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Honors program expands students' horizons

LAWRENCEVILLE — Students in Georgia Gwinnett College honors programs said the courses they take and activities they participate in make for an experience they’ll never forget.

In addition to taking honors courses specially designed to foster intellectual growth and develop leadership, students take trips to destinations such as The Carter Center or the High Museum in Atlanta.

Jonathan Charles, an 18-year-old honors program member, said he enjoyed meeting former President Jimmy Carter during the organization’s recent visit.

In addition, Charles assisted with the honors programs’ Relay for Life efforts. Specifically, Charles helped handle the marketing aspect of the team, which raised money in its inaugural year to aid in the fight against cancer.

Students in the program typically maintain a minimum GPA of 3.5 in college-level courses as well as demonstrating a commitment to leadership, creativity, scholarship and service.

Honors program director Jennifer Wunder said the program was founded initially “because GGC has been growing so much. We want to meet all these students where they are, get them where they want to be.”

Wunder said the program was “built around the idea of ‘how can we help students go further in where they are and where they want to go?’

Added Wunder: “The experience in honors programs is designed to complement and augment regardless of the student’s major. We want them working in their majors and want them to have opportunities within their electives but also outside of classes.”

Students have the opportunity to enroll in either the Honors Program or the First Year Honors Experience.

Charles started out in the First Year Honors Experience, and he enjoyed it so much that he decided to enroll again. “It’s a different way to learn,” said Charles, who said the program has encouraged him a great deal.

Fellow honors program member Elease Dillard, a 20-year-old student at GGC, said being an honor student is “a more intimate educational experience … that maximizes a student’s potential.”

Dillard said honors students “hold each other accountable academically in a way that we may not necessarily get in a regular classroom.”

To be eligible for the honors program, GGC students must have a GPA of 3.5 or higher and must meet certain other requirements that include writing an essay and receiving a letter of recommendation from a professor.

The First Year Honors Experience introduces new and incoming students to the rigors and rewards of honors-level scholarship. Academically qualified students who have completed fewer than 24 credit-hours may apply for admission to FYHE.

“Being an honors student,” Dillard said, “has helped me have lots of opportunities that might not have been available to me. And you forge bonds with the people in the program.”