Dalton High School senior Jackie Arana won the Most Outstanding Student award at the University of North Georgia's 2017 Summer Honors Program. The award indicates not only superlative academics but also outstanding leadership during the program. It earned her a UNG scholarship worth $2,500 and automatic enrollment in the UNG Honors Program.
The summer honors program hosts rising seniors for a week of collegiate level academics, focusing on authentic undergraduate research experiences that prepare students for college. In the adventure-learning leadership curriculum, students identify their primary leadership styles and practice leadership by tackling outdoor adventures, including ropes courses at Pine Valley and rock climbing at Mt. Yonah.
Program Director and Professor Robb Sinn said Arana was clearly viewed as a leader by her peers. "As you get to know her, what you notice most about Jackie is her heart, her character. She was always seeking out those on fringes—inviting them to join her at meals or in a game of cards at the dorm," he said. "Jackie grabbed several tentative folks on the fringes of the dance party and taught them moves to current dances and just made them feel welcome. Jackie wanted to make sure everyone was having fun, that everyone was included. If Jackie's around, anyone who wants a friend will have one."
The leadership program is meant to create and build good leaders. To Arana, being a leader is about being a good listener and making the best decision based on what is best for the group as a whole. "I learned that I'm a quiet leader; I'm good at connecting with people and listening to what they have to say," she said.
Arana applies these skills to her place in Dalton High School, as well. She serves as the executive treasurer for student council, serves as volleyball manager and is a member of FBLA, chorus and the lacrosse team.
Arana said she will most likely attend UNG, with hopes of studying in their physical therapy program. She said winning the Most Outstanding Student award meant a great deal to her and her parents.
"This was my first time away from home for so long, and when my parents were there for the awards at the end, it made them so proud to hear that I received the highest award at the camp," she said. "It meant so much to me too."