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Alumni Profile: Ali Wilkins '17

Window after window in downtown Clayton, GA is filled with the beautiful artwork of alumna Ali Wilkins ‘17. 
Ali attended Rabun Gap for seven years and was a competitive three sport athlete as well as a talented artist. Ali talks about how Rabun Gap prepared her to be a college athlete and how it helped her turn her passion into a growing career. 
Tell us what you’ve been doing since graduating from Rabun Gap?
I attended Berra College for one year, and then I transferred to Piedmont College. I will graduate in May 2021. I play on the volleyball team as a setter/ds. I've been working full time as a personal trainer, club volleyball coach, and muralist/ window painter while attending school. The window painting has been a new endeavor, but it’s been a very rewarding process to express my artistic side in the town of Clayton. Staying in the area for college has led to endless opportunities and relationships within my community. 
How did Rabun Gap help to prepare you or influence your future goals?
Rabun Gap taught me many things. The ones that have been so useful to me recently are how to manage my time, plan for the future as well as the present, and communicate on a professional level. I’ve learned how to maintain relationships on a personal and professional level which has given me a step up in my perspective field. I am so thankful Rabun Gap instilled in me the ability to study, manage my skills, and believe in myself.  
People often talk about diversity at Rabun Gap. Can you speak to how the diverse community impacted your experience?
The diversity at Rabun Gap allowed me to have relationships with people of all backgrounds and cultures. This helped me have an appreciation not only for other people’s cultures and backgrounds but my own as well. Learning how to respect and communicate with people that have different cultures and perspectives than me is a critical skill to have now. Not only is it critical, it is absolutely necessary.   
Do you have a favorite memory from your time at Rabun Gap?
My favorite memories at Rabun Gap have to be either my early days in middle school or all my sport’s memories. Playing in state championships for basketball are memories that are so dear to me. Also, my volleyball moments like my senior night and traveling to games with my best friends. I have so many funny stories and moments from classes, school trips, and sport moments. I wouldn’t trade those for the world. 
Is there a specific teacher, coach or dorm parent who had a particular impact on you?
Stephanie Smith, Dale Earnhardt, and Jerry Wright had the most impact on me during my time at Rabun Gap. Coach Smith was my volleyball coach, and she believed in me at times when I didn’t even believe in myself. She worked endlessly with me to get me ready to play in college. For that I’m so thankful. Dale Earnhardt and Jerry Wright helped me in my journey with basketball. Not only that, they gave me the guidance I needed for things not involved with sports. Without them, high school and my life would have been different. All of these people have made me who I am, and they went above and beyond to help me in times that I needed it most. All I can say is thank you. 
What advice would you give to current students? 
Make the most of your time! It might seem so challenging at times, but it’s worth it. Take advantage of the time with friends, faculty, and the beautiful campus. Choose to do the activities instead of staying at home or in your dorm room. It’s worth it, and they will be some of the best memories of your life. Though time can be hard during these years, understand this is only the beginning. Try new things, study hard, and lead the way! 
What are your hopes for Rabun Gap in the next 10-20 years? 
In the next 10 to 20 years I hope to see more growth, but I hope the class sizes remain small. Some of my favorite times were going to middle school in actual houses. I am so grateful I got that chance. I hope they can continue with the diversity and cultural competence there. I’d love to see more programs for students whether it be in sports, arts, or even more unique after school opportunities. 
Thank you Rabun Gap for making me the person I am today!
Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School is a private, coeducational day and boarding school for grades Pre-K through 12. Centrally located between Atlanta, GA, Greenville, SC, and Asheville, NC, we prepare young people for college, career, and a lifetime of leadership and service.