Amazing Students

Nakia Smith

Nakia Smith, a senior majoring in financial planning, found that UGA was the perfect place to overcome some personal obstacles and set herself on a bright path to a successful future in her professional life.

Hometown:

Dacula, Ga.

High School:

Mill Creek High School

Degree objective:

B.S. in financial planning

Expected graduation:

December 2014

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

—Freshman College Outstanding Student Award
—IARFC Financial Plan Competition Semifinalist
—FPA Financial Planning Challenge Finalist

Current Employment:

N/A

Family Ties to UGA:

I am the first in my family to attend UGA. My older sister transferred in my sophomore year. Neither of my parents went to college, so as a first-generation American I am grateful for the opportunity. My mother, at 54, is in her first year of college pursuing a bachelor’s in health informatics at an accredited online university. I’m proud of her, but I think it’s funny that I will have a degree before she does.

I chose to attend UGA because…

I grew up pretty sheltered because I have been disabled and wheelchair-bound my whole life. On top of that I am the baby of the family. Prior to college, I had never been away on my own without family to look after me. When it was time for college I had two options: I could either go to the school 15 minutes from my house and live at home, or go to UGA 45 minutes away and have to fend for myself for the first time in my life. Honestly, I applied just to see if I could get in. I had no intention of attending because I was terrified at the thought of leaving home. I had no idea how I would manage. Thanks to some great friends, tons of encouragement and a lot of convincing, I decided to commit to UGA. I am so thankful for the friends that wouldn’t leave well enough alone because it is the best decision I ever made. I’ve been able to get a great education, experience campus life, meet many different types of people and learn so much about the woman I am and the woman I hope to become. I couldn’t have grown as much I have these past four years sitting at home. I am eager to graduate, go into the “real world” and experience more aspects of life.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

I don’t have a talent for the creative arts, but I find them fascinating. I love going to student performances at Hodgson, viewing the student art in Lamar Dodd and going to dance performances whenever I can. I don’t have as much time as I did my first two years, but I hope to squeeze a few more in before I leave in December.

When I have free time, I like…

I watch a horrendous amount of Netflix, but I am currently trying to re-cultivate a love of reading. There’s a pretty good stack in the corner of my room. I haven’t done as well with it as I had hoped this far into the year, but tomorrow is a new day.

The craziest thing I've done is…

My goal for my senior year of high school was to walk across the stage at graduation, so at the beginning of my final semester I brought my walker to school. I parked my wheelchair in a small hallway and walked from class to class for half of the day. It was great because my teachers let me leave class five minutes early every day so I could make it to my next class before the halls got too full. The senior class, faculty and staff were completely supportive. By graduation day I was strong enough to safely walk with forearm crutches. When my name was called, I traded my wheelchair for crutches and walked across the stage. All 720 of my classmates gave me a standing ovation, which prompted most of the audience to do the same. Seeing the response from the crowd was sort of an out-of-body experience. I achieved a small goal, but after that night I knew that I could do anything.

My favorite place to study is…

… Miller Learning Center Room 476. It’s been my spot since freshman year, but I can settle for 475. I have no idea why I’m so attached to that room. My friends like to laugh about it. I sit on the side of the table that faces the window so I can enjoy the view while I get work done. It’s silly, but I think I’ll be a little sad to leave it behind.

My favorite professor is…

… John Grable. He was the first financial planning professor I had. He seems to have such a passion for the industry and making it better through his research. I love people who love their jobs because I hope to be that person one day. He has a talent for keeping material simple without compromising content. With him, you don’t realize how much you’ve learned until you look over your notes before finals. He is also very kind, warm and genuinely interested in his students and their well-being. I have a few friends who have gone to his office just to talk about issues going on in their lives. They have said that his encouragement and understanding meant the world to them.

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

… Beyoncé Knowles. I just want to soak up as much of her as possible. At 32, she is an icon sitting on a half-billion dollar empire. Beyoncé has a ridiculous amount of ambition, vision, drive and work ethic. Beyoncé challenges herself to be a better version of herself than she was the year before. Her creativity crosses the line into innovation. To me, she is the epitome of girl power. She is a woman building her own dream, who knows who she is, what she wants and where she wants to be. She is the CEO of her own life. She owns herself unapologetically. I think that I could learn a lot from her. I hope to be my own Beyoncé one day.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… play the lottery, because why not?

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

… travel the world. There is so much on this planet and a majority of people live and die only having experienced their little piece of it.

After graduation, I plan to…

… go into the financial services industry—preferably financial planning, but I’m open to other paths. I want a job in which I can help people build strong financial futures for themselves and their families. Other than that, I’m mulling over the idea of starting a lifestyle blog just for fun.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

The power went out my first night in the dorm for Freshman College. It was a pretty good ice-breaker because it forced people into the halls to get to know each other for a few hours.

Published Sunday,