It’s a familiar story: the teenager finding the closeness and familiarity of her small, rural hometown to be oppressive, stifling. She can’t go anywhere without running into someone she knows. Everybody seems involved everybody’s personal business. For her, going away to college becomes a promise of new experiences, new people, and new freedom.
While Savannah Rogers wasn’t necessarily bursting to get away from her Mount Airy, GA (pop. 1,200) hometown, Georgia State University’s downtown Atlanta location was part of its appeal. Its diversity of people, cultural offerings, and professional opportunities were attractive.
What eventually sold the Presidential Scholar of the Class of 2021 on choosing Georgia State?
The interest that the people she met at Georgia State took in her.
“A month or more after the Presidential Scholar interviews, I was at an event where (Georgia State) President Becker was featured,” said Savannah. “A professor who had interviewed me for the Presidential Scholarship came up to me, asked me questions based on what we had previously talked about, and complimented my mother.”
“No other college I was considering treated me that well or had been so invested in me, personally,” said Savannah.
The Habersham Central High School graduate was a relative newcomer to her community compared with many of her peers. Savannah was 11 years old when she moved from Michigan to Mount Airy with her parents, Sean and Tracie, and her sister Kellsie, who was nine at the time. She entered a close-knit social ecosystem, where many of her classmates had been friends since they were in diapers and had parents who had also been childhood friends.
Savannah excelled in the classroom and made friends outside it. By the time she was in high school, Habersham Co. felt like home. She took the AP classes that were available and got actively involved in the school’s theater. In her sophomore year, Savannah earned the position of assistant stage manager. She would be the stage manager during her last two school years.
The 2016 Presidential election was in its home stretch when Savannah started her senior year at Habersham Central. She had enjoyed learning about history and discussing politics and current events with her teachers during her junior year, and once again found herself drawn to these topics. At the end of her junior year, Savannah was planning to attend her dream school, Georgia Tech, to study computer science; she had been interested in computers since she was a child. By the fall of her senior year, though, she knew she wasn’t passionate about computers like she was about language and politics.
But changing her course of study would mean she would likely need to change her choice of colleges.
Savannah had kept Georgia State in mind as an option since being introduced to them at a college fair during the fall of her junior year. She liked the people she met from the school, the variety of programs they offered, and its downtown Atlanta location. There were other schools, too, but figuring out which she could afford was a challenge.
Sean and Tracie always pushed and challenged their oldest child to do more and supported Savannah however they could in her pursuit of her goals. While they didn’t set any limits on where Savannah could go to college, she understood the financial realities.
She had reconciled herself to the fact that, to become the first member of her family to attend a four-year college, she would need to work while he was in school, regardless of what kind of scholarship she got.
And she earned plenty of them. Savannah turned down scholarships from George Washington University and Emory to attend Georgia State, where she plans to study journalism and political science.
Her experience at the Presidential Scholarship interviews moved Georgia State to the front of her wish list.
“The community within the Honors College was something I couldn’t get anywhere else,” said Savannah. “We have all kinds of different interests, but we all share a hunger for and love of learning.”
Being recognized and remembered a month later at the Dr. Becker event further sold her on Georgia State. Being awarded the Presidential Scholarship made it her choice.
“The Presidential Scholarship lifted a huge weight off me, knowing that my parents and I wouldn’t have to take on debt for my college,” said Savannah. “And the internships and assistantships that are available through the Honors College are both exciting and practical; I always planned to have a job in college.”
“Through the entire process, I’ve felt valued at Georgia State. I never felt like just another applicant, like just another number.”
Eighty miles to the southwest from Mount Airy, on a campus 20 times more populous than her hometown and located in a metro area of almost six million residents, Savannah found herself at home at Georgia State.