Student Participants More Engaged
Student clubs are one element of life at GHC that keeps students at school, brings them together with mutual interests and can actually improve their academic performance. What, you say? Gaming can improve academic performance? Well, yes it can. An anime club? Yep. Political clubs? Yes indeed.
In fact, all the clubs and organizations at Georgia Highlands contribute to a student’s progress in one way or another, be it social interaction, analytical thinking or the exploration of new ideas. After all, students come to college to learn, and they discover that learning encompasses more than textbook knowledge. It includes all aspects of life in general: meeting new people, working, negotiating, self-discipline, leisure activities, developing friendships, and encountering new experiences and diverse opinions.
Students find that they like to study, play games and find interests they can participate in together. Academic, social and leadership clubs provide that human connection.
At GHC, students can choose from one of 20 non-academic, eight academic, four leadership and four honorific clubs. There is something for nearly every interest. Among the most active are Green Highlands, an environmental awareness and healthy lifestyle group; Phi Theta Kappa, the two-year college honor society; Brother2Brother, a mentoring and support group for minority male students; and the Floyd campus’s Political Science Club.
Green Highlands participates in annual clean-up efforts in local communities, recycling projects and organic gardens. The food from the garden the group tended last year was distributed to food pantries in the Cartersville area. PTK sponsors a variety of educational projects and speakers and service projects in the community. Members must be invited to join PTK. They are eligible if they earn at least 12 credit hours at GHC, make a 3.5 cumulative grade point average and maintain a 3.25 GPA while they are in the organization.
Green Highlands boasts a robust membership at all the campuses. The Great American Clean-Up in Bartow is run from the Cartersville campus each year, with many students participating. Earth Day was a very big day on the Paulding Campus this year, as Green Highlands hosted its third annual event on the square in Dallas. At least 250 people attended, the highest turnout to date. Besides faculty, staff, students and administrators, Paulding County Commission Chairman David Austin read an Earth Day proclamation and keynote speaker Henry Slack, manager for the Environmental Protection Agency, provided an overview on the history and mission of the EPA and tips on ways everyone can make the world a greener place. Slack himself rides a bicycle eight miles to work everyday. Other dignitaries attending included Gary Gulledge, Paulding County sheriff; Tommy Leonard, executive director of Keep Paulding Beautiful; Mary Carol Sheffield, coordinator for the Paulding County UGA Cooperative Extension; Chief Mike Earwood and several members of Paulding County Fire and Rescue; Seth Coker, representative from Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ office; and Amy Turner, representative from Sen. Johnny Isakson’s office. Next year the group plans an even bigger event featuring a visit from the governor.
PTK sometimes partners with Green Highlands on projects appropriate to each. For example, they co-sponsored the Thacker Clean-Up in Bartow County this year. But PTK has also organized and participated in community service projects of its own. Several years ago the group made improvements to the wetlands behind Paris Lake on the Floyd campus as part of a regional meeting of PTK members. The scenic walkway needed repairs to flooring planks on the raised platform that allows students and community members to enjoy the natural beauty of the environment. PTK members, GHC faculty, staff and former president Randy Pierce all pitched in and donned waders to clear debris from waterways. They also repaired rotted wood with tools donated for the day by faculty and staff. Afterward, all workers were treated to pizza.
More recently the group spearheaded the Commit to Complete project, urging students to sign large banners at each campus, promising to finish their associate degree at GHC. The project was created to support the governor’s Complete College Georgia initiative. Annually, PTK organizes Angel Trees at each campus before Christmas to gather gifts for children who might not otherwise receive any. Last year the Floyd group collected toys and other items appropriate for toddlers to teenagers; the Cartersville PTK members decided to focus on a smaller group of kids, providing a variety of gifts for each of them, from bicycles to clothing; in Marietta the organization delivered toys and gift cards to the Cobb County YWCA Women’s Shelter and transitional home. Both Floyd and Cartersville collected more than 100 gifts.
One of the most visible and active groups across all five campuses is Brother2Brother, a group that creates community for minority male students. B2B is part of a national organization originally founded to encourage young African-American males to continue their education and achieve their personal goals. Its presence on the Georgia Highlands campuses is part of the USG’s African-American Male Initiative, created to increase the enrollment, retention and graduation rates of minority males. GHC’s participation in AAMI began in 2008 on the Floyd campus with seven students.
Since then, membership in the program has grown to 130 students from all campuses. Retention and graduation rates for this cohort have grown, too – in fact, it usually has higher graduation and retention rates than the general student population at GHC. In that sense, it’s one of the most successful student organizations on campus.
The Political Science Club is one of the most active academic clubs on the Floyd campus. Recently the Rome News Tribune covered an immigration reform discussion hosted by the club and the Floyd County Democratic Party, which featured Charles Kuck of Kuck Immigration Partners LLC, who discussed the key points of the recently passed Senate bill. Gianncarlo Cifuentes, news director of WUVG Univision Atlanta, moderated the free, bilingual event.
Justin Deal, president of the club, says the group tries to engage the entire college community through movie nights, election parties and field trips. During the last presidential election, the club hosted an election returns party where students watched the results come in and enjoyed snacks and conversation. Deal said, “During Spring Fling we played political trivia in groups. If anyone got an answer wrong, he/she received a very messy pie in the face. We got a lot of attention, and I enjoyed meeting many new students and faculty members.”
When Deal enrolled at GHC, he felt, like many other students, that the government was big, forbidding, untouchable and totally out of touch with people like him. Yet he was fascinated by politics, and when he saw the Political Science Club information at Fall Frenzy he decided to attend a meeting. Once was all it took – he was hooked. The club doesn’t align itself with any party affiliations, so a wide variety of opinions are always at hand. Deal has enjoyed the experience so much that he plans to pursue a political science degree with a concentration in international affairs once he graduates from Highlands.
But GHC clubs aren’t only about the serious. Students can just have fun if they like. They can even hone their analytical skills without feeling like they’re working. The Gaming Club, for example, lets them strategize a number of moves ahead and problem solve while having fun on a variety of board games. Michelle Abbott, associate professor of English and the group’s advisor, said, “Gaming has a mixed reputation in the media, but gaming enhances math skills, critical thinking, creativity and hand-eye coordination. Some of the games even involve dancing and physical fitness. Also, just like other student organizations, membership in the club increases student engagement and retention – both keys to student success and graduation.”
Not only do the members tackle card, board and video games, they also sponsor community projects. Last fall the Douglasville group held a fundraiser for a local charity and the Cartersville group put on a children’s Halloween party, giving CHG students, staff and faculty a safe, free place to bring their kids for the evening. Currently, the Bartow Gaming Club is heading GHC’s Relay for Life team.
The Anime Club regularly gets together to watch and talk about these Japanese animated cartoons. Brian Barr, professor of art and advisor to the club, says that some of the students are interested in this kind of illustration and some just enjoy the cartoons, called manga. They are very detailed and stylized, and are easily recognizable as the anime art form.
With so many activities available and so many interests piqued, there’s no reason for any student at GHC to feel out of touch with the community, fellow students and causes. And no reason to feel like learning is all about reading textbooks and taking tests. Discover all GHC’s registered student organizations.