Amazing Students

Hilary Hilgers

Hilary Hilgers, who is graduating with an English degree in May, has poured her heart and soul into everything she’s done during her time here and says UGA will have an impact on her for life.

Hometown:

Santa Cruz, California

High School:

San Ramon Valley High School

Degree objective:

B.A. in English with an area of emphasis in creative writing

Expected graduation:

Spring 2015

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

The University of Georgia’s motto is “to teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things"and in the past four years this university has taught me so much, has served me so well, and has given me the possibility to inquire into any passions and dreams that I have desired to explore. I am forever thankful for the truly incredible experience I have had at UGA - I may only spend four years on this campus, but this place will continue to impact me for a lifetime.

When entering UGA as a first year, I received The Presidential Leadership Scholarship, which is based upon one’s leadership and academic skills. Although college is meant to be a time of growth for the individual, I knew that I wanted to also be a part of something bigger than myself. My involvement on this campus is what turned this university into a home that I will always treasure in my heart.   

One of the greatest lessons that UGA has taught me is that the more that you invest in something, the more it will invest in you. I found that this role of investment was very strong in my philanthropic endeavors on this campus. As a sophomore I was on the Executive Board for UNICEF @ UGA, as the Public Relations Chair. UNICEF @ UGA focuses on raising money and awareness for the worldwide program UNICEF. Throughout all four years of my time at UGA I have been deeply involved in the largest student run organization called UGA HEROs. UGA HEROs works to help improve the lives of children, living in the state of Georgia, who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS and live in poverty. This is the only organization that helps these children and their families and it has been an honor to put my heart and soul into bettering their future. I was a member of the WOW committee who was seen as the face of UGA HEROs, a Team Leader for my sorority of Kappa Kappa Gamma and, finally, was on the Executive Board as the Greek Hero Philanthropist Relations Chair in which I worked with all the Team Leaders for every Greek Life chapter, created the Greek Week event, and helped raise over $342,000 for our HEROs kids. I was also the Philanthropy Chair for Kappa Kappa Gamma and planned many events, including our annual Crawfish Boil which raised over $50,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Vice President of Student Affairs, Victor Wilson, once told me that, “UGA is learning laboratory for life”, and I have found this to be very true in the different leadership opportunities I have had here at UGA. My freshmen year I immediately got involved through my sorority of Kappa Kappa Gamma as the Panhellenic Chair, which I held for two years. As the representative of my sorority to the entire Panhellenic Board, I helped to get Greek Life more involved in campus. I also was a student representative of the Georgia Recruitment Team which interacts with potential new students and showing them a possible future at Georgia. I was also a Senator in the Student Government Association and worked weekly on many different agendas to improve our campus, such as the Green Fee Referendum. I was also the representative of the student body during Homecoming Week, in which I was the Homecoming Emcee and in charge of representing and speaking at Homecoming events. For the past three years I have found a home at the UGA Visitors Center, as a student Tour Leader.  Here I serve as a UGA ambassador by meeting hundreds of families from around the world and introducing them to Athens, Georgia. As I reflect upon my four years at Georgia, I would say that the thing that impacted me the most was the opportunity to be one of the twelve UGA Orientation Leaders in the summer of 2014. As an OL I represented the university to over 20,000 visitors and served as a role model and mentor to the Class of 2018. It was such a rewarding experience to see how much I was impacting the new students of UGA, but what made this job so incredible was how much these new students did, and still do today, impact me. Shout out to all of my Firework Fives from Orientation!

Current Employment:

University of Georgia Visitors Center tour leader

Family Ties to UGA:

I came 2,508 miles across the country to call Athens my new home. None of my family, friends or classmates from my hometown in California has attended UGA. In fact, I had never even been to the South before coming to UGA as a student. Although there are vast differences in my homes of California and Georgia, my heart is truly split in two between these places. In fact, it only took me about my first two days of freshman year to start saying “y’all”! I like to say that I have studied abroad for four years as a student here because I have learned so much about the culture and people on this side of the country.

I chose to attend UGA because…

I knew not a single thing about UGA as I began the college application process. In fact, the only reason I applied was that I randomly opened a nationwide college guide up to the UGA page and found it somewhat intriguing. My senior year of high school I visited UGA on a campus tour, and as we passed the UGA Bookstore, I saw that the current Nike slogan of the time was “93,000 seats, 1 heart.” This immediately stole my attention—I pulled out my flip phone and took so many pictures. That saying represents the 92,746 seats within Sanford Stadium and the one heart of the Bulldog Nation. I wanted a school that was going to give me more than just a wonderful education; I wanted a university that had a strong sense of community, pride and spirit. I easily found that right here in Athens. As the campus tour came to an end I asked the tour leaders how to get to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and just a few moments later I committed right there in Terrell Hall!

Four years later I have found that the Bulldog Nation is proudly way larger than those 93,000 seats and that one heart extends far beyond Sanford Stadium and is encompassed within students, organizations and the classroom. This one heart is what not only made me choose to come to UGA, but it is also what made me stay and call it home.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

… hands down, to ring the Chapel bell. As a place to celebrate personal or Bulldog victories, it is always a great day when you hear the Chapel bell ringing as you walk through North Campus. Whether you get an A on a test or the Dawgs just won a game, it is always such a fun experience to get to ring the bell with your friends! On a sunny day, I also love to jump in the Herty Field fountain. As an orientation leader, I helped welcome the Class of 2018 to the Bulldog lifestyle by jumping in the fountain with all 5,000 of them.

When I have free time, I like…

… to embrace the possibility of adventure in every day, so with my friends I love to explore many aspects of Athens including hiking trails in the Botanical Garden, rocking out at concerts in downtown Athens or grabbing lunch at my favorite restaurant, Mama’s Boy.

The craziest thing I've done is…

Now I don’t know if this is considered “crazy,” but the most surreal moment of my life was when I first met my brother, Jackson. For most of my life I have been an only child, and being from a large family, I craved siblings. Because of this desire at such an early age, family is something that has always been important to me. In fact, it is part of why I chose Georgia—even in my first few months here I could feel the sense of family that is formed within this campus. Right before my 11th birthday, my dad called to tell me that he and my stepmom had their first child. As I rushed to the hospital, I could feel that nerves and excitement jolt in every cell of my body. Was I going to be a going big sister? Would he like me? How the heck do you change a diaper?! But all of those nerves melted away as I held my sleeping little baby brother, Jackson, for the first time. As he lay in my arms, I pulled him up close and promised him that I would always be there for him. Nothing will ever beat the moments of connecting with your family. I now have two brothers and a sister that I love with my entire heart. My siblings, Killian, Jackson and Madison, are coming to visit Athens for the first time to see me graduate this May. They are so excited to get to finally see the home of the Dawgs!

My favorite place to study is…

I have a few places that I love to study around campus (but all must require a possibility for me to get coffee near by!)

1. The Reading Room in the Ilah Dunlap Little Memorial Library. With couches and comfy chairs, it is a great place to cozy up and read one of the many books required for my English degree. Also, it has huge windows that overlook the beauty of North Campus, which is a sight always worth seeing!

2. The Lamar Dodd School of Art. Being the art school of UGA, this building oozes creativity, thus helping me to study in cool and unique environments.

3. Herty Field. On a sunny day, nothing is better than studying with some friends on the grass of Herty Field. We’ll usually bring a lunch or a coffee from downtown and spend the whole afternoon there.

My favorite professor is…

One of the things I love most about UGA is the true passion you find within every professor. As I have gone through each semester I have found that my professors not only want to teach us, they truly want us to learn something that we as students can take forward. Although I have had many incredible professors, a few that have stuck out to me are Simon Gatrell, James Porter and LeAnne Howe.

Simon Gatrell is my Modern Fantasy Literature professor and I am so happy to have ended my college career with having him and this class my last semester of college. From his matching sweater vests and socks to his English accent, Simon Gatrell brings so much life into the classroom. He really gives students the opportunity to open their mind and embrace every possibility within a novel, while also giving students the opportunity to have a voice and express themselves.

James Porter was my ecology professor my second year. Have you ever seen a Ted Talk? If so, you would be with me in wishing he would apply to do one! James Porter is a powerful speaker who truly inspires; at the end of every class period, we would stand up and applaud his lectures. As someone who is very proactive in pursuing better care for our environment, I truly enjoyed the passion he expressed for the topics within this class.

LeAnne Howe is one of my creative writing professors, and although this is her first semester here at UGA, she has already done an incredible job at impacting me. Although busy with her own projects, she shows such a strong dedication to her students. LeAnne Howe brings such a laughable, creative and progressive environment within our classroom and has helped make me into a better writer.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

I would love to take an afternoon stroll with Walt Disney through the Disneyland Park. I would love to hear his personal views and stories on each of the projects within his park. He has been an idol of mine since a very early age, for I have always wanted to work for the Walt Disney Co. Walt Disney was an innovative, imaginative, strong-willed and creative leader who has taught me that “it is kind of fun to do the impossible.”

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

I find this question hard to answer, for I believe that failure is a crucial aspect of life. Without failure, one cannot embrace the true glory of success. Although, if failure was not an option, I would create a good, quality education system for all children in the world. Education is crucial to a child’s life, for it awakens the possibility of their potential and gives them the opportunity to delve into new and exciting experiences that help to create their future passions. If I had to choose a personal experience in which failure does not exist, I would easily go to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and become a super awesome witch and do awesome things with Harry Potter (still waiting on my Hogwarts acceptance letter!). Or become a professional surfer.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

Focus on my children’s book project. I believe the imagination is a powerful being that lies within all of us, especially in the child’s mind. From neglecting parents to political crises, children from all over the world face different issues, yet still have their imagination to escape and explore into. With this in mind, I wish to one day create a children’s book written by children. Through my passion of adventure, I would like to travel the world and interact with children from many backgrounds and ask them, “Tell me an adventure … .” I would love to compile all of the stories I receive from these children and create a story that is from their minds. With this book, a child from China can create a character that lives in an environment created by a child in Zimbabwe—anything is possible! I would also like the proceeds of the book to go toward a possible fund for the child authors’ future finances such as a college education. This book gives children the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves, connect with others, expand their own imagination and create something to be proud of.

After graduation, I plan to…

Work within the creative fields of writing and film. Since a young age I have always been in love with the Disney Company, and would love to help design their parks and rides through their Imagineering Program or writing screenplays through the Walt Disney Studios. At UGA I have also found a strong passion for supporting and developing student leaders. I would love to work with students and help find their potential in how they can impact others.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

Let’s set the scene: Sanford Stadium. September 2013. Going BANANA SANDWICH in the student section during the LSU game in which ESPN College GameDay came to Athens. My heart went through an emotional roller coaster that game, but ended incredibly because THE DAWGS WON 44-41! As I cried tears of joy (yes, I cry at football games and I am proud of it) the stadium was filled with pure euphoria and pride. As the team rushed toward the student section, I truly understood the impact this university has had on me and how I will always consider this place home and family. It’s true when they say there “ain’t nothing finer in the land” than the University of Georgia.

Published Sunday,