OMED: Educational Services Welcomes Largest Challenge Program Cohort in 39 Years to Campus

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OMED: Educational Services’ 2019 Challenge program hosted 140 incoming first-year Georgia Tech students this summer, representing the largest cohort in the program’s 39-year history.

During the five-week summer intensive academic program, participants resided in the campus’ Field and Hanson dormitories while preparing for college life by addressing the “7Cs:” computer science, chemistry, calculus, communication, career development, cultural competency, and community service.

The 2019 class was also the growing program’s most diverse: 52% female and 33% Latinx – the largest percentages of both groups to take part in the program – and 42% of all black students committed to attend Georgia Tech in the fall participated in this year’s program. Participants hailed from across the United States (including Puerto Rico), Brazil, Panama, and Nigeria. The students represented interests in 27 unique majors, with 44% intending to pursue non-engineering degrees while at Tech.

“The diversity of this year’s participants reflects the diversity that continues to flourish at Georgia Tech and highlights the continuing need for programs aimed at attracting and retaining talented minority students,” said Archie Ervin, vice president of Institute Diversity. “I am confident that OMED will continue to grow the program’s capacity resulting in the higher performance and graduation rates of our underrepresented minority students.”

“I have been a part of so many Challenge programs here at Tech that I am no longer concerned about whether our Challenge students will be successful,” added S. Gordon Moore Jr., executive director of Institute Diversity’s Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion. “Instead, I eagerly await to see just how far they exceed.”

The 2019 cohort was the first to experience the newly added resource and information component with six rotating sessions before the opening-day orientation. During the resource and information component participants obtained academic coaching tips from Georgia Tech’s Center for Academic Success, important insights from Tech’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Study Abroad, and more.

Sybrina Atwaters, 2019 Challenge program director said, “Over the past three years, strategic decisions were made to enhance the program’s quality, content, and participation in order to broaden the impact of the program to meet the needs of the evolving Georgia Tech student population. That’s no small feat for an already successful program.” She added, “The 2019 cohort is a reflection of these efforts, resulting in over $16,000 in monetary rewards for outstanding performance, over 7,500 minutes of course and development training per student, and the formation of life-long networks.”

“My first year at Georgia Tech went really well – definitely thanks to the Challenge program,” said Zion Martell, a rising second-year environmental engineering undergraduate student who completed the program in 2018 and returned this year to serve as one of 19 counselors to the participants. “I was headed to Georgia Tech not knowing anyone here, but the program provided a network of friends and mentors I could count on,” Martell continued. “I got a 4.0 my spring (second) semester.”

Dwanda Brew, mother to 2019 Challenge participant and academic performance award recipient Kelsey Brew, reflected on the effect the program had on her son, Julian, eight years ago. “My son took part in the Challenge program in 2011 and it really set the foundation for him here,” she said during the program’s kickoff in June. “He went on to complete his master’s degree here in 2017 and will complete his doctorate in aerospace engineering – also at Georgia Tech – in December of this year. He’s been a really big advocate for Kelsey to attend the Challenge program and I hope it does the same for her as it did for him.”

During the closing banquet on July 25, OMED recognized each participant with certificates and some were also presented with monetary awards for completing the five-week program with exceptional academic performance. Banquet sponsor BP presented more than a dozen grant awards.

Faculty, staff members, counselors, and student participants all offered words of reflection.

“The past five weeks have been some of the best -- and busiest -- of my life,” said Aniya Alston to the banquet audience. “I know that no matter how hard things may get while I’m here, my Challenge family will help me get through it. I’m incredibly thankful for each and every one of you.”

The 2019 Challenge program was supported by the following corporate sponsors: Bechtel, BP, Eaton, ExxonMobil, John Deere, Marathon Petroleum, Procter & Gamble, Southwire, and SunTrust.

To learn more about the program, visit




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