Cortney VanHook, a senior psychology major, was recently named the first winner of the Joseph H. McClure Award presented by the African-American Male Initiative Success Program.
The African-American Male Initiative is a 205-member student organization in the Office of African-American Student Services and Programs designed for the support and advancement of African-American males enrolled at GSU.
The organization, which provides members mentoring and resources for their studies, plans to recognize one of its members each year with the award in honor of McClure, the first African-American to graduate from GSU with a degree in business in 1965.
“I am so honored to be the first winner of the Joseph H. McClure Award,” VanHook said. “I am not usually the type of person to apply for awards, but I was encouraged to apply and strongly identified with Mr. McClure’s experience and the adversity he faced.”
K. LaBron Hatcher, coordinator of AAMI, said VanHook received the award due to excelling in his academics, being recognized as a student leader on campus and making active strides towards graduation.
“Cortney has maintained a 3.59 GPA and has been on the Dean’s List for four semesters,” Hatcher said.
Like McClure, VanHook said he has displayed perseverance, academic excellence and dedication. He recalled the distress he once felt when he had to return home to Georgia from an out-of-state private college.
“Unfortunately, I could not afford to continue my education at that school so I had to come back home and apply to in-state schools,” he recalled. “It distressed me that I had wasted a year of my life as a result of my unpaid bill at my former school I did not receive any credits.”
But VanHook did not let that set back stop him. Instead he challenged himself to apply to Georgia State, to finish his degree in three years and to stay on track with his 2009 AAMI cohort.
“Not only have I taken no less than five classes a semester, I took six classes three semesters in a row to achieve my goal,” he said.
After graduation, VanHook plans to apply to the master’s and doctoral program in counseling psychology, marriage and family therapy and mental health counseling. He is very interested in mentoring and counseling at-risk youth. Since May of 2010, the 21-year old has been interning at The Ervin Academy, which provides mentors to youth who have been referred by social work agencies and the Department of Juvenile Justice. VanHook also actively participates in the OAASS&P office activities and is the vice-president of public relations for Psi Chi, the honors society for psychology.
This semester VanHook organized a panel titled “Pathways to Graduate School” for Psi Chi and the GSU community. The panel was made up of current graduate students, who provided advice on applying to graduate school, taking the GRE, writing personal statements, and what to expect during faculty interviews.
“I am proud to say that I proposed the event, organized it in a week in a half and was able to attract the largest attendance for a Psi Chi event in many years,” VanHook said. “I have made it my goal to shift the organization’s focus to providing training for psychology majors in the hopes of improving their post-graduation prospects.”
VanHook says he credits a lot of his success at GSU to the mentoring he received from AAMI.
“I desperately needed an organization like AAMI to help me develop professional skills, prepare me for grad school and provide an opportunity to network with my cohort and established individuals in the metro area,” VanHook said.
March 12, 2012