Cynthia Ayala-Mata, a freshman english major, poses for a portrait on the front lawn of Brenau's Gainesville historic campus. Ayala-Mata is one of this year's 12 Brenau scholars. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Brenau Scholar: Cynthia Ayala-Mata

Cynthia Ayala-Mata of Lawrenceville, Georgia, has made a huge mark on her family history: She is the first in her family to complete high school and go to college. Admittedly, she initially wasn’t sure what she visualized for herself when attending university.

“I grew up in Marietta, in a very small area, and I couldn’t see myself in a big university where I would get lost among thousands of kids,” she says. “When I came to Brenau, the atmosphere was so warm and so homey. I had never been away from home before, ever. I couldn’t imagine living in a different place, but Brenau has made the transition easy.”

Admitted to Brenau as a psychology major, Ayala-Mata quickly found that half the classes she was taking were writing and communication classes. She promptly changed her major to English.

Besides adoring Jane Austen novels, her high school English teacher, Taylor Wiseman, put the idea in Ayala-Mata’s head to go into writing and journalism after reading one of her papers. “I had never considered [becoming an English major] until she asked me if I had ever thought about it. But it’s something I would enjoy doing, if my career would be to write or teach people to write, or teach literature.”

Ayala-Mata is thrilled to be a member of Zeta Tau Alpha, which she joined alongside her best friend. She joined the sorority to have opportunities to do community service – she ideally wishes to help out at the nursing home near campus. “It’s not just about education or knowledge,” she says. “It’s about caring about the community and the people who surround you and knowing you’re not just doing it for the money or experience, but because you want to help and you want to give back.”

Ayala-Mata hopes someday to become a writer or an English or language arts teacher, but she’s also given thought to becoming a university professor after she graduates. She might even pursue a job in media.

One thing she knows for sure is being chosen as a Brenau Scholar was an unexpected honor. “I knew there was a possibility I might get it, but when I actually got it I was so excited, and my parents were so proud,” she says. “It’s also a big responsibility. I don’t want to be a Brenau Scholar who doesn’t act as an example of what a Scholar should be. That’s why I want to join so many things and get myself out there.”

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