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"Success is failure turned inside out!"

Johnelle Simpson is one busy man. Between bringing attention to mental health and sexual assault on UGA's campus as the Student Government Association President AND completing his Risk Management & Insurance and Political Science degrees, you wonder how he does it all. See why this student leader is our #MCM and how he is making big changes in the higher education sphere:

1. What's your story? What makes you unique?

I am from the small city of Donalsonville, Georgia. I decided to attend the University of Georgia after participating in the Terry College of Business Academy my sophomore and junior year of high school. At the time I did not know where I wanted to attend school and definitely didn't have one as big as the University of Georgia on my mind. I am a first generation college student and have made the most of my time here. Coming into UGA, I thought that the Student Government Association would be my way to get involved and the organization to shape me as a leader my Freshman year. Unfortunately, that was not what God had planned for me so I started out serving as President of Creswell Hall Community Council. This position not only gave me the skills but also the confidence to serve as the Student Government Association President today.

2. What motivates you?

I am motivated by my religion and knowing that with Christ all things are possible. It motivates me to know that no matter what I try, whether I succeed or fail, God is there for me and will strengthen me through it all.

I am also motivated by my passion to empower and motivate others. Each day I aim to contribute to the lives of other people and spark something in them that allows them to accomplish their goals. As the Student Government President, I am motivated by every single student on campus. It is my goal to improve the student life on campus. Knowing that my decisions and ideas have a direct impact on students motivates me to work hard for them and also make sure I have their best interest in mind.

3. Who is a hero of yours?

My hero is my mother. Growing up I have watched her and what she does for people. I never really understood why we were making sandbags to hand out to people before a big rain storm. I did understand however when most of those houses were nearly flooded the next few days. These acts of kindness showed me how important service and doing the right thing was. Not only did I learn how to become a leader but most importantly a SERVANT leader. I have also learned the importance of persevering from her and to never quit. She has run many local elections where she has been a victor and a loser. No matter the results she continues to work on the behalf of others and enhance their lives in other capacities.

4. What's your future plan? Your goals?

After graduating from the University of Georgia with degrees in both Risk Management and Insurance and Political Science I will attend law school. My ultimate goal is to become a motivational speaker.

5. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?

If I could give one piece of advice it would be "do what you do". It is pretty simple but it carries so much meaning. Each and every one of us have a life to live. While some people may approve of what you are doing and others may not, you must do what makes you happy. There is a little story of a boy, a man, and a donkey. They travel through this town four times in hopes to please the people. The first time the man puts the boy on the donkey and the people say that the boy should feel bad for making the man walk. The second time they put the man on the donkey and the people say the man should feel bad for making the boy walk. The third time they both get on the donkey and the people say they both should be ashamed of themselves for putting so much weight on the donkey. The last and final time they go through the town and neither one of them rides the donkey and the people call them fools for not riding the donkey. The moral of the story is that no matter what you do and how you do it, people will always have something to say about the way it you done it. The most important thing is to stay true to yourself and believe in what you are doing.

6. What is something you feel strongly about (a cause, belief, etc.)?

As student government president the two causes that I constantly bring attention to is mental health issues and sexual assault. Both of these issues are prevalent on college campuses and can have a lasting effect on students. It is important for us to take these issues seriously and raise awareness as well as reduce the numbers of these related incidents. We all know someone who has been affected by one if not both of these issues and it is time for us to take action.

7. What's one of the coolest things you've ever done?

The coolest thing I have done to date is win a national award in Public Speaking. In the ninth grade I was supposed to compete in this competition in Future Business Leaders of America and could not because of an abscessed tooth. The next year I was ready to compete after taking a year off. I came in second at Region, first in State, and first in the Nation. This was the most defining moment of my life. I immediately ran backstage to cry because I did not think it was possible or believe that I could even come close to others. This taught me that no matter where I come from as long as I am invested and passionate about what I am doing it is possible to achieve my goals.

8. Anything we haven't asked that you'd like to talk about.

I wanted to talk a little bit about my platform.

  • 1. Create or Improve Student Services: The first one was an effort from the last administration as well as our administration in the finalization stage. That is the new commuter meal plans at UGA. This allows students who do not live on campus to have a flexible and much more feasible option. The second service we wanted to create was a night time shuttle program that would take you anywhere on campus. This summer SGA staff worked hard to research and pitch a program called GOTCHA(Green Operated Transit Carrying Humanity Around) to administrators. We are pleased to announce that we will have 3 GOTCHA cars on campus in full operation in less than two weeks.

  • 2. Strengthen relations with local and state government: We are continuing our efforts with lighting in the Athens/Clarke County community where students are frequently assaulted or robbed. We have also made it our effort to raise streets like Milledge to the top of the cities priorities when it comes to pedestrian safety. At the last council meeting these streets were discussed as streets on their list of priorities.

  • 3. Inclusive Post Secondary Education: We are constantly working with the Fanning Institute to ensure an inclusive post secondary education. This will allow students with disabilities who typically would not be allowed to attend the University of Georgia the chance to attend. I have seen firsthand the impact this program has on individuals and think that it is time for Georgia's flagship institution to offer these program.

  • 4. Connect Students to Resources: This summer our Student Resources Director, Megan Corriveau created a list of every single resource we have on campus from mental health resources to the food pantry. This list will be added to the UGA Mobile App so students can have easy access to it. We also added the Athens transit to the app as well making it easier for off campus students to access their on campus and off campus transportation in the same feature.

We are continuously looking for ways to impact students and enhance their experiences on campus. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any ideas you may have to help us do this. You can email me at HERE.

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