Campus News Georgia Impact

Road Dawgs share their stories at high schools across state

Ja’Von Holmes knows firsthand the impact the University of Georgia’s Road Dawgs program makes.

Last year, the group visited Spencer High School in Columbus, where Holmes was a senior making his final decisions about where to attend college. This year, he joined the Road Dawgs to help inspire others as they inspired him.

“It was definitely a reason why I chose to attend UGA, and I want high school students to know that I was in their position at one point, too,” said Holmes, a first-year student majoring in computer science. “They introduced me to the beginning of my four years at UGA. The things they shared with me have all been true, and I feel that UGA is only getting better with each passing day.”

Continuing to expand

Road Dawgs, a program where students use their spring break to travel across Georgia to talk with high school students about the collegiate experience, is now in its fourth year and continues to expand its reach. This year, the group traveled to areas affected by Hurricane Michael, including Cairo, Bainbridge and Albany, and visited schools in Norcross and Snellville.

Road Dawg students put their hands together in unison in the gymnasium of Dougherty Comprehensive High School before the start of their program. (Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

“All of our students have a unique story,” said Arthur Tripp, assistant to the president. “Sharing those stories as a Road Dawg shows the high school students we visit that they, too, can write their own story. They’re showing the next generation what’s possible.”

The goal of Road Dawgs is to make high school students aware of their opportunities after they graduate and empower them to begin thinking about their futures, particularly in higher education.

Powerful voice

“Road Dawgs gives high school students a chance to connect and interact with UGA students they can relate to, whether that be in interests, background or experiences,” said Michelle Cook, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and strategic university initiatives. “Students learn from their peers, and this near-peer experience is a powerful voice for the University of Georgia and speaks volumes regarding our commitment to making our institution accessible to students across the state.”

Road Dawgs speak to high school students in the gymnasium of Bainbridge High School. (Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Since the program began, more than 200 students have visited 33 schools in all parts of Georgia.

“We’re laying a foundation with Road Dawgs,” said Patrick Winter, associate vice president for admissions and enrollment management. “When our students talk about their time at UGA and share their own stories, these high school students see and hear why higher education matters and, more importantly, is within their reach. That connection can be a crucial part in their decisions about what is next.”

Conversations matter

Road Dawg events start with a cheer, letting high schoolers know that it’s great to be a Georgia Bulldog, and end with “calling the Dawgs.” But it’s the conversations in between that matter.

“We’re having conversations about majors, scholarships, study abroad programs and even graduate school,” said Nia Freeman, a third-year student in human development and family science, who participated in Road Dawgs for the third time. “These conversations matter, and it’s so rewarding to talk with students and see that you’ve sparked something in them, whether that be a desire to prepare for the ACT or an interest in a particular major.”

Road Dawg students Grace Gilbert (second from right) and Jason Codling (third from right) interact with Bainbridge High School students during a small group breakout discussion. (Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

After answering a few questions in a panel discussion, the Road Dawgs break out into the audience to answer more specific questions about attending college. For example, Pryce Nwabude, a fourth-year student in psychology and two-time Road Dawg participant, spoke with one student this year who is interesting in majoring in psychology and was able to share information about research and internship opportunities and post-graduate options.

To ensure the high school students have all the information they need, information cards are handed out so that the Office of Undergraduate Admissions staff can reach out to them later.

“UGA is definitely one of the most inclusive schools I know when it comes to having a chance to leave your mark on the school. You’re given so many opportunities on campus; it is only about when to seize your moment,” Holmes said. “The students who come to visit may change the minds of several high school students and be a huge influence on why they might attend college.”