Road Dawgs Inspire Georgia Students to Consider College

Wes Mayer

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024

The program's goal is to inspire students to consider college and introduce them to the opportunities at UGA

This spring break, current students from across the University of Georgia came together to form the 2024 Road Dawgs crew, dedicating their time off to spread Georgia Bulldog spirit throughout the state.

Each year, the Road Dawgs take a different route around Georgia, concentrating on schools with large populations of underrepresented or rural students. The goal of the program is to inspire students to consider college and introduce them to the multitude of opportunities they can find at UGA.

This is the eighth year of Road Dawgs and, while it does shorten the crew members’ spring breaks, they all agreed that it was time well spent. This year’s crew included two “veteran” Road Dawgs, who were happy to share their time to meet with more high school students.

The 2024 Road Dawgs “Call the Dawgs” on stage at McLure Health Sciences High School, hyping up the high school students before passing out UGA T-shirts. (Photo by Wes Mayer)

“A really big part of why I joined again is because it was so sweet interacting with the students last year,” said Yuna Lee, a third-year biology major and two-time Road Dawg. “I had some students say they were not considering going to college, but because of what we talked about, then they told me they were wanting to go. That experience really meant a lot.”

At each school, the crew ran on stage Calling the Dawgs or chanting “It’s Great to Be a Georgia Bulldog.” The Road Dawgs introduced themselves, talked about the reasons they chose to attend UGA, and shared some of their favorite experiences of being a college student. Then, they met with the high school students in small groups to learn more about them, answer their questions, and give advice.

“I’ve always loved talking to kids to give advice and just giving the spiel about college,” said Grace Okpurukre, a second-year economics major. “I never had that experience, and I wanted to give back.”

In the small groups, high school students were eager to chat with the Road Dawgs to learn about life at UGA, asking about the residence halls, dining halls, classes, clubs, and the overall culture of Athens. The Road Dawgs highlighted the many resources at UGA built for student success, and discussed how important it is to make connections with professors during office hours and to reach out to more senior students as mentors.

This year, one of the Road Dawgs, Kimberly Meraz-Fuentes, a first-year international affairs major, was able to visit her own high school, Meadowcreek High School in Gwinnett. There, Meraz-Fuentes talked about how coming from a school with a large population of minorities taught her the importance of putting herself out there and trying out different clubs and groups at UGA to become more involved.

Josh Williams, admissions officer with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, shares his story as a first-generation college student with high school students in Gwinnett. Williams gave students encouragement and advice about applying to college. (Photo by Wes Mayer)

“It’s an honor to be back,” Meraz-Fuentes said. “Last time I was here, I was a high school student, but now I’m in a position to be a mentor, and it’s pretty exciting.”

Every student’s story is unique, but many of the Road Dawgs share similar experiences with the high school students they meet, which is why this program is so successful. A testament to this is that one of this year’s Road Dawgs, Samrawit Solomon, a second-year journalism major with a minor in law, fondly remembers the Road Dawgs visiting her own school, Shiloh High School in Snellville.

“That was my first introduction to UGA,” Solomon said. “I wanted to be a part of this program because it’s why I got here.”

This was the first year that Jonah Bushell, assistant director of admissions for community-based organizations with the Office of Admissions, led the program. Bushell said it was eye-opening learning about the program and how rewarding it was to connect to schools throughout Georgia.

“You see how excited high schools are when the flagship university reaches out about talking to students,” Bushell said. “It’s beautiful to see how open they are to us coming to their campus, and it’s a great opportunity to see UGA students who want to give back.”