Kellie Smith: Enthusiasm for Georgia State, and a Passion to Serve

Some high-school graduates are apprehensive about leaving their hometowns and heading off to college for the first time. Not Kellie Smith, who started classes at Georgia State just a week after graduating from her high school in south Georgia.

“I just wanted to move to the city and expand my options here. I was excited to leave,” she says. “I have met so many people. It’s been so amazing here — you never know who you’ll meet. I love going to school in the city. You make so many connections.”

Kellie is technically starting her junior year, but she’s already in her sixth semester. Having jumped right into her Georgia State experience, she’s now helping other new students do the same.

Following in a Community Leader’s Footsteps

Kellie was just as diligent about seeking out scholarship opportunities at Georgia State as she was about her actual studies. “Coming into college I already had two scholarships from high school, so I thought, ‘Let me apply for something that matches my description, too.’ So I applied for the Berry Scholarship and I got it. It was very helpful this year.”

The Mary Kathleen Berry Scholarship honors a dual Georgia State degree-holder (a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1972 and an M.B.A. in 1986) who went on to serve as the executive director of the Georgia Press Association for 15 years and earn the Distinguished Alumni Service award in 2011. As someone who’s making volunteer service a big part of her time at Georgia State, Kellie’s college experience parallels Kathy Berry’s.

“This summer I was a volunteer at the Fulton County library, and I’m a part of Jumpstart Atlanta, where we help inner-city teens — we try to mold them into better people,” she says. “I’ve made a lot of progress, considering that I’ve only been here a year, but there’s still room to meet new people and do a little more. So I plan on getting a little more involved this year.”

Showing New Students the Way

Kellie has a full schedule juggling her volunteer activities with her studies toward a major in clinical health informatics, but she’s also taken the time to volunteer on the Georgia State campus as a peer mentor in the Office of Undergraduate Studies. “A lot of my time goes to that,” she says. “I like to spend time with my mentees and plan activities for them. It’s a great experience helping them adjust to college.”

Kellie draws from her own experience as an early enrollee to expose her freshman mentees to all the opportunities available to them at Georgia State. “A lot of these students start in the summer, and they feel like they’ve missed out on the summer that other students have,” she says. “But being here over the summer is the best thing I’ve ever done. You get a head start on getting adjusted to the campus before everyone else gets here, but you still get to meet so many people. So it’s a good experience. It was the best summer I’ve ever had.”

Though Kellie isn’t the first person in her family to attend college, she’s the first to venture away from home to do so. She says she got plenty of support from her family, especially her mother.

“She loved the fact that I was coming here,” Kellie says. “She tells me very day, don’t give up, work hard, and take advantage of the opportunities I have here. I have the chance to do something nobody in my family has ever done and meet people nobody in my family has ever met. She’s been very encouraging.”