University of Georgia student Gabriela Castillo was featured on the cover of the August issue of G.I. Jobs magazine for receiving the publication’s 2023 Student Veteran Leadership Award. The national honor is handed out annually by the magazine’s editorial team to student veterans who make a positive impact through serving their schools, communities and fellow veterans.
Castillo, an Army medic turned pre-med student, logged hundreds of hours at a clinic that provides free quality medical care to low-income families. Between working at the Good News Clinic near her home in Gainesville and attending classes in Athens, Castillo commuted 500 miles per week over the course of her first academic year. During that time, she became a consistent veteran advocate in the Student Veterans Resource Center (SVRC) and served to guide and direct other student veterans through the obstacles of transitioning from active duty to life as a civilian college student.
Castillo said that transitioning from the Army was not easy, but that she is thriving now because of how much help the university provided.
“As a dual military family, my husband and I had to start from square one. I was not prepared for the amount of support I would need at UGA – or how the staff would help me through the challenges,” she said. “The response has been overwhelming. From ways to connect with my peer student veterans, to mentoring and opportunities for scholarships – I am so grateful for the guidance and the resources.”
Castillo and her husband, who recently completed his active duty service in Hawaii, are now both college students separated from the military, and have moved to a new home to minimize the commute.
Jon Segars, director of the SVRC, said that Castillo serves as the perfect representative of the excellence of UGA’s student veterans.
“Gabby is exceptional. From her service to her country, to the persistent way she has found success at UGA, to her servant leadership on campus in support of her fellow student veterans, she represents everything we aspire for our students,” Segars said. “She deserves this recognition, and I know all of UGA is very proud of her.”
Castillo has earned scholarships from both the UGA Parents Leadership Council and the Lockheed Martin Corporation. Additionally, she completed an 80-hour internship in the SVRC and landed multiple summer internship opportunities. She was also elected by her peers to become a member of the Student Veterans Association staff, where she will support incoming student veterans throughout the next academic year.
Her ultimate goal is to become a doctor and create a clinic like the one she has been serving, supporting low-income families and making a difference in a community that could use that type of support.
“When I first volunteered there, I was like, ‘I want to do this. I want to be a part of growing this, or replicate it and take it somewhere else.’ That is a life goal of mine,” she said. “But step one is to finish organic chemistry and take care of what’s next from there.