UGA leaves lasting impression on L.I.F.E. League students

August 2, 2016


By Sara Hand

The Archway Partnership and the University’s Office of Institutional Diversity worked with a wide variety of University partners to open the doors of UGA to nearly 50 students from rural communities in central Georgia. Greeted by a campus police escort and Hairy Dawg as they arrived on campus, the Leading and Inspiring through Fellowship and Education (L.I.F.E.) League program experienced a taste of what life as a UGA student is like on Friday, July 15. In addition to playing their basketball championship game at the Ramsey Student Center, the students learned about the perseverance and determination it takes to be successful on and off the court in the competitive world of college. A highlight of the morning was UGA Basketball players J.J. Frazier, William Jackson II and Derek Ogbeide serving as team coaches.

For the third straight year, L.I.F.E. League partnered with the UGA Archway Partnership and Office of Institutional Diversity to provide middle and high school students a firsthand look at campus. L.I.F.E League incorporates sports and activities with personal growth and educational workshops for boys and girls ages 5-18. Since its inception as the Hawkinsville Hoops League in 2012, L.I.F.E. League has served over 300 young people in seven Middle Georgia counties, and continues to grow each year.

The Archway Partnership, a unit of the UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach, connects Georgia communities to the full range of higher education resources available at UGA to address critical community-identified needs.  As one of eight Archway Partnership communities, Pulaski County identified the need for youth leadership development training and greater exposure to higher education opportunities. L.I.F.E. League is working to address those needs.

Following the championship game, students dined at Bolton Dining Commons and learned about the many career opportunities in athletics. Joining the students were Dr. Carla Williams, Deputy Director of UGA Athletics, Ms. Joni Taylor, Head Coach of UGA Women’s Basketball and Mr. Ezron Bryson, an Associate Athletic Trainer for the UGA Athletic Association. The panel stressed the need for academic excellence to be a successful student athlete in high school and college.

“If you want to be an athlete at the University of Georgia, you’ve got to focus on school,” recommended Williams.

Taylor encouraged students to work hard to achieve their goals, saying, “Do your best in everything you do. Never do anything halfway, or it becomes a habit.”

Jonathan Oliver, a 7th grade student from Pulaski County Middle School, took the advice from the career panel to heart, saying he will remember how important it is “to focus on my education.”

Representatives from other campus units also joined the group for lunch to encourage students to remain focused on academics and continue their participation in L.I.F.E. League.

Following lunch and a tour of first year residence Creswell Hall, students visited the heart of campus-the Miller Learning Center. There, students were divided into three groups to participate in a college readiness activity based on their grade level. Programming was developed for rising 10th and 11th graders by the Office of Student Financial Aid, for rising 8th and 9th graders by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and rising 6th and 7th graders by the Archway Partnership.

Jayleen James, a 9th grade student from Bleckley County High School, says, “I really learned a lot and it was a great experience, because most kids won’t get a chance to visit a great university like UGA.”

James said his key takeaway from the visit was learning “that your GPA plays a huge role in getting into college” and the importance of doing well in core courses such as math, science, and social studies.

Cointa Oliver, a parent and chaperone with L.I.F.E. League, echoed James’ takeaway saying the most impactful quote from the day was, “going to school and receiving a good education opens the doors to many opportunities.”

The campus visit concluded with a tour of Sanford Stadium and a Q&A session with UGA Football players Isaiah McKenzie, Aaron Davis and Quincy Mauger. The players reiterated earlier statements by Williams and Taylor, reinforcing that education is essential to playing sports on a collegiate level. Players encouraged students to work hard on the field and in the classroom.

“The 2016 trip was nothing short of amazing. From Hairy Dawg to Sanford Stadium, every portion of the event was spectacular,” described Jeff Tarver, Founder & CEO of L.I.F.E. League.

Tarver is “confident that this event has left an everlasting impression… and several [students] have pledged to do whatever is necessary in order to become a Georgia Bulldog!”

James summed up the day’s highlights best saying, “basketball is for FUN and education is for LIFE!”

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Life League visits UGA from Pulaski County, an Archway Community Life League visits UGA from Pulaski County, an Archway Community

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