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GSW students selected for prestigious President Jimmy Carter Leadership Program

AMERICUS (August 22, 2023) — Georgia Southwestern State University has named 22 freshmen to the President Jimmy Carter Leadership Program, established to honor the legacy of GSW alumnus and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. These students from Georgia, Florida and Alabama are the fifth cohort to enter the program since its creation in 2019. 

The newest cohort members were selected through an application and interview process. The group commits to program requirements that include a two-year residency, 240 service hours, a leadership certificate, and a senior research or service project. 

“I am excited to see this energetic, eager and diverse group of students come in and impact the program, the University and the community with their passion for and commitment to leadership and service,” said Mikela Barlow, coordinator for the President Jimmy Carter Leadership Program. “It is an honor for me to work with these future leaders in this prestigious program.”

The 2023-2024 members of the Carter Leadership Program are:

  • Alana Beddow – Saint Vincent’s Academy, Savannah, Ga.
  • Alainey Breaux – Perry High School, Perry, Ga.
  • Toni Clark – Crawford Mosley High School, Lynn Haven, Fla.
  • Jordan Ellis – Lee County High School, Leesburg, Ga.
  • Talia Esther – Thomas County Central High School, Coolidge, Ga.
  • Simone Gillispie – Glenwood High School, Salem, Ala.
  • Mason Hunnicutt – Habersham Central High School, Habersham, Ga.
  • Maggie McDonald – Troup County High School, Lagrange, Ga.
  • Callie Miller – Wayne County High School, Jesup, Ga.
  • Siara Moore – Liberty County High School, Hinesville, Ga.
  • Taylor Paul – Westover High School, Albany, Ga.
  • Megan Pitts – Griffin High School, Griffin, Ga.
  • Kaytlyn Prevatt – Cairo High School, Thomasville, GA
  • Taylor Queener – Perry High School, Elko, Ga.
  • Carly Reneau – Georgia Connections Academy, Bonaire, Ga.
  • Jeanna Shivers – Marion County High School, Buena Vista, Ga.
  • Macy Taylor – Thomasville High School, Ochlocknee, Ga.
  • Madeline Taylor – Marion County High School, Buena Vista, Ga.
  • Jacob Turner – Home schooled, Fort Valley, Ga.
  • Tamya Turner – Upson Lee High School, Thomaston, Ga.
  • Olivia Wright – Academy of Richmond County, Augusta, Ga.

“I have always had a close attachment to Georgia Southwestern, and I am honored to be associated with the University’s leadership program,” said President Carter. “They invested in me as a student over 75 years ago, and I want to do the same for the future leaders in our region.” 

The program consists of two pathways, an Undergraduate Research Track and a Service Track, that exemplify Carter’s lifetime of leadership in education, politics and community service. Guided by the evidence-based “The Social Change Model of Leadership Development,” the four-year Carter Leadership Program allows students to develop their leadership skills both individually and within a group.

Students who score a minimum 1100 on the SAT or an ACT composite score of 22, hold a high school curriculum grade point average of 3.0 or greater and have been admitted to GSW are eligible to apply for the program. Additionally, students who hold a leadership role in high school, whether on a sports team, a student club or community organization, also qualify.

During their first year, students focus on individual growth and development, working to understand their beliefs and values while actively participating in various service learning opportunities on and off campus. They learn about the different approaches to leadership, how to understand themselves and others, leading with integrity, and professionalism. By the end of their first academic year, students are expected to be active members in at least two organizations.

The second-year program curriculum focuses on the relational leadership model and is set around collaboration and group values. By the end of their second academic year, students are expected to be active members in at least two organizations, while holding a leadership position in at least one of them. The students acquire a practicum during this year, where they complete 45 hours with a mentor of their choosing related to their field of study.

Year three is centered around creating and inspiring profound and deep change as a leader, what that means, and how to accomplish that as future leaders in their field. With a center around the third-year curriculum, the students participate in a second practicum for 45 hours, where the goals are to learn more about significant issues in their field of study, how the mentor of their choosing is inspiring profound change in the area, and what challenges they will face as future change agents in their field.

During the fourth and final year of the program, the students focus on connectedness to the community and society at large. This is the point where students complete a capstone project, either research or service based, in the community to spark change to an issue in society and their field of study they are passionate about.

The Carter Leadership Program provides students with academic scholarships of $1,500 each year they are in the program for up to four years. The program is made possible thanks to generous support from the Charles L. Mix Memorial Fund.

The deadline to apply for the program for fall admission is February 1 of each year. Learn more about the program and find all current members at

Pictured L-R back row: Jordan Ellis, Macy Taylor, Olivia Wright; middle row: Megan Pitts, Taylor Paul, Talia Esther, Carly Reneau, Jeanna Shivers, Alana Beddow, Toni Clark, Mason Hunnicutt, Jacob Turner; front row: Tamya Turner, Taylor Queener, Simone Gillispie, Maggie McDonald, Siara Moore, Callie Miller, Alainey Breaux, Kaytlyn Prevatt, Madeline Taylor