Less than a month after graduating from high school, Jessica Kelley packed her bags for her first college experience.
Jessica Kelley pauses behing her family's van as she prepares to go off to college. Jessica earned 15 hours credit for an educational trip across the country she took with a group of students this summer.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
But she wasn't headed for a classroom in Athens. Kelley's studies would take her more than 3,000 away from home through some rugged terrain.
The former Evans High School student was selected to participate in the University of Georgia's Interdisciplinary Field Program.
Kelley - along with 25 other students - left Sapelo Island, Ga. in early June. Eight weeks later, they arrived at Point Reyes National Seashore in California.
"We saw some amazing things," she said.
While studying geology and ecology across the nation, Kelley visited the hot spots of Death Valley and the picturesque sights of Yosemite National Park. The most grueling experience, according to Kelley, was the hike up Mount St. Helens.
"The hike was so much harder than any of the other trails and there was volcanic ash and bombs everywhere," she said. "It was dangerous."
The coast-to-coast trip provided the rising college freshman with some valuable life experiences.
"It was an awesome time," she said. "I learned so much about the country and myself."
Kelley's only complaint - working on the kitchen crew.
"We had to fill the water jugs with a hand pump," she said. "It took forever and it was really hard."
But with two gourmet chefs traveling with them, she had no complaints about the food.
"It was awesome. I grew 1 1/2 inches over the summer and I think it was the food," said the now six-feet tall Kelley.
The best part of the trip were her fellow students.
"I met some really smart, fun people," she said. "It was a great experience."
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