. Program, America’s Second Harvest and Encouragers Society. She’s also started a graphics business and received recognition for editing and graphic design for a weekly television program currently airing on the PBS network in Alabama.

“I love every creative aspect of graphic design and I love the thought of working in the film and television industry,” Kramer said. “My goal is to be successful in whatever I set out to do, and be happy while doing it.”

When advising fellow students about the future, Kramer says to be a leader, not a follower.

“Simply work hard, be true to yourself and don’t be afraid to chart a different path.”

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Name: Keira Stacks

High School: McIntosh High School (Fayette County)

College (Current or Future): Georgia College

Major/Intended Major: Biology with Chemistry Minor (Pre-Med)

Financial Aid Program: HOPE Scholarship


Keira Stacks, a junior at Georgia College (GCSU), uncovered something new to the world of science, a discovery assisted by her HOPE Scholarship.

“The HOPE Scholarship has lightened my financial burden,” said Stacks, “which allows me to focus on the most important aspect of school – learning.”

According to Connection Magazine, Stacks uncovered a new bacteriophage, a virus that infects bacteria, as part of an international research project.

The discovery was entered into the Actinobacteriophage Database, which collects information for the Pittsburg Bacteriophage Institute at the University of Pittsburg’s department of biological sciences. The project’s goal is to encourage scientific research in youth and promote the DNA sequencing and characterization of useful viruses.

This knowledge of viruses should help Stacks as she pursues a career in medicine, an endeavor the HOPE Scholarship has helped her prepare for.

“I have been able to avoid student loans throughout my undergrad experience. This has allowed me to put away more money for medical school,” Stacks said. “My educational pursuits would not be possible without HOPE.”

Stacks acknowledges Hope Huey, her counselor at McIntosh High School, for informing her early about the state scholarship.

“I had just moved to Georgia my freshman year of high school from Montgomery, Alabama. So, I had no idea what the HOPE Scholarship was until I met Ms. Huey,” said Stacks. “I remember her being very helpful when I was applying for colleges and scholarships at the time. She was an amazing counselor and did a great job explaining all the financial benefits I could receive from this scholarship.”

She advises fellow students to take full advantage of opportunities available while in college.

“Take this time to become the best version of yourself. Find something that truly inspires you and get involved,” Stacks said. “Meet new people, get to know your professors, be open to new experiences and most importantly have fun! You only go through undergrad once.”

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Name: Rachel Shay

High School: Douglas County High School

College (Current or Future): Chattahoochee Technical College

Major/Intended Major: Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technician

Financial Aid Program: Zell Miller Grant


The U.S. Department of Labor lists over 100 occupations that are defined as nontraditional careers for women, or those in which 25 percent or less of people employed in these jobs are female. Professions include everything from police officers and aircraft pilots to cement masons and the profession Rachel Shay has chosen to pursue.

“I want to be an air conditioning maintenance technician in the commercial field,” said Shay, who heard about the program from her cousin who works in admissions at Chattahoochee Technical College (CTC) and recommended that she apply.

According to CTC Special Populations Coordinator Brannon Jones, women make up only 1.4 percent of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning workforce. Shay is planning to take advantage of that fact.

“Not only is an increased salary an incentive for individuals considering nontraditional careers,” Jones told the Cartersville Patch, “but the opportunities for professional growth are endless.”

Shay’s opportunity is founded thanks to state financial aid programs like the Zell Miller Grant and the HOPE Career Grant, formerly known as the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant.

“I never thought that I would be able to go back to school because of the costs. Receiving financial aid has meant everything for my career and my future,” Shay said. “In today’s industry, no one wants to hire without some kind of extra schooling. My parents are getting older and I needed a way to support myself. And knowing that I can start in an industry where you can only move up makes this a great choice for me.”

Shay anticipates her movement within a traditionally male-dominated field will be assisted thanks to a “high demand for females, because, for the most part, we are more detail-orientated.”

She advises all students, regardless of gender, to take advantage of the many opportunities available.

“Don’t put your education off because of the costs,” Shay said. “There is so much assistance available to help you pay for school. Find something you love and go for it.”

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Name: Paola Berrios 

High School: Georgia Cyber Academy

College (Current or Future): Georgia Institute of Technology / Georgia State

Major/Intended Major: Neuroscience

Financial Aid Program: Move On When Ready


Paola Berrios has her sights on a medical career and has used the Move On When Ready (MOWR) program to further that passion.

“I intend to attend medical school following my undergraduate graduation. By the time I'm thirty, I hope to be a neuro-oncologist,” said Berrios. “My own personal experiences in the field, as well as my MOWR classes, have fostered a love of neuro-oncology for me, and I hope to use both these factors to reach my utmost potential.”

Berrios’ personal experiences led to her being honored at the 2017 Georgia Student Government Association and Georgia National Technical Honor Society (NTHS) State Conference. She received the Georgia NTHS Outstanding Citizenship Award for starting a website, The Shoulder to Lean On Project. The site provides information for teenagers dealing with loved ones starting their fight against cancer. Berrios’ mother, Maria Maldonado, was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2015.

“By doing this project, I hope to keep others from having to go through this journey alone,” Berrios says on the web site. “No one’s alone in this world and it’s important that we remember that in our times of need.”

Berrios describes MOWR as “nothing short of a blessing.” She initially heard about the program from her guidance counselor during ninth grade at Georgia Cyber Academy. She attended a MOWR informational event at Chattahoochee Technical College as a sophomore and began her first semester of dual enrollment as a junior.

“First and foremost, it has provided me with the opportunity to adjust to college life while getting ahead of the curve,” Berrios said. “I will be graduating high school with 35 college credits: a feat that I hope many other high schoolers will pursue in the near future. This has set me up to come into school this fall with plenty of college credits—something which will certainly benefit me in the future.”

The benefit of starting college with completed class credits isn’t the only reason Berrios advises others to enroll in MOWR.

“My dual enrollment experience has allowed me to get a first-hand college experience before many of my peers. The MOWR program is a fun and exciting way to prepare yourself for the world of professors, stricter deadlines, and college life.

“I wouldn't change my experience for the world and I hope you follow in my footsteps!”

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Name: Alexys Bolden 

High School: Heritage High School (Catoosa)

College (Current or Future): West Virginia University

Major/Intended Major: Forensic and Investigative Science

Financial Aid Program: Move On When Ready


Finding the financing for a college education can be a mystery for even the smartest students, but Alexys Bolden linked her passion with her future to solve the problem.

“I want to be a forensic pathologist,” said Bolden, “because I want to help solve puzzles.”

She fell in love with the idea of being a forensic pathologist while attending a National Youth Leadership Foundation in Washington D.C. This organization has a summer camp designed to put high school students on the path towards a career in forensic science.

Bolden “loves figuring things out,” and with the advice of her high school counselors, she figured out a major benefit of the Move On When Ready (MOWR) program.

“(MOWR) helped me and my family save so much money towards my college education,” said Bolden, who received her diploma from Heritage High School and an associate of science degree from Dalton State in May. “My family and I have been able to plan on paying less for college.”

“Everyone should pursue dual enrollment. It will be the best decision you can ever make in high school.”

Her associate of science degree provides college credits that will transfer to the college of her choice – West Virginia University.

“I chose WVU because they have the number one forensics program in the nation,” said Bolden. “They're very prestigious in this field.”

When it comes to college, Bolden advises other students not to wait to start solving their own puzzle.

“Make sure to submit your college applications as early as possible,” Bolden said. “Explore different colleges and find the one that you love best.”

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Name: Madison Higbee

High School: Home Schooled

College (Current or Future): Georgia State University Honors College

Major/Intended Major: Psychology or Sociology

Financial Aid Program: Zell Miller Scholarship

Thanks to Move On When Ready, Madison Higbee attended Kennesaw State during her senior year of high school and experienced a ‘wonderful transition’ between home-schooling and college courses.

“I felt like it was a bit different from being home-schooled, because it was a traditional classroom setting,” Higbee said in a Georgia State student spotlight. “I took a German course fall semester, and in that course I kind of felt like I was just sitting around because I knew a lot of German already.

“But that same semester, I took an honors statistics course, and I was working my butt off the whole time to keep up in that class. I ended up making an A, but it was a very challenging course.”

Higbee went on to earn the Zell Miller Scholarship, which provides full-tuition towards her education at Georgia State University (GSU) Honors College where she is finishing her freshman year.

 “The award helps me to see that I, as an individual, can accomplish my goals through hard work,” Higbee said. “It’s also provided me and my family with financial freedom from college debt.”

That freedom allows the Ball Ground native to try “things out and (see) what I enjoy the most.”

Last summer, Higbee attended the Summer Teach-In at the Center for Civil and Human Rights and was chosen for the prestigious GSU Presidential Scholarship. This scholarship is presented to students accepted to the Honors College with a commitment to service.

“My biggest passions are social justice and human rights,” said Higbee. “I am looking for a career that will enable me to better understand human nature and to find ways to equalize society and help people get along.”

The advice she wants to share with fellow students is to work hard and challenge yourself daily.

“As you prepare for college, try to envision yourself as a character in a story, evaluate how your character has evolved, but also what core values have stayed the same. Then, as you apply to college, you will have a better idea of how to convey who you are.”

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Name: Malcolm Lamont Cooley II

High School: Cartersville High School

College (Current or Future): Georgia Southern University, Georgia State University or Georgia Institute of Technology

Major/Intended Major: Engineering

Financial Aid Program: REACH Georgia

When Malcolm Cooley graduates from Cartersville High School in May, he will be part of the first graduating class of REACH Georgia Scholars. Launched in 2012, REACH is part of the Complete College Georgia Initiative and “rewards students for self-accountability, promotes parent involvement and provides motivation and support,” said Governor Nathan Deal.

When REACH launched, Cooley was part of Cartersville Schools Foundation’s GateKey Scholarship program. Dr. J. Howard Hinesley is credited with starting the program designed to serve at-risk students and provide them with two-year scholarships to Georgia Highlands College or Chattahoochee Technical College. It also served as one of the models for REACH Georgia.

“I was given a ‘bump up’ to the REACH Georgia Scholarship by our GateKey/REACH committee,” said Cooley, who was one of nine Cartersville City School System students that joined in 2014.

Each REACH Scholar receives $2,500 per year for up to four years at a HOPE-eligible college or university. Cooley is currently undecided between Georgia Southern, Georgia State and Georgia Tech. All three schools are double-matching REACH partners, meaning he could potentially receive $30,000 towards his postsecondary education.

“Receiving the REACH Scholarship has provided me with more options on which college I may attend because it has eliminated the need for student loans for a 4-year college,” said Cooley, who is considering pursuing an engineering degree. “It has relieved my family of the financial burden student loans would have placed on them.”

While there are many types of scholarships and grants available, Cooley advises younger students not to take anything for granted.

“Don’t slack when it comes to grades. Every grade in high school counts. Every bad grade narrows your choices for college,” said Cooley. “Don’t procrastinate! You will have so much to do your senior year without putting things off to the last minute. There are not enough last minutes to get everything done.”

Malcolm Cooley won the REACH Scholar essay contest and spoke at REACH Day at the Capital. Watch his speech on our YouTube channel.

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Name: Hannah Seawell

High School: South Paulding High School

College (Current or Future): University of West Georgia

Major/Intended Major: Chemistry (Pre-Med)

Financial Aid Program: Move On When Ready

Hiram resident Hannah Seawell was recognized as an honor student during her three semesters as a Move On When Ready (MOWR) student at the University of West Georgia, gaining credits towards a career in medicine while still in high school.

“MOWR has not only saved me and my family time and money,” Seawell said, “but it has also opened my mind to burgeoning ideas and given me confidence to pursue more challenging things.”

The South Paulding High School junior is now in Washington D.C. after being appointed by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., to participate in the U.S. Senate Page Program.

“I am proud to welcome Hannah to our nation’s capital and into the highly competitive United States Senate Page Program,” said Isakson to the Marietta Daily Journal. “I expect great things from her and know she will represent the state of Georgia and our office well.”

Seawell previously served in the Georgia State House of Representatives and Georgia State Senate Page programs. She is still taking academic classes each morning before reporting to the Senate floor to distribute amendments and statutes inside the Congressional compound.

Seawell has advice for her fellow students across the state.

“I believe preparing for college is like many things in life,” Seawell said. “We should set goals, work hard and not be afraid to ask others for help.”

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Name: Kyle Runner 

High School: Highland High School, Blackwood, NJ

College (Current or Future): North Georgia Technical College

Major/Intended Major: Automotive Technology

Financial Aid Program: Zell Miller Grant

Mr. Runner relocated to Georgia after graduating from high school in New Jersey in 2003. He returned to school in 2016 believing it’s never too late to finish your education and keep learning because knowledge is power.

That mindset helped Runner finish the summer 2016 semester at North Georgia Technical College with a 4.0 GPA. He was informed about qualifying for the Zell Miller Grant and admits, “I was unaware that there were any other financial assistance opportunities beyond the HOPE and Pell programs…and I was equally shocked and proud upon receiving this award.”

A single father of a child with autism, Runner says the Zell Miller Grant, “not only gives me the peace of mind that my tuition and related fees will not be a concern, but also provides even more motivation to continue to perform well academically.”

He is currently pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in the Automotive Technology program and plans to earn an AAS in Applied Technical Management. His goal is to own an automobile service center and he’s highly optimistic about the future.

Runner’s advice to others: “Utilize every opportunity and resource available to you in your quest for success. How far you go and the greatness you can potentially achieve is all up to you.”

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Name: Haley Jill Crumpler 

High School: Vidalia Comprehensive High School

College (Current or Future): Southeastern Technical College (STC)

Major/Intended Major: Dental Hygiene

Financial Aid Program: HOPE Scholarship

While attending Vidalia Comprehensive High School, Haley Jill Crumpler decided to become a Dental Hygienist and didn’t wait for graduation to make steps in that direction.

“You can never do enough research on your chosen field of study. When I decided that I was serious, I contacted a local office and asked if I could shadow for a couple of hours,” Crumpler said. “This gave me a practical insight as to what I would be getting myself into.”

She followed that by contacting STC Dental Hygiene program advisor Jennifer Gramiak and shadowing at the STC Dental Hygiene Clinic. Crumpler enrolled in the ACCEL program (now Move On When Ready) in her senior year of high school, taking STC courses for free.

“It was during this time that I was informed that if I maintained a good GPA, the HOPE program would help pay my tuition,” Crumpler said. “That has been a driving force to keep me motivated to do my very best.”

She graduated from Vidalia High School with a 3.3 GPA, earning the Zell Miller Grant for her first two semesters at STC. Crumpler is now receiving the HOPE Scholarship while working towards her Dental Hygiene Associate of Applied Science degree.

“Being an award recipient has helped my family and ensures that once I graduate, I will not have to repay any outstanding student loans,” Crumpler said. “The HOPE program, as well as scholarships awarded by the STC Foundation, have given my family a sense of financial security.”

Once she finishes the program, Crumpler hopes to secure a position locally while, “sparking an interest in my community and imparting knowledge about the importance of oral health.”

“Knowing that I will not owe anything once I graduate takes the burden off of having to set aside money to repay my education,” Crumpler said. “I am very grateful for that financial assistance.”

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Name: Joshua Cherian 

High School: Home Schooled

College (Current or Future): Georgia Southwestern State University

Major/Intended Major: Pre-Engineering - Regents’ Engineering Pathway

Financial Aid Program: Move On When Ready

Whether you are creating something to fly the friendly skies or soar into outer space, a fast takeoff is required. Joshua Cherian, an aspiring aerospace engineer, used the ACCEL program, now Move On When Ready (MOWR), to get a head start on his postsecondary education.

“My parents heard about the dual enrollment program through my home school group and we thought, ‘Why not?’” said Cherian, who took dual enrollment courses at Toccoa Fall College and Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) before enrolling full time at GSW where he is currently completing his junior year.

With the additional classes taken via dual enrollment and earning the Zell Miller Scholarship, Cherian has not had to take out any student loans and remains free from educational debt. He is currently undecided about his career goals, but is considering corporations like SpaceX, where engineers are developing technology to explore the stars by designing, manufacturing and launching advanced rockets and spacecraft.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Brazil. They have a great space program,” Cherian said, “but I would have to learn Portuguese first.”

His advice for all Georgia high school students is to take advantage of MOWR.

“It gives you a great head start financially and academically,” Cherian said, “prepping you for college before you even go while making you a stronger student once you’re fully enrolled.”

Once enrolled, students can indulge in their hobbies. Cherian, a Rubik’s Cube enthusiast, recently organized a regional competition on the GSW campus. Participants from surrounding states competed for prizes provided by the gaming website,

“Georgia has a pretty strong speed cubing contingent compared to a lot of other nearby states,” Cherian said. “There are competitors who average under 10 seconds, easily.”

Watch Cherian complete the Rubik’s Cube on our YouTube Channel.

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Name: Brian Minter 

High School: Hillgrove High School

College (Current or Future): Georgia College and State University

Major/Intended Major: Computer Science / Mathematics with a Teaching Concentration

Financial Aid Program: HOPE Scholarship

The Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference took place this summer in San Francisco. Only 350 students were invited to attend, a list that included Georgia College senior Brian Minter thanks in part to the app he created.

CourseKeeper keeps track of your grades, produces a semester GPA and includes a Final Exam Calculator. Becoming a software developer in the greater Atlanta area is something Minter hopes to do after he graduates in December, something made easier by the HOPE Scholarship.

“The scholarship has eased the financial burden on my family which allowed me to stay focused on my studies,” said Minter, who learned about HOPE while at Hillgrove High School. “I've been able to avoid student loans and I'm in a good place financially as I enter the workforce.”

Entering the workforce is easier when you can show expertise within your field of choice and Minter offers an interesting way to do just that.

“After a couple years in school, try to get a job as a tutor or a supplemental instructor,” Minter said. “This helps you learn your subject matter even more and gives you more time to interact with your professors.”

Professors like Dr. Gita Phelps, who recognized Minter was interested in more than just getting a good grade, “but finding ways to use what he learns in real world applications.”

“(Minter) is such an inspiration to other computer science students,” Dr. Phelps said to Connection Magazine. “He has a thirst for knowledge and constantly challenges himself to do new things.”

Doing something new is another piece of advice Minter offers for students preparing to go to college and possibly use his CourseKeeper app.

“When you get to college, get as involved as you can. Join clubs you're interested in and talk to professors you'd like to work with,” Minter said. “This makes it easier to acclimate yourself to college and will open doors for you in the future.”

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Name: Jamisha Dove

Jamisha DoveHigh School:
GED at Athens Technical College

College (Current or Future): Athens Technical College

Major/Intended Major: Cosmetology/Applied Technical Management

Financial Aid Program: Zell Miller Grant 

Ms. Dove learned about the Zell Miller Grant from Marchelle Sandoval, the Transition Specialist at Athens Technical College.

With the financial assistance, she was able to qualify for and pass the State Board Cosmetology Licensing exam.

“I hope one day to own my own business,” said Dove, who also took advantage of the HOPE Grant in the spring of 2014 and the summer of 2015. “I want to give back to my community by offering self-made wigs for cancer patients.”

Dove plans to work in a hair salon and, “sharpen her skills” after graduation. She advises others to craft a solid plan for their future. Quoting Carl Rogers, Dove says, “The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.”


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Name: Vincent 'Cole' Blasczyk 

High School:
Robert S. Alexander High School

College (Current or Future): Undecided

Major/Intended Major: Nursing

Financial Aid Program: REACH Georgia Scholarship Program

Douglas County was one of the five pilot school systems when REACH Georgia, the state’s first public-private, needs-based scholarship program, was established in 2012.

Vincent “Cole” Blasczyk was an original recipient and when he graduates from Alexander High School in the spring, he will be part of REACH’s initial graduating class.

“Being a REACH Scholar gives my family security knowing that I will have some money towards my college education,” Blasczyk said. “It also provides me assurance that I will reach my college goals.”

Thanks to public and private donations, there is a $10,000 scholarship he can use up to $2,500 per year towards the cost of attendance at a HOPE-eligible institution. Blasczyk signed a contract to maintain a 2.5 GPA and has met with a volunteer mentor and academic coach since 8th grade.

“I have met and worked with some great mentors over the past five years,” Blasczyk said. “They have all motivated me to want to do better and keep my grades up.”

Blasczyk plans to keep his grades up as he pursues a career in nursing. While he is currently undecided, there are many public and private postsecondary institutions that will match the REACH scholarship and some that will double-match the total award amount.

Wherever Blasczyk ends up, he is thankful the REACH Georgia program has taught him to, “be passionate about what you want to do, then work hard towards that goal.”

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Name: Roberto Carillo

High School: Wilcox County High School

College (Current or Future): Valdosta State University

Major/Intended Major: Spanish (FLED Tract) & Pre-Med Tract

Financial Aid Program: HOPE Scholarship 

Mr. Carrillo’s family emigrated from Mexico to the United States when he was two.

“Neither one of my parents had the opportunity to attend college, so they pushed me to excel in school,” Carrillo said. “With us being a single-income family, every scholarship I could get was vital for me to further my education and attend college.”

Carrillo’s teachers at Wilcox County High School educated him about the HOPE Scholarship and the importance of keeping track of his GPA. Their lessons were taken to heart as he graduated with a 3.9 GPA and 18 college credits from Wiregrass Technical College by participating in the ACCEL dual enrollment program - now Move On When Ready.

“HOPE has played a vital role in paying for my tuition,” said Carrillo, who plans to attend medical school and become a bilingual radiologist. “It’s helping me become the first person in my family to graduate from a 4-year institution.”

For others hoping to follow in his footsteps, Carrillo advises students to take their grades seriously, something he believes high school freshman and sophomores don’t think about.

“I understand the thinking that your (high school) grades won’t matter once you get into college, but they’re important,” Carrillo said. “A high GPA is one of the keys to make affording college easier.”

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Name: Ashley Rodgers


High School: Macon County High School

College (Current or Future): South Georgia Technical College (Graduate Spring 2016); Middle Georgia State University

Major/Intended Major: Business - Marketing Management

Financial Aid Program: Zell Miller Grant

Knowing she had to pay her own way through college, Ms. Rodgers researched scholarships before the financial aid office at South Georgia Technical College (SGTC) informed her of the Zell Miller Grant. 

"It really helped relieve a huge burden for both me and my family," Rodgers said. "I was able to graduate debt-free (and) focus more on my education."

That focus was acknowledged by her SGTC professors and rewarded with Ashley's nomination for the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) program.

GOAL focuses on excellence in technical education at Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) institutions. After a lengthy process involving multiple interviews and selection committee reviews, Rodgers was named the state GOAL winner.

"I want to inspire others to continue to work hard and never stop reaching for their dreams," said Rodgers, who was awarded a new automobile and will serve as an ambassador for technical education in Georgia.

Her goal is to obtain a job with the TCSG Marketing Department and advise current and future students on how to stay focused. "It is so easy to lose sight of your goals when you step out into the world," Rodgers said, "but your degree is what paves the way to success."

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Name: Elizabeth Sprinkle


High School: Rabun County High School

College (Current or Future): University of Georgia

Major/Intended Major: Accounting

Financial Aid Program: Zell Miller Scholarship

In 2015, Ms. Sprinkle graduated with a 3.96 GPA and was informed by the guidance office at Rabun County High School of her eligibility for the Zell Miller Scholarship.

The award "has helped me and my family tremendously," said Sprinkle, who plans on obtaining a CPA license and using her accounting degree to do social work. "Without this scholarship, it would be very difficult for me to attend UGA."

Sprinkle spent her freshman year at the University of Georgia learning how to study because it was a skill she never picked up in high school. "Time management is also very important in college," she said.

Her advice is to, "make time for academics, but also allow time for a social life," Sprinkle said, "otherwise, you'll go crazy."

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