Georgia Gwinnett College brings academics, friendship and leadership to first-generation college student.

Kelly Duckworth first heard about Georgia Gwinnett College as a student at South Gwinnett High School. As a first-generation college student, her parents weren’t familiar with the application process, including how to take the necessary tests or apply for financial aid. Instead, Duckworth received the guidance she needed from GGC representatives who visited her high school campus to help seniors obtain their goal of college admission.

Duckworth initially choose Georgia Gwinnett for its convenience and affordability and had plans to transfer to a larger college by her junior year. But after visiting the campus for Grizzly Orientation, she realized GGC would be the perfect place to call home for the next four years.

“I expected a small campus with outdated facilities,” Duckworth said. “Instead I experienced a modern, beautiful campus and received encouragement from the leaders, professors and even the college president.” She's also taken advantage of the opportunity to work on campus to help pay her tuition.

Duckworth, an elementary education major, described herself as socially awkward and shy at the beginning of her freshman year, but quickly made friends who supported her in her studies.

“Everyone I’ve met – students, faculty and staff, have been absolutely amazing,” Duckworth said. “As an introvert, the friendly GGC community really brought out the fun side of me. I joined activities, got to know people and became more outgoing each day.”

Duckworth cites the small class sizes, classroom engagement and caring professors as her favorite campus features.

“In just one semester, I saw Kelly come out of her shell and be more vocal and interactive in class,” said Dr. Rebecca Cooper, professor of curriculum and instruction, who taught Kelly's integrated science class during her sophomore year. “She will make an excellent elementary school teacher.”

Aiding Duckworth’s goal to become a teacher, GGC partners with Gwinnett County Public Schools, immersing education majors in classrooms – a multi-semester, experiential learning opportunity that increasingly builds on the previous semester’s skills and often leads to a job immediately after graduation.

Duckworth became a student ambassador because she wants potential future Grizzlies to know that GGC isn't just a stepping stone to other colleges.

“It’s the future of education,” she said. “GGC is innovative, fun and very academically focused. It feels like home.”