Amazing Students Profiles

Cristian Escalera

Cristian Escalera

Cristian Escalera, a senior exercise and sport science major, co-founded Project HOPE at UGA, started a community health fair, works in the Biomechanics Research Lab, has been elected to the SGA and somehow even finds time to coach soccer at a middle school.


Valdosta, GA

High School:

Valdosta High School

Degree objective:

Bachelor of Science in Education, Exercise and Sports Science; Minor in Biological Sciences, Pre-Medicine.

Expected graduation:

May 2017

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

Catholic Student Association
— Executive Council member, fundraising chair.
— Mr. Catholic Center 2014.
— Confirmation teacher.

The Arch Society
— Accepted for a second year of membership.
— Flag bearer.

Biomechanics Research Lab
— Work under associate professor Kathy Simpson.
— Been working in the lab for three years.
— CURO Research Assistantship recipient.
— Conducted a research project focused on the different spinal motions that occur during running.
— Oral presentation at the 2015 CURO Symposium.
— Poster presentation at the 2015 College of Education Graduate Student and Faculty Research Conference.

Project HOPE at UGA
— Co-founded a new student organization during freshman year to raise awareness of a local rural community in need.
— President of organization during freshman and sophomore years.
— Project HOPE at UGA won Best New Organization of the Year during the 2014 Center for Student Organizations SOAR Awards.
— I was a final nominee for the Candidate Sherman Emerging Leader Award.
— Coordinated recruitment events and service projects for the Oasis Tutoring Program and Pinewoods Library.

Michael E. Penland Family Award
— Award provided by the Penland family to conducts a service project within the Department of Kinesiology.
— Received $1,000 award to coordinate an exercise/health program and a health fair in the Pinewoods community.
— Coordinated an exercise/health program for the community members of Pinewoods. Fellow UGA undergrads and I walk around the community with them and discuss different health issues and ways to have healthier lives.
— In April, I collaborated with students and faculty from the UGA Pharmacy School, as well as different student organizations around campus, to host a health fair at the Pinewoods library. We provided free blood sugar and blood pressure screening as well as free health information and health supplies.

Volunteer UGA Sustainable Service Grant
— Collaborated with Ashley Peterson from Habitat for Humanity and awarded a $6,000 grant to purchase an outdoor shelter that expanded the Oasis Tutoring program.

LeaderShape Institute
— Attended a six-day leadership development program the summer after my freshman year.

W.R. Coile Middle School assistant soccer coach
— I was an assistant coach for the boy’s soccer team at W.R. Coile Middle School this past year and will continue through my senior year.

Student Government Association
— Recently elected to be the College of Education senator for the 2016-2017 year.

Current Employment:

None during the school year, but I work at Rodeo Mexican Restaurant during school breaks.

Family Ties to UGA:

I am a first-generation college student; therefore, I have no family ties to UGA. However, my family members are huge Georgia fans.

I chose to attend UGA because…

When I was in high school, I was a huge Bulldog fan so I always saw UGA as my first choice. Also, during my sophomore year of high school, my youngest sister was born so I knew that I wanted to attend a school that was close to my hometown of Valdosta.  Honestly, when I first visited Georgia, I felt liked I stepped into my second home. I almost cried with excitement when I saw Sanford Stadium for the first time! I am thankful every day that I chose to attend a university that has given me so many opportunities and experiences.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

Besides watching the Dawgs play between the hedges, I enjoy playing pick-up sports on the IM fields or Myers Quad. One of my personal goals when entering UGA was to learn how to play as many different sports as I could. Since my first year, I have learned to play many new sports such as lacrosse, golf and inner tube water polo. I am always free to go play pick-up soccer or football. I am not great at basketball but I’m slowly working on it!

When I have free time, I like…

I love volunteering as an assistant soccer coach at W.R. Coile Middle School. This past year was my first year coaching and every time I was out there I was reminded of the good days of high school soccer. I hope to coach again during my senior year and maybe be an assistant coach for the middle school football team.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

One of the craziest things I’ve done has been traveling to Cuba right after the embargo ended. I went his past March with other students from the UGA Catholic Center. It was such an eye-opening experience visiting Cuba and I sure did enjoy their food! Another pretty crazy experience was running a Tough Mudder race during my senior year of high school. The race consisted of a 13-mile obstacle course that included fire, electric wires and a whole lot of mud.

My favorite place to study is…

My favorite place to study is the science library. I usually go to the science library to work on papers or read for class on the comfy beanbags. I recently heard that the science library is getting an Einstein Bros. Bagels this next year so that sealed the deal for the best place to study!

My favorite professor is…

… Kathy Simpson from the Department of Kinesiology. I met her my first year during a mentor program created by the Office of Multicultural Services and Programs. After we met, I starting working in the biomechanics lab with her research team. Her mentorship has greatly contributed to my college success so far and I was lucky enough to take her biomechanics course before she retired this past year.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… Pope Francis! His impact on the world during these past years is just amazing and his Twitter is pretty awesome too. I think we kind of already spent an afternoon together since I went to see him when he visited Philadelphia this September.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… probably find the cure for diabetes. I know many loved ones that are affected by this horrible disease. I know that finding a cure would definitely improve their quality of life. I would also love to be head coach for the Georgia Bulldogs and bring home a national championship.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… travel all over the world. One of my favorite quotes is, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Through my past adventures, I have realized that traveling is the best way to learn. I would love to travel all over the world to meet new people and hear their unique stories.

After graduation, I plan to…

… take a gap year before attending medical school. I would love to do a medical internship somewhere abroad during my gap and hopefully be accepted to the Medical College of Georgia. After I finish my medical training, I would love to become an orthopedic surgeon and operate on children with spinal conditions.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

I am going to cheat and pick two of my favorite UGA experiences. The first one is the Pinewoods Health Fair this past spring semester. Using the Penland Award from the Department of Kinesiology, I was fortunate enough to partner with APhA-ASP and the College of Pharmacy to host a health fair in Pinewoods. It was amazing to have so many friends and student organizations supporting me in the organization of this event. The health fair was a huge success and I could not have done it without everyone who supported me. I have not been prouder of anything in my life.

The second experience was coaching a team for the first annual Catholic Center Powder Puff Game. I took the game seriously and even made a playbook for the game! It was so fun coaching such an amazing group of young women. We were losing by two scores in the fourth quarter and ended up coming back to win it all. I still reminisce of that amazing comeback and cannot wait to get another win this upcoming year.