Georgia Gwinnett College's 5000th student already is an inspiration to others

Keila Diaz wants to impress upon the Hispanic population how important a college education is and wants to set a good example to the young people in her community by achieving her goals and surpassing them.

Keila Diaz wants to impress upon the Hispanic population how important a college education is and wants to set a good example to the young people in her community by achieving her goals and surpassing them.

“I have the responsibility as a role model,” said Diaz. “I am aware that children look up to me, and that members of the Hispanic community look to me and see what I have achieved. I want to use the opportunity to make a difference.”

As the 5000th student registered for Georgia Gwinnett College’s 2010 fall semester, Diaz already embodies the College’s four core values of leadership, service, scholarship and creativity.

“At GGC, we develop the total person by emphasizing core values that equip students with the skills, knowledge and perspective to be successful as contributing members of society,” said GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman. “Keila’s distinction as a symbol of GGC reaching its 5,000 enrollment goal is made more significant by how this young leader already possesses the very qualities we seek to instill in our students. She is a great representative of this important milestone in GGC’s growth.”

As a new member of the GGC student body, Diaz, who plans to major in psychology, looks forward to becoming active in several student organizations, including the Organization for Latin American Students (OLAS), known for its community service. She also plans to help recruit Hispanic students in collaboration with Dr. Louis Negron, GGC’s director of minority outreach. She met Negron when he visited her high school to encourage Hispanic students to pursue higher education.

“In the Hispanic community, a lot of parents do not understand the process for getting a student into college because it’s complex,” she said, adding that cultural barriers have kept many of her peers from pursuing a college education. “Too often, Hispanic students think they can’t go to college and I want to help change this.”

Diaz is a native of Hoschton and a 2010 graduate of Mill Creek High School in Gwinnett County. During her high school years she was an active member of the Latin American Student Organization and in pageant programs that placed her in the community limelight.

As both the 2010 Miss Mill Creek and 2010 Miss Buford, Diaz makes appearances for various events and is aware of the impact she can make on the young people who are drawn to her because of her crown. An eligible candidate for the Miss Georgia Scholarship Program, Keila is delaying her pageant pursuits because she believes her education must be her first priority.

Diaz’s experience in community involvement also stems from being an active volunteer for Special Olympics, a role about which she is enthusiastic.

“I believe that everyone as the ability to do whatever you put your mind to,” Diaz said, as she described working with adults and children who, despite their limitations, are determined to compete and succeed. “Special Olympics has changed my life and helped me grow as a person.”

Diaz also wants to be part of the GGC story and experience the College’s growth and development. In many ways, she is a typical freshman student. She is excited by the college experience and last week, moved into the college’s new campus housing with one of her best girl friends.

“I planned in advance how I was going to decorate my room,” she said enthusiastically. “I like the thought that I will be the first student to live in that room in our brand new student housing facilities.”

Beyond these basic details, it becomes clear that Diaz is far from typical. Being identified as GGC’s 5000th student for fall 2010 was a surprise and a blessing, she said.

“I was shocked,” Diaz said. “This is a great opportunity to be known on campus, to be more involved and to help others. I’m proud to have the opportunity to represent GGC.”

Several hundred students registered after Diaz, but GGC chose to recognize the student representing its specific enrollment goal. As of Aug. 23, the total enrollment for the 2010 fall semester is more than 5,700.

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