Transferring to UGA has made a big difference in the life of junior Logan Smalley—and several other people. After Logan attended the UGA Cannes Film Festival Study Abroad last year, he embarked upon a project that merges his interest in film with his studies in Special Education. He and UGA student Dylan Wilson are raising money to produce an independent documentary about their upcoming road trip with 15 year old Darius Weems, a local boy with myscular dystrophy. If they can raise the funds, Logan, Darius, and seven other students will film their travels as Darius leaves the state for the first time and the crew aims for the offices of MTV in Los Angeles in an effort to get Darius’s wheelchair featured on the show, Pimp My Ride. Logan is hoping the film, which he plans to release nationwide, will bring attention and funding to the fight against muscular dystrophy.
Clarke Central High School
B.S.Ed. in Special Education
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
I have been a Presidential Scholar at UGA for all three years of my attendance. I received a Target scholarship and an Athens United Soccer Scholarship on top of HOPE to attend UGA my sophomore year. I spent my freshman year at the College of Charleston. I went there for a year because I grew up in Athens and wanted to see what I was missing. Charleston had a lot to offer, but I think I was missing more being there than here. I am currently a member of UGA’s Relay for Life program. I also am a member of SCEC, Student Council for Exceptional Children. We are a campus club that is very active in improving the lives of the local special education students.
I am a waiter at the Globe Restaurant downtown. I enjoy the work because it pays well and has flexible hours for school obligations. I enjoy working at the Globe in particular because it is the perfect mix of younger and older people. On any given night, I could be hanging out with my favorite friends, my favorite professors, or both. I describe it as a conversation bar because the music is not so loud that you can’t hear yourself think. The shift meal also helps me squeak by on my student budget without starving every day of the week.
I chose to attend UGA because…
…I enjoy Athens, the small town with a big city feel. The Special Education program is also one of the best in the nation. It offers many opportunities to do the leg work for massive grant funded research. For example, over Christmas break, I got a job administering reading tests. One change that might come out of the research is to deepen the emphasis on early age reading so that every young child reaches the third grade on an equal playing field. This is not the case in schools today, and this project could have implications for the success of young readers all over the nation. Additionally, I think UGA has a great study abroad program, and I am glad to have had an opportunity to participate in it.
My favorite things to do on campus are…
…I enjoy watching football, basketball, and baseball games. I really enjoy playing in the intramural soccer leagues as well. I have played soccer since I was five, and my intramural team is three time defending champs (indoor). I also like eating the pizza they have at the Tate Center. It is the best deal on campus. I really like going to some of the public speakers that UGA attracts. I also like going to the movies that the Tate Center puts on. I think they have good taste in film.
When I have free time, I like…
…to play music. I play the piano, harmonica, and musical saw. A lot of my free time lately is spent working on The Darius Goes West project, an independent documentary that I am directing. It has become a labor of love that soaks up every free second. I am answering emails sometimes three hours a day. I have begun to share the work load with my friend and cameraman on our trip, UGA student Dylan Wilson. I also spend a lot of time networking for more fundraising possibilities, developing professional video contacts, and seeking general advice about how to make a successful documentary.
The craziest thing I’ve done is…
…stalk Charlize Theron. When I went to the UGA Cannes Film Festival Study Abroad with the Grady College, I saw the movie “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.” She had a small role in this film and was at the premiere. She was sitting about five rows in front of me dressed in beautiful red carpet attire. She got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the film, and I followed her (and her bodyguard). I played it slick and acted like I was talking on my phone outside of the private restroom. When she came out, I hung up the phone, and stood right in front of her. I tried to look deep into her eyes, waiting for some kind of connection. I’m pretty sure she was going to kiss me, but then her bodyguard asked me to move so they could go back to the movie. I don’t remember if I even moved. She is really tall. Her eyes are blue.
My favorite place to study is…
…Kathy Anderson in the English Department. I have never actually taken her class, but I work at the restaurant with her. Every shift I work with her is like a life-changing lecture. She is brilliant, and an incredible conversationalist. We chat about life, politics, books, and film. We agree about a lot, but when we don’t, I have found that she is one of those people with whom it’s actually enjoyable to argue.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…
…Chris Farley. That guy is the funniest person of all time. Hanging out with him for an afternoon would supply enough laughs for a lifetime.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to…
…fund the Darius Goes West project. The film will cover the journey of a bunch of friends including me, Dylan Wilson, and Darius as we go on the trip of a lifetime. Darius is 15. He has muscular dystrophy, and he has never left the state of Georgia. We plan to make a documentary about our cross-country R.V. trip. We hope to release the film nationally in order to bring attention to muscular dystrophy in hopes of finding a cure, to evaluate America’s wheelchair accessibility, and to help our friend find excitement before his disease makes travel impossible. When we reach L.A. we hope to get Darius onto MTV’s hit show, Pimp My Ride (the show where they take old cars and give them new technology). We want them to “pimp” Darius’s wheelchair!
After graduation, I plan to…
…go to graduate school and get my master’s degree in special education. I also want to continue working on projects that will help put a face on M.D. and bring about a greater effort from society towards finding a cure. Hopefully we can show that no matter what situation you are born into, you should make sure the joy of life eclipses the tragedy of death. Darius and his family realize that this project is a chance to possibly help people not have to go through the pain that they have.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…
…going to France and seeing the films that would inspire me to follow my dream and make a film myself. I hope that I can look back in ten years and say that I would be nowhere near where I am today if I had not seen the films and met the people that I met at UGA.