By Kennington Smith
On the eve of the 55th anniversary of Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault becoming the first African American students at The Univeristy of Georgia, alumni, faculty and students take a step back to reflect on racial progress that’s been made and think of ways to expand minority involvement.
Today, the current black population recruits the future leaders of campus through a student organization that many hold close to their hearts.
“As a student Georgia daze reassured me I would be able to survive at such a large institution,” said graduate student Arynn Byrd. “It introduced me not only to a group of a like-minded people but it introduced me my roots and support team; Black UGA. In a time of such transition, they helped me find a family that supported and helped me reach success during my whole undergrad experience.”
During the GA weekend, high school seniors are paired with a student host that’s been hand selected by the GA Daze executive board. From there, students are immediately immersed in the life of a UGA student by attending classes, eating at dining halls, sleeping in residence dorms and participating in various presentations and social events. The two weekends are held in February for students’ accepted early decision and April for regular decision students.
While all the events are praised, the weekend culminates in the annual game night.. The night begins with dinner and a panel of student leaders where current students can share their experiences and answer any questions about college from the prospective students. Following the panel discussion, the students, their hosts and other upperclassmen come together for a night of music, games and fellowship.
In many cases, the host becomes a mentor and a resource for their student should they decided to come to UGA as such is the case for sophomore student Bradley Evans.
“Being that my host and I were both engineering majors, he served as a great resource as far as advising me on which classes to take along with the better professors. We even got the chance to take one class together,” said Evans. “I also still keep in touch with my student. We both came from similar backgrounds, which allowed for me to contribute more to him in a social aspect and acclimate himself to the new and extremely different climate here in Athens.”
Many black students have reservations about attending a PWI, fearful that they will not be accounted for or nurtured as a minority. GA Daze strives to reassure students that even though they are a minority, they have a home and numerous opportunities to succeed at UGA.
“Honestly, if it wasn’t for Daze, I wouldn’t be a current student at the school,” said freshman biological sciences major Michelle Igboneje-Asor. “Daze exposed me to the multicultural community that’s involved in the school and helped inform me that despite the demographic difference the school may have, there’s a plethora of other students similar to me attending the school.”
Once enrolled at The University of Georgia, freshmen are welcomed immediately by GA Daze through events that get them better acclimated to campus as well as acquainted with fellow students.
Throughout the semester, GA Daze has weekly meetings that are geared towards helping freshmen get involved on campus and teach valuable lessons on how to maximize their undergrad experience. Topics of meetings include: resume/cover letter workshops, interview skills, class registration tips and social topics like party etiquette.
Using the skills they’ve learned during the semester, freshmen students interview for the opportunity to welcome the newest class of bulldogs by becoming Daze hosts. The class of 2019 now has that opportunity with the class of 2020. This year’s GA Daze has appropriately been themed as “The 20/20 Experience.”
Though the majority of hosts are freshmen, any minority who lives on campus is eligible to host.
Some upperclassman, like senior biology major Darius Sanford, decided to volunteer for Daze in other ways like driving buses or being on site to share experiences and insight with students during the weekend. He sees it as a way to continue to push Daze’s mission despite not being a host.
“I chose to continue my involvement with Georgia Daze because I felt obligated to give back to an organization in which many of its members I learned from and looked up to,” said Sanford.” Members from the old executive boards like Montez Flenoury and Brandon Martin served as role models and inspired me to push new limits at the university.”
For any student that’s eligible to host but has reservations about becoming a part of the organization, junior assistant planning director Elizabeth Salimonu says to consider the legacy that you can be a part of and cherish it.
“To continue to have our culture represented as minority students we must work diligently to not only recruit minorities to come to UGA but to also help to guide and assist those on campus to reach their goals and find their niche on campus,” she said. “Georgia Daze is a lot more than the weekend, it is the family that helps to welcome you to a campus that wants to create an inclusive and welcoming culture.”
For senior current planning director Mahelate Theodros, this upcoming spring will be her last as an undergrad participant in GA Daze. However, she will always remember what Daze has given to her and hopes that students long after her will continue the legacy.
“Ga Daze is my family and the work and impact we make on each incoming class only builds into our family,“ said Theodros. “The University has also recognized our strong support system with each other and loves that the student body has taken it into our hands to encourage other minorities to commit to the G and join our family as well.”
The deadline to apply to be a GA Daze host for the incoming class of 2020 is Wednesday, January 13th.
Here is the link to apply: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Wb5PeEAN8e6ZHYC7Oqh7L_pjP-kB6cQOXbdGTRrt6hE/viewform?edit_requested=true
For updates on GA Daze, their weekends or upcoming events, follow them on Twitter @UGA_GaDaze .