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Local UGA alumni throw party for future Bulldogs
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Drew Becker, right, and other Forsyth County incoming freshmen to the University of Georgia are recognized Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, during a send-off event by the Forsyth County Chapter of the UGA Alumni Association at the Reid Barn. - photo by Brian Paglia

Drew and Kyle Becker thought about attending Vanderbilt University or the University of Virginia, but instead the recent South Forsyth High School graduates choose the University of Georgia after visiting the campus this past October. The Athens campus didn’t “take your breath away,” Drew said, but they came away from that day with an overall comfort that felt assuring.

In the months after their decision, the Becker brothers encountered the age-old question for high school seniors — “Where are you going to college?” — and more and more their answer unearthed UGA grads.

“When you start meeting people who also went (to Georgia), they start getting really excited, and you kind of feed off that energy,” Drew said.

There was more energy for the Beckers to feed off of Thursday at the Forsyth County Chapter of the UGA Alumni Association’s send-off event for incoming freshman from the county. Inside the Reid Barn, the county’s newest crop of Bulldogs mingled with local alumni. Red and black balloons anchored each table, while Georgia’s fight song played in the background.

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Peter Stoddard, a 1978 graduate of the University of Georgia, shows off his hat Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, at an event held by the Forsyth County Chapter of the UGA Alumni Association to recognize local incoming freshmen from the county. - photo by Brian Paglia

Forsyth County has been a fruitful source of students for UGA in recent years. This year’s incoming freshmen include more than 400 from the county, more than any other in the state. Lambert High School had the most from one high school with 105, while South Forsyth had the third-most with 93, according to David Graves, senior associate director of undergraduate admissions at Georgia.

When Rusty Smith graduated from Forsyth Central in 1995, the local insurance agent remembers maybe 10 of his classmates going to Athens. Valery Lowe, director of College & Career Development with Forsyth County Schools, said she was one of maybe 20 in the South Forsyth class of 1997 who went to Georgia.

Regardless, both helped organize Thursday’s event to give the county’s future Bulldogs a message.

“You’ve got a community here to support you,” Smith said.

The county’s alumni chapter started in the 1980s as an informal group who wanted to tailgate at football games. It was called the Lanier 400 Bulldog Club, and it wasn’t officially affiliated with the UGA Alumni Association. The group eventually joined the school’s association as it continued to host events, often with guest speakers.

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Glenn Kruse, left, talks with Jeff Sentell, a reporter for the website DawgNation who covers University of Georgia football recruiting and was the guest speaker on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, at a send-off event hosted by the Forsyth County Chapter of the UGA Alumni Association for recent high school graduates set to attend Georgia. - photo by Brian Paglia

Thursday’s guest was Jeff Sentell, a reporter for the website DawgNation who covers Georgia football recruiting. He graduated from Georgia, and he offered the county’s future Bulldogs a few tips on how to navigate life in Athens. For instance, don’t try to beat Parking Services.

But Sentell also made a strong pitch for Georgia’s football program, one that under second-year head coach Kirby Smart reached the College Football Playoff National Championship game this past season.

“This will be the greatest 4-5 years in Georgia football history,” Sentell said.

But none of the future Bulldogs in attendance Thursday had attended a game yet as a student. Indeed, Drew Becker hadn’t even moved into his dorm room. That would come Sunday.

Then he’d be officially part of the UGA family.