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SGA President Wants to Serve as Bridge Between ABAC Students and Administration

June 15, 2017

As the daughter of a Marine who served in Vietnam, Ginger Orton took great pride in carrying the American flag during her recent 2,000-mile journey across the United States as a part of Carry The Load.

With the Carry The Load mission behind her, she now gets to carry the torch for the students of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College for the next year as the president of the Student Government Association.

“I want to be a bridge between the students and the ABAC administration,” Orton, an agricultural communications major from Ellaville, said. “I am in this position to hear everyone’s position. The ultimate thank you that I can give to ABAC is to genuinely give back. I can do that as the student body president.”

A 2014 graduate of Schley County High School, Orton chose ABAC for her college destination because she saw an opportunity to become very involved in extracurricular activities. Plus, the college was only two hours from her hometown, a distance she deemed “absolutely perfect.

“Hands down, my favorite part of ABAC are the professors and their relationships with the students,” Orton said. “I have learned so much in the classroom but the teachers are so much more than teachers. They are mentors to the students. They have opened so many doors for me.”

Orton singled out ABAC faculty members Jay Baldwin and Keith Perry for the way they opened her eyes to the opportunities available to her. She will be attending a conference in Pennsylvania in coming weeks that directly relates to the free speech seminar that Baldwin coordinated during the spring term.

“Professor Baldwin saw something in me that I didn’t see,” Orton said. “Because of that, I’m going to Pennsylvania.”

Orton’s only other trip to Pennsylvania was on the month-long Carry The Load trip which started in West Point, N.Y., in late April and ended in Dallas, Texas on Memorial Day. The mission of Carry The Load is to provide an active way to honor and celebrate our nation’s heroes by connecting Americans to the sacrifices made by the military, law enforcement, firefighters, and first responders.

Orton was one of nine ABAC students who walked, bicycled and rode the Carry The Load motor coach for the entirety of the journey across America. The students took turns carrying the American flag and the Carry The Load flag in a continuous relay 24 hours a day.

“It was such a good experience,” Orton, who walked a minimum of 10 miles a day, said. “My dad was a Marine who served in Vietnam. He gave me an appreciation for the military, and he always preached the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

“I made it my personal mission on Carry The Load to genuinely thank Vietnam veterans. They didn’t always get thanked for their service when they got home.”

The 21-year-old daughter of Robert and Laura Orton said she was raised “ramrod straight” because of her dad’s military background. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My dad came back from Vietnam unscathed physically and emotionally,” Orton said. “Unfortunately, a lot of our soldiers did not. When we rolled into Dallas, there was a whole section of veterans with prosthetic arms and legs cheering for us. That told me why we were doing Carry The Load.

“For those veterans to say thank you to us was quite humbling. We should have been saying thank you to them. I can tell you that the tears were flowing. They were tears of excitement and gratitude.”

Early in the journey, the ABAC students were invited to a firehouse in New York City. Rescue Five was one of the first responders to the tragedy on September 11, 2001. Eleven firemen from Rescue Five lost their lives that day.

“We walked into this huge kitchen at the firehouse,” Orton said. “They had cooked pasta for us with homemade sauce. Before the meal was over, they were like a big group of our best friends. Seeing the names of those eleven on that wall showed us firsthand what the ultimate sacrifice is all about.

“I know that I will never see most of the people I met on this trip again. But I will have lots of places to visit for the rest of my life. My heart is now strewn from New York to Dallas.”

On Aug. 16, Orton will focus her heart and her head on representing ABAC students when she begins the fall semester of her senior year. She has spent her ABAC career preparing for this moment, serving as the SGA vice-president last year and as president of the ABAC Young Farmers chapter.

“Students, faculty, staff, and administrators are all here for a greater cause,” Orton said. “Life is good at ABAC. We can all be involved and be diversified throughout the campus to achieve greater good.”

Considering her love for ABAC, it’s not surprising to think that Orton has entertained the possibility of returning to the college one day, this time as a member of the faculty.

“I’d love do some writing and have some of my work published,” Orton said of her plans after her graduation in May of 2018. “I’d like to edit a literary magazine one day. After I get some skills under my belt, I’d really like to come back and be a college professor.”
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