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Building a better future for herself – and all of us

Ella George

Detours, engine trouble and other assorted potholes, you might say, have been part of Ella George’s educational journey.

Armed with a GED, she found her first college semester a rude awakening after a homeschool education. She discovered she was operating with some learning disabilities. She had to juggle full-time work and her classes. That global pandemic came along.

Still, she grabbed the wheel to chase down her goals and now is president of her college’s award-winning honor society, a member of its Honors Program, an All-Ohio scholar, a finalist for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship and determined to put the letters P.h. and D. behind her name.

“You could say I very much value education,” she said.

After having no science classes in her youth, she at first stumbled as a zoology major at a four-year university. It didn’t stop her. She took night classes and then in 2020, began taking online classes at Stark State College during the height of the pandemic. Now she’s on track to accomplish the first step of her plan – an associate degree in general science and biology.

“I found I love to learn and at Stark State they’ve shown me how to cope with learning disabilities – taking tests without a room full of distractions, for instance. Even though I’ve had to study twice as hard as someone without a learning disability, the professors have helped me succeed and I’m very grateful.”

Along the way, she spearheaded efforts to establish a one-acre pollinator habitat off Mega Street near protected wetlands. George donated more than 100 of her own hours, writing proposals, orchestrating soil delivery, planting and re-planting seedlings, weeding by hand and hauling water in troughs for delivery via backpack sprayer. That labor of love, she said, “is my greatest accomplishment so far – and the hardest one to obtain.”

At Stark State’s Student Symposium, her presentation, From Concrete Jungle to Urban Oasis: Promoting Conservation and Protection of Urban Biodiversity, sums up her goals for her future.

“I’d like to start my own non-profit group focusing on urban reforestation,” she said. “There’s so much space being taken up by crumbling architecture and I’ve never once seen someone tearing down an abandoned building or removing a paved lot to return to green spaces. I want to be the person that gives back instead of taking. I’d like to reintroduce native flora and fauna into reclaimed territory and keep them there.”

Meanwhile, she has been a local wildlife rehabilitation unpaid intern and is a volunteer for the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative, spreading environmental awareness to children and adults at events throughout the state as well as coordinating the annual milkweed pod collection with state soil and water conservation districts. She’s also a member of the Wildlife Society and volunteers as a costumed character for events for children with cancer, autism and Downs Syndrome and other charitable organizations.

Having financed her education thus far out of pocket by working while going to school, she’s now using her savings from earlier stints as a nanny and other jobs to finance the remainder of her degree. Still, she maintains her volunteer schedule and a 3.9 GPA with an eye to moving on to her bachelor’s degree studies as the next step toward a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology.

“I’m passionate about education,” she said, “and about building a better future for all of us.”

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