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Adviser, News, Stories 3 min

Gabriel Smallwood, Jr.


Gabriel Smallwood is no stranger to facing challenges. Born in Côte D’Ivoire, and raised in Liberia, Gabriel and his family immigrated to the U.S. when he was 9 years old. He was excited to experience the learning opportunities available in the U.S. “I always heard that in America you have a chance to go to college and climb the ladder.”

But just a few short months into the school year, his class was called to the auditorium to listen to a guest speaker. “The speaker was talking to us about our futures,” said Gabriel, “and she turned to a few of my classmates and me, and said ‘three of the six of you will end up in jail, and two of you might get lucky and end up with the job somewhere, and one of you, which is very, very unlikely, might end up in college, but that’s unlikely since you’re black men.’”

Heartbroken and confused, Gabriel was determined to not let the odds get him down. Deciding to use those statistics as motivation to go to college, he studied hard and worked various jobs to help his family make ends meet, while also volunteering at his church mentoring young students. But when it came time to apply to college, his counselors told him he wouldn’t make it into any selective schools, so why apply. Remembering the guest speaker’s words, Gabriel refused to give up and was accepted to the University of Georgia (UGA).

“When I got to UGA, I told myself I can’t just let things stop here.” Coming from a low-income home and faced with the challenges of being part of the 8% of black students at UGA, Gabriel searched for ways to succeed. He applied to the Georgia Commitments College (GCC) program, a scholarship program for low-income students, and was accepted as a mentee. Gabriel’s mentor, also a black male, related to Gabriel’s struggles, saw his potential and empowered him to persevere.

At his mentor’s recommendation, Gabriel joined the GCSP inaugural Executive Board and started mentoring incoming freshmen. He then served as a Continuing the Legacy of African-American Students Success (C.L.A.S.S) Advocate, a program that mentors black students in the residence halls. So, when Gabriel came across the opportunity to serve as an adviser for CAC after graduation it was a perfect match. He saw the profound impact that advisers were having on their students and decided to apply.

When asked about what he is learning as an adviser, Gabriel said “being able to wear multiple hats—event planner, collaborator, presenter and working with diverse groups of people. I’m currently working with one of my students to start a mentorship program for young black males in our school.”

The faculty at Clarke Central recognized Gabriel’s hard work by honoring him with the award Developer of Students Individual Talents, presented to an individual who draws out the best in students, assisting them in self-discovery and growth.

Law school is next on Gabriel’s agenda. He intends to advocate for the underserved and help others realize their potential. “I’ve come a long way and I’m going to continue to prove that guest speaker wrong.”

CAC Adviser Gabriel Smallwood, Jr. at graduation