Propelled by natural disaster

Max White, PROPEL Rural Scholar

Max White, third-year atmospheric sciences and economics major

UGA student Max White shares his motivation
to become a PROPEL Scholar

“My core identity is deeply rooted in rural Georgia, so my aspiration has always been to find a career path that would allow me to improve conditions for rural communities like the ones where I grew up," says PROPEL Rural Scholar Max White.

"My desire to help rural communities was strengthened by a harrowing chapter spent surviving a tornado that struck Cairo in March 2019. The tornado brought intense damage to my family’s historic home, shearing off the entire second story and roof and spreading debris across several blocks," adds White, a third-year atmospheric science and economics major. "The ensuing struggle of being without power, without access to groceries, and without a roof over our heads was stressful. But we managed to rebuild thanks to the outpouring of support from people who wanted to help.” 

“After the tornado, a mutual aid network spontaneously developed — restaurants converted into meal distribution centers and schoolteachers worked forklifts and backhoes to clear debris. A common value of public service drove all of these people to help rebuild," White says.

"It inspired me to pursue a career rooted in public service to give back to the kind of communities that assisted my family during a difficult time. In improving outcomes for rural communities, the PROPEL program is a way to plant the seeds for resilient mutual aid networks like the one I experienced to better prepare for physical and economic recovery after future disasters.”

scholars in baxley

PROPEL Rural Scholars Max White, Linet Namuli and Chase Reece tour Appling County. Launched last year with a gift from the UGA Foundation, the program allows students the opportunity to work with rural cities and counties to become more self-sufficient and prosperous. PROPEL (Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership) is a unique program designed by UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government that guides low-income rural cities and counties through a multistep model to develop and execute a plan to advance their economies. 



DEVELOPING FUTURE LEADERS TODAY: UGA students explore needs of rural communities through PROPEL program

INTERESTED? Information on becoming a PROPEL Rural Scholar