Three outstanding seniors have been named valedictorians for the December 2017 graduating class – a feat that shows they navigated college with a perfect blend of coursework, activities and social life.
Art history major Victoria Pitts of Byron said it best – with nods and agreement from Amy Mangham of Molena, Georgia, and Madison Stansell of Griffin.
“I wanted to experience college the best way I could,” Pitts said, “For me, this shows I successfully conquered that balance that I was searching for. I didn’t just want one or the other. I wanted all of it.”
Mangham chose Georgia College for small classes and personal relationships with professors. She liked the exercise science program, because it required shadowing professionals and doing hands-on learning.
She did her hands-on learning with a pediatric internship at Brain and Body Connections in Zebulon, Georgia. That’s where Mangham discovered she liked working with children. In January, she enters Brenau University in Gainesville to get a master’s degree in occupational therapy. She hopes to work with special needs kids in the future.
“Occupational therapy deals with fine motor skills,” Mangham said. “I want to work with developmental delays in children. I just really like kids, and I feel if you can catch their issues early, they can have a better life.”
Her coursework, involvement in the exercise science club and shadowing kept Mangham busy.
“I think I’ve grown into myself,” Mangham said. “I’ve become a different person than I was in high school. I’m more on the shy side, but college has helped me come out of my shell.”
Stansell chose Georgia College, based on people she knew who graduated here.
“There were a lot of really important people in my life who went here. People I admired and thought highly of,” she said. “I always assumed I’d go to Georgia College and, when I came for my tour, I fell in love with it.”
In nursing, Stansell did research on opioid abuse and fear of childbirth in college-age women. She was active in Sigma Theta Tau International, the Honors Society, Phi Kappa Phi, and the GC Association of Nursing Students.
Stansell always had a passion for service. But college helped crystallized what service means, helping Stansell realize she’s on the right path. Nursing will allow Stansell to spend more time one-on-one with patients.
She begins a job at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta at the end of February.
“I just really wanted a way I could tangibly use my knowledge and skills to serve others,” Stansell said, “and be a big impact on their lives.”
Pitts values the liberal arts education she got at Georgia College – getting schooled in history, art, religion, philosophy, psychology.
“Those classes have challenged me and made me question who I am and what I believe,” Pitts said. “I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve taken the things I’ve learned to heart and really implemented them into my life.”
Next semester, Pitts will do an internship as a graphic designer and photographer with the Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon. Then she plans to get a master’s in historic preservation or art law.
Pitts was on the executive board at her sorority Zeta Tau Alpha and the media team at Wesley Foundation. She was also a member of the Honors Society, Phi Kappa Phi.
Doing independent research with Dr. Elissa Auerbach was the “hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Pitts said. She looked at how children were portrayed in 18th-century art, compared to 20th-century photos. Diving into previously-published studies and learning new skills made a huge impact.
“It was the most challenging thing that I’ve ever done,” Pitts said, “but it was also the most successful thing I think I’ve ever accomplished in my life. I learned to stand up for myself and for the people around me.”