ILA Family — Friends
Rhett Bentley (Scholar '09)
Before I joined the LLSP, I hadn’t really found my niche at UGA. By the end of my sophomore year, I was involved on campus and was actively achieving all my academic goals, but I still hadn’t found a place to call home. Joining the LLSP changed my college career and my life for the better. Through the LLSP, I met some of the most passionate, engaged, driven students on campus, who were pursuing similar career goals.
Not only did the LLSP expand my network, it strengthened those relationships that I brought with me into the program. Chris LeCrawand and Douglas McRae were good friends of mine when I started as a Junior in the LLSP, but by graduation, our friendship blossomed into brotherhood. I will remain close to them both for the rest of my life. Chris, Douglas, I love you guys.
Joseph Antonio (Scholar '06)
ILA Family means a group of men and women that have encouraged, challenged, and supported me to pursue my career calling.
Emily Joseph (Scholar '15)
Growing up, there were always multiple "groups" of friends: those you ask for advice, those you go to for a good time, those you study with. My ILA Family is all of that and more.
Kent Oliver (Scholar '03)
There will always be a special bond that exists with the inaugural ILA class. Our own "family" of misfits learned, laughed, and grew together. As time passes, I appreciate those days even more.
Elizabeth Dangler (Scholar '13) and Bridget Bambenek (Fellow '14)
The perfect way to describe the 'ILA Family'' is by the famous 'friends are the family we choose.' By some random act of luck, each of us was selected to be a part of this amazing experience and amongst all of the self-reflection, we formed bonds with the other students who share these common ties. In a twist of fate, those other students become our friends who slowly become part of our 'family,' and you quickly realize how your lives have mirrored each other's. Elizabeth entered the ILA family in 2011, followed by Bridget in 2012. The two were both accounting majors and shared similar friends, but never met until Spring 2014 when Elizabeth transferred the reins of ILA graduate assistant to Bridget. They immediately bonded over their similar but parallel time spent at UGA. Over the next year, Elizabeth quickly become a mentor to Bridget as she followed in Elizabeth’s steps as ILA graduate assistant, MAcc student, CPA exam candidate, and EY employee. Now as co-workers, they get the opportunity to share an experience. An experience defined by the values established within ILA and with the constant reminder that their parallel ILA experiences have established their ILA family.
Kristen Stamps (Scholar '11)
ILA became a family to me at UGA for many different reasons. To be known to the core and embraced as is while simultaneously being pushed, stretched, challenged, and inspired is a unique balance. ILA brought the best of the best into my world and ignited a spirit of "what could be" within. It reminded me to always think of the bigger picture and impact to those around us while not forgetting the intricate details of others' stories. The common foundation we were taught to stand on were pillars of purpose, integrity, excellence, stewardship, and responsibility, and these are values I have carried forward as I've stepped beyond UGA's walls. Near or far, my class of Leonard Scholars will remain dear friends and those that I know will accomplish far more than any limit set for them. This family changed me and will always be a part of who I am.
Megan Gaither (Scholar '11) and Kim Shriver (Scholar '11)
"My name is Kim. I like to have fun." That was my first introduction to my random freshman O House suitemate, Kim Shriver. I was definitely the “lame” one. The ILA Family connects people who share a common set of core values (live the coin!) but have wildly different passions
and personalities. Kim and I were roommates and Leonard Scholars together during our time at UGA. The PDLP process helped us to understand that while we are very different, we live our lives out of a common foundation of integrity, faith, and pursuit of adventure. ILA Family
is having a friend like Kim who is your biggest fan, no matter what. Who hikes 80 miles by your side in the Montana wilderness, with only 1 shower. Whose approach to life balances, challenges, and inspires your own. Who lets you watch Sharknado, again. Who wrestles through
the hard AND fun stuff with you. Who challenges you to break that "boring accountant"" stereotype so diligently that neither of us remains solely in that profession. Who will drive with you to Chicago just so you can try the pizza or cook for you in the backcountry during annual
camping adventures. After almost ten years, Kim is still fun and I have become a bit less-lame. I will always be grateful for our time in Leonard and to ILA for enriching this great friendship."
- Megan Gaither, LLSP 2011
Walker Tuten (Fellow '17), Matt Filer (Fellow '16), and Ben Worley (Scholar '16)
I am fortunate that my ILA Family is an extension of a family I already have. I have known Matt my whole life and lived with both him and Benja for the last 3 years in Athens. Recently, we had the opportunity to travel to SE Asia. We rebelled against the ILA within us and let the surf bum come out of us during our 8 week trip that took us to Vietnam, Bali, and Thailand. This is a picture of Matt, Benja, and I with a manta ray. We paid $3 for this snorkeling trip which, I have determined, was well worth the money. I couldn't be more thankful for these guys. I consider them a part of my family and love that they are also a part of the ILA Family. -Walker Tuten
Sarah Ahmed (Scholar '06) and Meghna (Scholar '06)
When I first met Meghna in 2006, I was a junior in the midst of my first semester in the Leonard Leadership Scholars Program, and Meghna reached out for advice on the application process as a hopeful candidate for the LLSP Class of 2009. At the time, I did not realize that the friendship we began that day and cultivated during our time in ILA would span 10 years (and counting!) and numerous unforgettable memories & life experiences. Staying true to the adage that "friends are the family we choose for ourselves," I cannot imagine the last 10 years of my life without my sister, Meggles, by my side. During our first few years of friendship, we celebrated some incredible highs (getting our first job offers, trekking across South America and moving into our first NYC apartment) and commiserated over the lows (break‐ups, brutal NYC winters and career woes), but both ends of the spectrum were made better with each other's support and friendship. While the intervening years have led us to live in different places, our friendship has remained as strong as ever, and I am excited to stand by Meghna's side as she marries her (other) best friend Jake next March. — Sarah Ahmed
Kramer Johnson (Scholar '08) and Michael Lage (Scholar '05)
ILA family is my actual family. ILA helped my wife, Hayley, grow into an amazing person. It inspires me to be a better husband and father. It led two little girls to become best friends. ILA played a large role in my path to Chick-fil-A, where I work with one of my best friends - ILA alumnus Michael Lage. The ILA impact runs so deep, that our oldest daughters have become best friends. When I hear "ILA Family," I picture our sweet girls playing together and learning the values that ILA represents. How special is an organization that leads to toddler friendships years after their dads graduated? I can't thank the ILA family enough. Little Emery and Hannah can't either! - Kramer Johnson