More Than a Motto
By Julia Faherty december 13, 2017
More Than a Motto:
Graduates Shine in Service to Others
Georgia Tech’s motto of Progress and Service is emulated by its student body, and several students graduating this December have shown a passion for service while studying at Tech.
Nagela Nukuna, Joshua Jarrell, and Nic Laconico are three students walking this week who have given back to their communities in significant ways.
Service to Community
Fifth-year industrial and systems engineering major Nagela Nukuna was an active member of her community long before she arrived on campus.
“In high school, I served on Junior Council and Senior Council – organizations similar to the Student Government Association at Tech,” said Nukuna, who would later become Tech’s undergraduate SGA president. “I also volunteered as a figure skating assistant coach and worked with my mother’s nonprofit organization that supports girls attending Our Lady of Lourdes, a secondary school in Cameroon, Africa.”
Nukuna talks about what she's loved most about Georgia Tech.
From childhood, Nukuna’s parents instilled a service mentality, so choosing to continue service at Tech was an easy decision.
“I’ve been a member of SGA, Lambda Sigma (a service honor society), Omicron Delta Kappa (a leadership and service honor society), the Residence Hall Association, and Georgia Tech Ambassadors,” she said. Through these organizations, Nukuna has given back to the Tech community in several ways. From increasing student voter participation in the 2016 election to building hammock gardens on Tech Green, Nukuna has left a positive mark on the Institute.
Her involvement has been broad, but her favorite campus service organization is the MLK Day of Service. Through her involvement there, she was able to help plan several volunteering events in the greater Atlanta community.
“It was interesting to participate in the efforts that ensure that volunteer events are well-organized and effective,” she said.
Nukuna encourages underclassmen to participate in service while they're here.
“It’s so humbling to think of yourself as part of a larger community. You’re not just the president of an organization, a math genius, or member of a club — you’re part of the Tech community and service allows you to see that.”
“Service makes you grateful for what you have,” Nukuna said. “It’s so humbling to think of yourself as part of a larger community. You’re not just the president of an organization, a math genius, or member of a club – you’re part of the Tech community and service allows you to see that.” In the future, Nukuna hopes to give back through a career in public policy.
Nukuna working with the Residence Hall Association (upper left), Trees Atlanta (lower left), and Ramblin' On (right).
Service to Country
Ph.D. candidate Joshua Jarrell enrolled at Georgia Tech in Fall 2012. He began his service journey during his senior year of high school when he enlisted in the Army Reserves as a construction engineer. After completing undergraduate work at Auburn University, he transferred to the Alabama National Guard to become a medic.
Jarrell, who is earning a Ph.D. in applied physiology, has balanced military service with his studies. In 2015, he had to withdraw from Tech when his Guard unit was mobilized and deployed in northern Iraq.
“During my deployment, I helped train soldiers in combat medicine to support them in their fight against ISIS,” he said.
“Too often veterans just accept the first decent position they’re offered and then struggle to move up in the company or to another field.”
While at Tech, Jarrell joined the Georgia Tech chapter of Student Veterans of America. He enjoyed spending time with the group of veterans and sponsor, David Ross.
“It was nice to sit back and relax in the company of other veterans amid the stresses of graduate work,” he said. Overall, Jarrell had found the community at Tech to be supportive of his service. “When I came back from my deployment, my lab mates and advisor extended themselves in many ways to get me caught up in our field and help get my research going again.”
In the future, Jarrell hopes to develop a program to encourage veterans to pursue higher education before their next career transition.
“Too often veterans just accept the first decent position they’re offered and then struggle to move up in the company or to another field," he explained. "Getting that next degree will set up a veteran for extended success in the civilian world.”
Jarrell at National Science Foundation’s annual Saluting Veterans in STEM symposium (left)
Service through Travel
Fifth-year student Nic Laconico, a business administration major concentrating in information technology management, has been passionate about serving others since childhood.
“My parents always told me that I was blessed to have so much and encouraged me to help others with less,” he said. “Growing up, I did a lot of service work through a religious lens, volunteering at several church mission trips.”
At Tech, Laconico devoted his time to Alternative Service Breaks (ASB). He led two trips and served on the 2016 Executive Board as the Development Director.
Laconico loves Georgia Tech so much that he's not leaving just yet. When he graduates, he'll be interning at Tech before pursuing a master's degree in higher education.
“The experience allowed me to see that Tech students struggle to include service in their busy schedules. Luckily, ASB provides students a way to volunteer during breaks.”
During his ASB trips, Laconico worked with Habitat for Humanity, the Boys and Girls Club, and HeadStart. He has continued serving in those organizations since the trips. Laconico encourages other students to do the same.
“The biggest value I have learned when it comes to service is to engage with projects that focus on asset-based service. This means to do projects focused on an organization’s or a community’s strengths and resources, which lead to a sustainable positive impact.”
“As a long-term goal, I would love to be on the Board of Advisors for a nonprofit focused on sustainable service through policy work."
Laconico hopes to continue to serve with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and youth programs after graduation.
“As a long-term goal, I would love to be on the Board of Advisors for a nonprofit focused on sustainable service through policy work,” he said.
Laconico working with Habitat for Humanity (left, lower right) and HeadStart (upper right).