Growing up in Clarke County, Christina Kurian has been connected to the University of Georgia for most of her life. But when she enrolled as an undergraduate in 2017, UGA offered new, enriching experiences that furthered her engagement with her hometown and helped launch her professional ambitions.
One of the most fulfilling experiences for Kurian has been serving as a mentor.
Kurian learned about the Clarke County Mentor Program through the UGA Involvement Network during her freshman year. Excited at the opportunity to work with young people in Athens, she immediately volunteered.
“Kids are able to learn so much, and you can have such a big impact on their childhood experience,” she said. “That’s one of the main reasons I love working with children.”
The program sent Kurian to Cleveland Road Elementary, the school she attended as a child. For her, mentoring is about more than just helping with homework and assignments; it’s about building students’ confidence and social skills while learning alongside them.
“As a mentor, you are also a mentee,” she said. “There’s so much to learn on both sides.”
Adapting during COVID-19
When the pandemic shut down in-person instruction, Kurian looked for new ways to stay involved. In fall 2020, She mentored through Oasis Católico Santa Rafaela, an after-school tutoring program serving kindergarten through fifth grade students in the Pinewoods community of Athens.
Through weekly virtual meetings, Kurian helped her students gain confidence speaking English, while she improved her own Spanish skills.
“It’s really interesting to hear kids’ perspectives on a different language,” she said. “They’ll be honest with me when I say a wrong word, so it forces me to think outside of the box and rephrase.”
Some of Kurian’s closest mentors have been her family members, many of whom graduated from or currently attend UGA. Those relationships, she said, will keep her connected to the Classic City and the university, even when she graduates and moves to Texas to pursue her career with Oracle, a computer software company.
Launching a career through entrepreneurship
Kurian hopes her future will also include another major component of her undergraduate experience: entrepreneurship.
The fourth-year digital marketing major joined the UGA Entrepreneurship Program in 2016 as a Young Dawgs intern. A senior at Clarke Central High School, Kurian designed graphics and created digital content to promote the work of the program.
“There are so many students on campus working on really cool ideas,” she said. “Even if nine out of 10 startups fail, students continue moving in that direction to turn their ideas into businesses. Being a part of their network and helping connect them to the right resources has been one of the best parts of this experience.”
In addition to serving as the student coordinator for the Entrepreneurship Program and managing partner for the UGA Kickstarter Fund, Kurian currently interns with a local startup called All-Purpose Brand—a budding coffee company spearheaded by three business owners, including Michael Ripps, co-owner of Jittery Joe’s.
“I’ve been given so many opportunities through one small decision I made in high school,” she said. “I definitely see myself coming back to Athens.”
From running cross country trails through North Campus in high school to supporting entrepreneurship opportunities on and off campus, Kurian’s relationship with the University of Georgia continues to grow. Throughout her experiences, she hopes to maintain the valuable relationships she’s built within Athens and the university community.