The Presidential Scholarship is among the top awards an incoming Georgia State student can receive. In addition to covering full tuition, fees and on-campus housing for four years, it provides stipends for living expenses and study-abroad programs. It also includes automatic acceptance to Georgia State’s Honors College, which offers smaller classes, specialized advising and unique research opportunities. As you read about each of this year’s ten recipients — the largest class ever — you will see that they earned the Presidential Scholarship with more than just good grades and test scores. Their diverse interests, independent ideas and dedication to service are great assets with the potential to make a real impact — not only on Georgia State’s campus but throughout the Atlanta community.
Nia Mitchell found her career calling as a student-athlete — just not the one you might expect.
“I played basketball until I injured my shoulder in eighth grade, and then after recovering from my shoulder surgery, I played volleyball for my high school from 10th through 12th grade until I tore my ACL,” she says. “I had a lot of different types of doctors and pediatricians during those times. They were really sweet and caring, and it felt really good to have people there who were trying to help me get better.”
So Mitchell knew an athletic scholarship wasn’t going to be in the cards when she started applying to colleges, but fortunately, the Presidential Scholarship was. Now she’s majoring in biology at Georgia State’s Honors College — with aspirations to become a pediatrician herself.
An Affinity for Those Seen as ‘Different’
Born in Trinidad, Mitchell and her family came to the U.S. when she was a year old. Even before Mitchell knew she wanted to go into medicine, she knew she enjoyed working with children. “I’ve been working with kids for a while,” she says. “I have two younger brothers, I used to babysit for my neighbors, and I worked for the YMCA a couple summers ago. Being around kids a lot made me realize that’s what I want to do for a living.”
Mitchell also found she had a special affection for children with disabilities or developmental disorders. On her own initiative, she and a friend began teaching themselves sign language, and that blossomed into a sign language club at their high school; eventually the club’s activities grew to include everything from guest speakers and interpreters to a group trip to a basketball game at a school for the deaf.
Mitchell also built close relationships with an autistic cousin and a girl she babysat who has Down syndrome. “Interacting with them and other children who are seen as ‘different’ by their peers just brings me so much joy,” she explains, “because even though they may look or act different, they are still just as bright and sweet and intelligent as other children. I just love interacting with kids like that and showing them that they are loved and appreciated. I would love to be able to do that on a daily basis as part of my occupation.”
A good experience in an advanced-placement biology class her senior year of high school cemented Mitchell’s decision to major in biology on the way to attending medical school and becoming a pediatrician. The only decision left was where that journey would start.
Small Classes, Big City — the Best of Both Worlds
Mitchell and her family visited a number of colleges up and down the east coast, but she admits she “didn’t really know much about Georgia State” until she got a glowing recommendation from a friend’s older sister. When she did some research of her own, she decided Georgia State was the kind of place she could thrive.
“I guess when I was looking for a college, I was looking for somewhere I wouldn’t be secluded, I wouldn’t be in the middle of nowhere,” she explains. “I wanted to be somewhere I would be given the resources to make advances in science and medicine. And even though I saw myself going to a traditional college, with the old buildings and frisbee on the lawn and things like that, coming here made me confident that I would be able to make those advances and participate in science. Just being in the city of Atlanta, there are so many opportunities nearby to do research and get hands-on experience — at Children’s Healthcare, at Grady, and even at the labs that are here on campus. That was really appealing to me.”
When Mitchell’s mom told her about the Presidential Scholarship, that heightened Georgia State’s appeal. “I thought that would be a really good opportunity for me to be in a small, close-knit group of people who are all doing things in leadership positions,” she says. “They had an Honors College event with President Becker, and after I went to that, Ashley Young got me in contact with some people who are biology majors like myself and were able to talk to me about their experience. After that, I was definitely sure I wanted to come here.”
The Honors College’s advisors and smaller class sizes helped make Georgia State’s active, growing campus more manageable for Mitchell. And now that she’s gotten acclimated to college life, she says she’s looking forward to exploring some of downtown Atlanta’s cultural activities, such as the Rialto. She might even get back into athletics.
“I’m still in the rehab process right now, but I definitely want to at least join an intramural volleyball team here, or maybe even start a new one with some friends,” she says. “That’s pretty much the extent of the sports that I’ll be doing. But it’s exciting to know there are so many opportunities here.”