The bell tower chimes 10 a.m. on a beautiful Saturday morning in Oxford, as hundreds of black-robed graduates march across the courtyard following a bagpiper.
It may be the last time many of these Emory students see Oxford.
Over the years, I’ve heard many an Oxford student comment on how he or she ended up here accidentally, not even knowing Oxford existed until they received a confusing acceptance letter from Emory.
Those same students never ventured far from the edges of campus, other than to hit I-20 to go somewhere more exciting.
But today, I know at least two who had a far different outlook.
As you can imagine, Nicole Goetz and Sagar Vira must have had glowing grades simply to get accepted to Emory University.
They also had outstanding records of community service and leadership, which resulted in their selection for the prestigious Bonner Leader program.
Bonner Leaders begin the semester by interviewing with community groups and schools to find a place they can serve in Newton County.
We have been fortunate to have a 4-H intern from this group each of the past four years, including Goetz and Vira the last two years.
They’ve taught 4-H meetings in the classroom, prepared and planned 4-H events, and learned about Cooperative Extension.
I hope they’ve experienced something that will help them in the future. I know the 4-H’ers have benefited from these exemplary students.
Instead of biding their time, Goetz and Vira have devoted hundreds of hours a year to 4-H, the library, after-school programs, and more.
I hope they’ll take me up on my offer — that they’ll always have a place to stay in Oxford. But I’m also looking forward to seeing where they end up, because I sure love traveling, too.
Likewise, I look forward to watching our 4-H graduates enter college.
Goetz shared her passion for serving the military community she grew up in with one of our graduates, Cati Aevaliotis. They organized a project to provide family activities for returning soldiers.
I can easily see Aevaliotis finding a way to continue her service to military families as she enters North Georgia next year.
Mary Lathem is off to Mercer, and I can easily imagine her starting another after-school program, sharing her love of performing arts with children, as she did at Washington Street Community Center.
Each earned graduation cords through participation in 4-H.
At today’s ceremony, I heard a lot of advice for graduates, but I suppose I still somehow feel like something was missing.
It’s something that the graduates I’m congratulating today have already discovered — you get out of life what you put into it.
Aevaliotis, Lathem, Vira and Goetz don’t wait to be asked for help — they are always on the lookout for a need and ready to pitch in
And yet, I’ve also rarely seen four students less likely to seek the limelight.
They never look for praise or attention for their efforts.
Congratulations and thank you to each of you. I can’t wait to see what’s to come.
Terri Kimble is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at 770-784-2010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.