Honors students committed to achievement and service

L-R: Emma Clarke and Sara Panico

L-R: Emma Clarke and Sara Panico

by Laurie Anderson | April 29, 2020

Two undergraduate students earned high academic honors this year, but their activities show that they shine outside the classroom, too.

Emma Clarke planned to study education, but she moved to social work and the BSW program because it would give her “the chance to learn about a vast array of social issues, be able to help many different people/groups, and…have the opportunity to change my career path many different times.”

The senior is graduating summa cum laude. She has received the UGA President’s Award of Excellence, which is awarded to undergraduate students in their final year of study who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, strong extracurricular involvement, and/or service to and involvement in their respective school or college.

While at UGA Clarke has been active in the Phi Kappa Phi Honor society, volunteered with U-Lead Athens and the Athens MLK Day of Service, and conducted service-learning work in Costa Rica as a part of a study away Maymester program. She was also accepted to an interdisciplinary spring break study abroad trip to Grenada, West Indies, through the School of Social Work.

Clarke is interested in immigrant rights, working with the under-documented community and with survivors of domestic violence.

Sara Panico is a First Honor Student, which means she maintained a perfect 4.0 cumulative grade point average throughout her undergraduate studies.

She, too, chose social work because of the wide variety of career avenues it offered. She chose UGA “because it was the perfect distance from home and I love the community surrounding the Bulldog Nation.”

While at UGA Panico has been active in UGA’s Food2Kids and Shop With a Bulldog. For nearly three years she also has been the volunteer event coordinator for The Backpack Project of Athens, which provides weekly meals, supplies, events, and tutoring for youth at the Athens Area Homeless Shelter. This year she also interned at Oglethorpe County Schools and worked for the afterschool program ASPIRE.

As a social work professional, Panico hopes to eventually be a school social worker.

“My passion is working with children and the homeless,” she said.

Panico advises future social work Bulldogs “to jump into uncomfortable moments and savior the learning experience they yield. The moments you step outside of your comfort zone are the moments that will push you to learn and grow into greatness. As a social worker these are the times you learn new things and the appropriate way to handle new situations, which is of immeasurable importance as you grow as a professional. So, go on, take a chance, even if it scares you.”

Clarke’s advice to the next cohort: “Reach out to your teachers if you are struggling; spend time with your classmates outside of school, explore the School of Social Work and check out the back patio by the river. Go to as many community events as you can, keep up with your internship hours weekly, plan ahead for grad school (if that is what you want to do) and make sure to get rec letters done early!”

Though they graduate this spring, they are not saying goodbye to the school. Both have been accepted to the MSW program and will be back in the fall.

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