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CSU awards its first Presidential Scholars

Special Photo
Clayton State President Tim Hynes (from left) poses with Presidential Scholars Kirk Muse, Sotheavy Vann, Khalea Crowe, Kathleen Barbosa and University Honors Program Director Adam Tate. The university recently awarded the scholars with grants that will assist them with their college educations.

Special Photo Clayton State President Tim Hynes (from left) poses with Presidential Scholars Kirk Muse, Sotheavy Vann, Khalea Crowe, Kathleen Barbosa and University Honors Program Director Adam Tate. The university recently awarded the scholars with grants that will assist them with their college educations.

Clayton State University recently recognized its first Presidential Scholars, according to John Shiffert, director of university relations at the school.

The five outstanding, first-year students will each receive an annual university grant, a housing-and meal-plan grant and a bookstore award, with a total value of approximately $12,000, said Shiffert.

The students will receive these grants annually, for the next four years of their university careers at Clayton State University, in addition to any HOPE scholarship funds for which they are eligible, he said.

"The new program consists of four-year presidential scholarships that continue annually, so that in four years, Clayton State will have approximately two dozen honor students on presidential scholarships," said Shiffert, in a written statement. "The Presidential Scholars will supplement the existing University Honors Program."

According to Shiffert, in order to become a part of the Presidential Scholars program, individuals must be first-year students, accepted into the university's Honors Program, and be enrolled full time. "It's a chance to identify outstanding students and reward outstanding students," he said.

Shiffert said the program is competitive, and only six students will be accepted into the program annually. This year, only five students were admitted, including Sotheavy Vann, who graduated from Riverdale High School this year. Shiffert said the sixth student, who was admitted into the program, opted to enroll at another university.

"It [program] means that these five kids didn't go to Georgia Tech, UGA [The University of Georgia] ... They came to Clayton State," said Shiffert. "That is a very important part of this. The image of this university is part of this, that we can attract students like this."

During a phone interview, Vann said the Presidential Scholars program has allowed her to achieve a higher education. In addition, she said, because she is part of the university's first group of Presidential Scholars, she feels responsible for being a role model to future scholars.

"It [program] is going to pay for me until I get my bachelor's degree," she said. "My parents would have not been able to afford this [higher education] for me."

Vann said she was the valedictorian of her class at Riverdale High School. She said that outside of her studies, she was involved in selective academic clubs, including the National Honor Society, and was president of both the school's BETA club and Elite Scholars club.

She said her academic drive comes from the success her older sister had.

"My sister was also a valedictorian when she graduated [from] Riverdale High School, in 2004," she said.

Her family always reminded her to do her best in academics, Vann said, and instilled in her that good grades would open doors that would offer her success in the future. "I want a better opportunity for myself," she added. "By getting a good education, I would get good opportunities to succeed in life. I could help my parents get a better quality of living."

Vann described her first week at Clayton State University, as "great, fun and exciting." She said she lives on campus, and this is her first time living independently, which makes her homesick at times, though her parents only live 15 minutes away.

Because she is part of the University Honors Program at Clayton State, she said, her college courses are challenging, and will include physics, biology, accounting, organic chemistry and micro-economics, for a total of 18 credit hours. "Twelve hours are considered full-time," she explained.

Vann said she is not required to take 18 credit hours, but chose to do so, because she was accustomed to the workload in high school. While taking 12 credit hours at Clayton State University, as a dual enrollment student, she completed the rest of her classes at Riverdale High School, she said.

Vann said her dual enrollment and advanced placement courses in high school, helped her start her first year at Clayton State University as a sophomore, with 56 college credit hours in her pocket. She is a pre-medical student, and has chosen to major in biology and minor in business.

Her goal is to become a medical missionary, and help develop clinics and hospitals in poor countries, as well as share the word of Jesus Christ with others. "I am inspired by Mother Teresa ... I read about people who died in poor countries, of illnesses that could be easily treated," she said of her motivation.