Abbey Hayes Kept HOPE Alive — and Now the Sky’s the Limit

For someone who decided against pursuing a business degree, Georgia State senior Abbey Hayes has assembled a pretty nice little empire. In just a few years with the Yogli Mogli frozen-yogurt chain, she’s become the manager of three stores and will soon add a fourth. If all goes as planned, she’ll also graduate next spring with a degree in speech pathology.

But the road to the top wasn’t necessarily an easy one. She’s faced some obstacles as a student, and she’s not shy about admitting that she brought some of them on herself. But her determination, combined with the help and guidance she received from Georgia State, pulled her through and pointed her back on the road to success.

‘They Knew Exactly What the Problem Was’

“I had every intention of being a business major,” Abbey says. “But economics kicked my butt. I didn’t even think I was going to make it through the first semester.”

Like many students taking college classes for the first time, Abbey found the transition from high school to college to be a bigger challenge than she’d anticipated. And like many Georgia students who did well in high school and think they’re free and clear once they’ve qualified for the HOPE Scholarship, she found that maintaining a 3.0 grade point average wasn’t necessarily a slam dunk. According to the University System of Georgia, only three in 10 students maintain the scholarship the entire time they’re in college.

“The transition can kill you,” she admits. “You think it’s not going to be that bad — you’re like, ‘How much different could it be?’ But the environment is a lot different, and it’s not just the classes. There’s also the time management aspect: Now you’re by yourself. You can do whatever you want to do. And that didn’t go so well for me.

“I spent nearly every dollar I had to my name. Shopping, restaurants, parties, I could never say no to anything.” When Abbey finally received the e-mail telling her to meet with academic advisors because her grades had fallen below the 3.0 threshold, “I told them, ‘Look, I’ll be honest — I didn’t think I even needed to study.’ And they knew exactly what the problem was before I even told them.”

Instead of a lecture, though, the advisors offered her a leg up. The Keep HOPE Alive Scholarships, funded through donations to university-wide scholarships, provide $500 per semester to students whose grades have dipped just below HOPE eligibility. That “bridge” gives them time to get their grades back up, regain state funding — and stay enrolled.

Keep HOPE Alive afforded Abbey the opportunity to get her GPA back above 3.0. The academic workshops and advisory sessions she attended — also part of the Keep HOPE Alive program — helped her keep it there. “I honestly had no idea it was going to be as beneficial as it was,” Abbey says. “They were so helpful. Now I don’t want to see anybody else! I keep going back to those same people, because they know me. They know what I can do and what I can’t. They’ll be honest and tell me, ‘This is a class you should really take, but stay away from this one, it’s not really going to help you.’ They’re really great. That’s part of the reason I’m still in good standing — that I am where I am right now.”

New Commitment, New Goals

Georgia State’s investment in Abbey turned out to be a wise one. Abbey blocked out the distractions and rededicated herself to her studies, and as she did so, she discovered something else: She loved public speaking. “I took a class with Christian Norman, who’s a great public-speaking professor,” she says. “I decided I want to talk. I love talking. I’m really good in front of people.”

Through her public-speaking and phonetics courses, Abbey discovered a field she decided was her true calling — speech pathology. “I wanted to do something that would help people, but I didn’t want to do sick people — my immune system sucks. I get sick all the time,” she says with a laugh. “So this is my way of helping people without getting sick: I’m going to do speech therapy. I’m concentrating on children right now, but if there’s a grandmother who’s had a stroke and needs to learn how to talk again, I want to be there for her too.”

Abbey says she’d eventually like to pursue a master’s degree at Georgia State studying common speech disorders. In the meantime, she’s still managed to get valuable education in the world of business — she’s just getting it on the job rather than in the classroom. She’s been running the Yogli Mogli at Atlantic Station for the past two years, and she also oversees the locations in Virginia-Highland and Alpharetta.

“I built this baby almost from the ground up — it was a Cold Stone Creamery before, and now it’s all mine,” she says, smiling. “I’m really good friends with the owner, too — he and his wife are my backbone. They are amazing. I started just doing things like handing out sample cups and working the register, and then I got promoted, and when they opened this store, they said, ‘You’re ready.’ I would not be anywhere near where I am without them supporting me.”

Though her early experience in business management has been richly rewarding, Abbey remains confident that speech pathology is where she’ll distinguish herself. “If you want to do something great, you have to set yourself apart,” she says. “The transition from business to speech pathology was a little weird, but I don’t regret any of it. I’m 100-percent positive this is for me.”