Just one week from today, double-major dual degree graduate and Redcoat Marching Band drum major Joshua Clifford’s journey through UGA will culminate as this spring’s student Commencement speaker:
Because of the Redcoat Marching Band I was able to find community within UGA before classes even started my freshman year. I’ll never forget my first day of band camp when I met the 40 other members of the clarinet section. I was so nervous about entering college, but this section and this band embraced me and gave me such a great support network within the first day of me being there. It was in those final hours of that first day of band camp, throwing the Frisbee and eating ice cream on Herty Field with the clarinets, when I realized I had truly found home away from home. I’m pretty sure I even have a cheesy Instagram post from 2015 that features the same sentiments. Fast forward three years and I have had the absolute honor of being a rank leader, section leader, and now drum major for the Redcoat Band. Not only have I been able to both play and conduct the songs of the Bulldog Nation (pretty sure I peaked when I conducted Krypton for my first Light up Sanford). I have been able to do so surrounded by the friends that I can without a doubt say will be with me for the rest of my life.
My good pal and fellow clarinet player, Abby, is the first person who told me about IMPACT Service Breaks. As a freshman I really just wanted to go home for my spring break, but she urged me to participate in a service-learning experience instead. That year I went to Jackson, Mississippi, over spring break and did 40 hours of service related to disability awareness and advocacy. This one week changed my entire view of social justice, the world around us, and what the power of intentional service and active citizenship can do for a community. I knew that I had to continue with this program. My sophomore year I had the time of my life being a site leader for IMPACT alongside my co-site leader, Kathryn. We spent the entire year planning a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, with the focus of environmental justice. These past two years I have served IMPACT on its Executive Board as the outreach coordinator. I have spent my junior and senior years spreading the word about IMPACT, service, social justice and active citizenship — all in the hopes that as many students as possible could recognize the potential they have to make positive change in their community. I am also proud to say that IMPACT was awarded the SOAR Award for Organization of the Year in the 2017-2018 academic year.
What a great UGA experience, and now Clifford will get to share some of it from the big stage. We'll say to goodbye to one of our best UGA ambassadors, but we're sure he has inspired many others to follow his lead. Congratulations and good luck to a highly-engaged student who will no doubt do great things.