Senior Matthew Hood likes big ideas. He keeps notebooks chock-full of poetry he scratches down, along with possible inventions just waiting to be brought into reality. All that’s missing is Hood's spark of innovation.
“It rocked my world when Kendall asked me what my legacy would be when I left Georgia College,” said Hood, a psychology major, referring to Kendall Stiles, senior director for community engagement. “I didn’t think about legacy. But the more I thought about it, I realized the common denominator on why I was so interested in service is the stories of other people.”
Hood recently led the inaugural GIVEx event in April, inviting alumni back to the university to share impactful stories of service. Among them was Jacob Zawoysky, who work with the Rally Foundation; Janelle Draper, a third-grade teacher at Forsyth County and founder of Foundation to Fly; Tracy Ide, senior public affairs coordinator at LifeLink of Georgia; Megan Edmonds of Goodwill; and Jamie Newton, a registered nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Hood’s own story of service began his first year at Georgia College when he was a morale leader with Children’s Miracle Network Dance Marathon. The more he became involved, the more he spent time working with the GIVE Center.
“I had been working with Matt during his sophomore year and I saw a spark in him, but I wasn’t sure where his passion was. The funny part was he didn’t know either. So, I hired him and together we tried to figure it out,” said Stiles.
Stiles saw an opportunity for Hood to use his knack of connecting with people and set him to work by thinking of a way to engage alumni. This led to Hood coming up with the idea to host a series of talks on campus similar to the popular TED Talks.
“The thing I love about TED Talks is that they can get such a strong point across in a matter of 10 to 15 minutes,” said Hood. “I didn’t see a reason why we couldn’t do that with stories about community service.”
Hood took the lead, formed a committee and set to work organizing the event.Throughout his final semester at Georgia College, he led a team of six who helped with marketing, calling and arranging speakers, event set-up and more.
Stiles said Hood’s ability to take the lead was, in part, due to finding a cause he could get behind.
“If we can find an individual’s passion, we will start breathing belief in them, we will encourage, empower, motivate inspire and equip them to become a stronger leader,” said Kendall. “He just had to find his passion and put his heart into it.”
Hood, who came to Georgia College as a marketing major, switched to psychology to get more involved with people. Now, he plans to go into counseling or clinical psychology to work with children— a plan partly inspired by his time working with GC Miracle.
“I really think the universe puts me in the place where I’m supposed to be, and the GIVE Center was just where I was supposed to be,” said Hood, “It turned out to be one of the best blessings. I grew into a much better person. I couldn’t ask for a better place, and I couldn’t imagine a better place if I could.”