Hawks Scholarship, Service Work Help Freshman Rachelle Wood Soar

Georgia State University freshman Rachelle Wood keeps so busy these days she usually leaves the social calendar to her best friend.

“I always start off by saying I’m only doing one thing this weekend. Then it usually comes down to what she can convince me to do,” Wood says of Chelsie Richards, who also happens to be Richards’ roommate in Piedmont North. “Saturday is a chill day, and Sunday is for catching up on homework.”

Dominique Wilkins, Rachelle Wood, Tim Renick

Dominique Wilkins (left), joined by Georgia State’s Tim Renick, presents Rachelle Wood with the Atlanta Hawks Scholarship

To be fair, Wood has a lot going on as a full-time Honors College student and education major. The Atlanta Hawks Foundation scholarship recipient already has joined multiple campus groups, including the Caribbean Student Association, and volunteers with several local organizations. Wood turned 18 in January, but she hasn’t let her youthful appearance stop her from getting involved.

“I’m kind of used to it.” Wood says of being the youngest member of any group she’s with. “But college is different. Everyone just sees you as a freshman or sophomore, and I like that.”

Wood also says she enjoys the openness of Georgia State’s campus and being close to MARTA.

“I feel like I’m really living in Atlanta,” Wood says. “Everything is right there.”

The $10,000 scholarship Wood received from the Hawks played a large role in her decision to attend Georgia State, Wood says. She initially had her sights set on Spelman College, but she felt good about her choice to attend Georgia State after orientation on campus last summer.

“Now that I’m here, I feel, ‘This should have been my first choice all along,” Wood says.

Wood’s family is Jamaican. She spent her childhood in New York before heading to Portmore, Jamaica, a city outside of Kingston, for six years. When she was 15, she moved to Lawrenceville, Ga., to live with an aunt and uncle. One objective remained constant, though. She has wanted to do one thing since the fifth grade: teach.

“It’s what I’ve wanted to do,” recalls Wood, who is majoring in middle-level education with a minor in African-American studies. “Journalism was an afterthought. It lasted a year.”

Wood’s mother initially steered her toward becoming a professor. And she thought about it.

“’No, teaching (middle school students) is what I wanted to do,’” she remembers thinking. “But it could happen. Who knows?”

Wood says a class she took during her senior year at Central Gwinnett High School, which introduced her to teaching as a profession, influenced her career decision. She also credits her high school counselor for the way she related to Wood and her classmates. She has thought about becoming a principal as well.

“I just have to wait to see what happens in the classroom first,” says Wood, who added she’ll likely teach her favorite subject, math.

Volunteer work became important to Wood in high school. That’s when she joined Beta Club and became active with the Bags of Hope Project, which delivers food to students from families struggling to put meals on the table. She also worked with first-grade and fourth-grade classes at Lawrenceville Elementary School through its Teaching as a Profession program.

“The more you do, the more you realize you can do,” Wood says. “I started volunteering, and it just expanded from there.”

Rachelle Wood

Rachelle Wood

Wood particularly likes interacting with children.

“It teaches you a lot of patience,” Wood says with a smile.

Performing community service is a class requirement for Woods’ introduction to African-American studies course. This month, she is beginning work with Foreverfamily, an organization that provides tutoring services to kids whose parents are incarcerated.

“It’s a very rounded program,” says Wood, who already intends to stay with the group after she completes her required 15 hours of service.

Wood also has joined forces with Jumpstart, a program that works to raise literacy skills in a productive learning environment. She works with a team of other Georgia State students in a Pre-K classroom at the Renaissance Learning Center in Atlanta. Giving back seems to come natural to Wood.

“It makes you feel good, that you did something with your time,” she says. “(Volunteering) is so broad. Whatever you’re interested in, you can find a way to help.”

Wood keeps finding ways to help herself as well. She comes from a family of “huge” basketball fans and remains thankful for the opportunity the Hawks have given her. Her scholarship, which was presented to her during a game last year against the Knicks, is renewable for each of the next three years.

“The scholarship was a game-changer for Rachelle, and anyone speaking with her learns it right away,” says Honors College Dean Larry Berman. “She is profoundly grateful and on the course for a lifetime of achievement.”

By: Jason Langbehn (MPA, ’12)