By Amethyst Clifton

Grace Beasley was preparing for college expenses well before her first semester began.

“I am always looking towards the future,” said Beasley, a student at the University of Georgia majoring in biological sciences.

Beasley maintained a 4.0 grade point average while completing high school, but she said she worked during the summer to raise money for the extra things she knew she would need in college.

“I wanted to pay for things in my dorm so that my mom wouldn’t have to,” Beasley said.

Beasley said she pays for college with scholarship money, which allows her to cover other expenses with the money she earned from the summer job.

Beasley is a freshman, but said she understands higher education can be obtained inside and outside of a classroom and has become involved with community organizations.  Though she is active on campus, Beasley is clear on what matters the most to her. She wants her education to come first and involvement in the community second.

“Studying and staying on top of my stuff is a priority,” said Beasley, but she added that associating with organizations and working on different community service projects has taught her “how to manage my time with studying.”

Interactions, connections, and involvement with college surroundings also assist students like Beasley to prepare and get closer to their upcoming career. Hilary Hilgers, coordinator of student engagement for the University of Georgia Alumni Association, promotes students engaging with alumni. Connecting with alumni allows students to have access to great contacts that could lead to beneficial opportunities, she said.

“There are many reasons to connect with alumni. Alums are super impactful, helpful, and important. Many graduates have the careers that they have today due to the help and mentorship from alumni,” said Hilgers.

Tony Raffa, owner of Zombie Donuts coffee shop in downtown Athens, is an example of a UGA graduate who advises and mentors students. He too is an active member in the community, supplying food donations and awarding 5 percent of monthly profits to charitable organizations.

He recognizes that his shop is student based, and encourages students to focus on school, go after their desired career and actively pursue what is important to them. Raffa especially advocates for people like Beasley to follow their dreams.

“I love working with students,” said Raffa. “We always ask them, what’s makes you feel fulfilled? We try to give them an opportunity to do more.”

Raffa said he created Zombie Donuts to attract students. Not only is Zombie Donuts coffee shop a popular business that employs lots of students but, it is also a space that gives opportunities for them to do more relatable tasks and projects in terms of their upcoming careers. Ultimately, Raffa’s shop is a location where students frequently socialize and network.

College institutions and their alumni can operate as essential sources of help to students and can form the bridge necessary for success, according to Raffa.

“If you have an idea and feel unsure but passionate about it then, test it. You’d be amazed by how little testing it will cost you. Don’t be afraid of it, go after it,” said Raffa.

Beasley has a few years to go before obtaining a bachelor’s degree, but she always remembers the important lessons about responsibilities and education that her mother taught her.

“When you have an education, it is something that nobody can take away from you… that knowledge. I don’t care how much money I have. I am going to school and making sure that I am educated,” said Beasley.

Amethyst Clifton is a journalism student at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.