Growing up, college was never part of Kayla Argo’s plan. She didn’t think she was smart enough and didn’t know how she’d afford it. She figured she’d go to work like the rest of her family.
But all that changed with a little encouragement from a mentor and friend. Now, she’s about to earn degrees in both psychology and outdoor education from Georgia College. She is the first in her family to graduate from high school and now college, she said.
“Kayla is extremely bright,” said Will Hobbs, outdoor education professor at Georgia College. “One of her biggest strengths moving forward is she has a heart for seeing others overcome challenges and grow.”
Argo is from a small town named Comer, about two hours from Milledgeville. Most of her family lives on the same road, including her parents, Charlene and Mike Herbert; grandparents; and six of her mother’s siblings.
Argo said her family is close-knit but also very "home bound" and content, so it would have been easy for her to stay in Comer too. The spark she needed to break that routine came during her senior year at Madison County High School.
Her AP language teacher introduced her to Georgia College and helped her study for the ACT and complete her college application. Her best friend’s dad sat her down and explained scholarships and student loans. Before long, she was accepted.
Argo received the HOPE scholarship, a Pell Grant, a Georgia College grant and a scholarship from her hometown. She took out the bare minimum for her student loans and kept herself on a strict budget, since the financial odds were against her, she said.
She also worked as a summer camp counselor and event staff member at Crooked Pines Farm in Eatonton and an assistant facilitator at her school’s Outdoor Center. She even found time to be a part of Georgia College’s first women’s rugby team and was a member of the psychology club and honors society.
Argo said her graduation May 12 is monumental for her parents. They’re proud to support her and see her reaching a goal that at one time was unimaginable. Her parents set the example of dedication and commitment for her.
“As a kid, I saw how hard my parents worked. To this day … they work their tails off,” she said. “I want to make the most of myself because that’s what my family’s done. They made the most of the cards they’ve been dealt. I wouldn’t be there without them.”
Argo’s double-major in psychology and outdoor education will allow her to pursue a career in outdoor behavioral health care, Hobbs said. She will use the outdoors, small group environments and physical and social challenges as treatment methods.
This summer, she’ll work as a field instructor at a wilderness and adventure treatment center in North Carolina to fulfill the final requirement for her degree, Argo said. She plans to work for a year in her field and then start a master’s program for social work in fall 2019.
“I want to work in social work because I want to show kids that the odds aren’t against them,” Argo said. “I’m proud to be somebody who beat the odds."