Every year the University of Georgia searches through a pool of incoming freshmen to find the next class of Foundation Fellows. These students rank the highest in areas of merit, leadership and intellectual pursuits.
This year two seniors from the local Clarke Central High School, Daniel García-Pozo and Kurali Grantham, were chosen for this honor out of over 1,200 applicants. Typically, the university only chooses around 30 recipients out of its applicant pool.
Planning for the future
García-Pozo, an intended education major, grew up in Athens and has always wanted to attend UGA.
“I've wanted to go to UGA since I was a kid, but I never thought I'd have the financial opportunities to do that,” García-Pozo said. “But I’m really glad I got the opportunity to not only be able to go to UGA but to be a part of a program like Foundation Fellows.”
García-Pozo said that he chose education to continue the legacy of his parents who were both appointed UGA professors. He has always been interested in teaching, and both of his parents supported him in taking this career path.
“I think that my father was one of the key players in supporting me,” García-Pozo said. “He definitely saw that I could have the potential to do what I set my mind to, and he told me that he'll be proud of me no matter what.”
Along with his education major, García-Pozo is also interested in theater, which he plans to continue at UGA.
“One of the big perks in being able to go to college is having a new theater community to get into,” García-Pozo said.
Grantham, an intended political science and sociology major, also grew up in Athens but is still weighing his options for colleges into the fall. UGA has not always been one of his top choices, however the Foundation Fellows program placed the school in his top three.
“I always wanted to branch out of Athens and sort of spread my roots,” Grantham said. “But I didn't know about programs like the Foundation Fellows and some of the travel abroad experiences that it offers that sort of would give me that out of Athens experience.”
In high school Grantham played football, ran cross country and wrestled. In college, he hopes to continue running and also looks forward to meeting new people.
“I’m ready for just a fresh set of faces,” Grantham said. “I am looking forward to getting out from under my parents and have my own experiences, make my own mistakes and learn lessons that will guide me for the next four years.”
Up for the challenge
Grantham has been a dual enrolled student at UGA since his junior year of high school, so his application only consisted of the competitive and challenging Foundation Fellows process.
In addition to their UGA applications, students applying for Foundation Fellows must also submit additional essays. The applicants are then narrowed down and invited to an interview weekend. This year, 48 students were offered a spot for the weekend.
Jessica Hunt, the major scholarships coordinator at UGA, said that her favorite part of the process is the interview weekend. During this event, she enjoys getting to know the applicants.
“It was more fun for me because I wasn't the one being interviewed,” Hunt said. “So I was able just to revel in the wonderful opportunity to get to know these fantastic students”
Hunt said that this year saw the most fellowship applicants ever, and she wished she could have offered the scholarship to all of the students.
“We wish we had the funds to give scholarships to all 1,200 [applicants],” Hunt said, “They were all wonderful, but you know, it's a very competitive process.”
Students who receive the fellowship are automatically enrolled in the UGAHonors Program, which administers the fellowship.
Setting a precedent
García-Pozo and Grantham both said that they are happy they can set a precedent for students of color receiving academic accolades like Foundation Fellows.
“I think up to this point you would not have seen two male students of color being designated Foundation Fellows at the University of Georgia coming out of Clarke County,” Grantham said. “For us to have this opportunity, set the tone and to create that pathway for others to follow us is just surreal.”
García-Pozo said that his main takeaway from this process was that people who look like him and come from families like his can still have the same opportunities as any other student.
“I think that people like me, and people who look like me are definitely more capable than we realize,” García-Pozo said. “All levels of academia of people who come from immigrant backgrounds, Hispanic backgrounds and all people of color are able to get places.”