Co-founded by Charbel Aoun and Francisco Martinez, the Georgia First Generation Foundation provides resources such as seminars, workshops and scholarships to hundreds of first-generation college students in the metro Atlanta area. The Bobby Gueh Leadership Award recognizes a community member for his or her ongoing inspirational contributions and commitment to improving first-generation students.
"We plant seeds in young people and we never know how those seeds will grow. For them to reach back out and honor me, that was a blessing," Gueh said.
Martinez was a member of the First Generation club at Lanier High School in Gwinnett County, where Gueh was—and still is—the advisor. Upon graduating high school, Martinez enrolled at Georgia State University, where he met Aoun.
"Francisco spoke highly of Mr. Gueh as a counselor, who was a great support system for him throughout his years in high school, especially considering that Francisco was a first-generation student as well. Naturally, we reached out to Mr. Gueh and met with him to share our idea for this new nonprofit we were starting up," Aoun said.
Gueh, who was born in Liberia, West Africa, has been a school counselor for 17 years in the New Jersey School System and then the Gwinnett County School System. He's worked as a counselor for young men in the prison system of Trenton, New Jersey; a family advocate for the Juvenile Justice Commission of New Jersey; and has run several mentor programs for young men. His research at UGA focuses on the experiences of black male school counselors.
"When I look at the counseling landscape, it's not very diverse. But we still have diversity in students. While black males in the counseling field are my current focus, it is my hope that the research will grow into looking at other populations that are not represented in the counseling profession," he said.