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SGTC GOAL nominees honored at luncheon

AMERICUS — South Georgia Technical College’s (SGTC) 2018 GOAL (Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership) semi-finalists were recently interviewed by the GOAL selection committee following a special luncheon that honored the GOAL semi-finalists, all GOAL nominees, the GOAL selection and screening committees, and nominating instructors.
Cynthia Carter, GOAL coordinator and SGTC director of Career Services, welcomed the crowd to the annual GOAL luncheon and SGTC Dean of Academic Affairs Raymond Holt gave the invocation. SGTC President John Watford, Ed.D., recognized special guests at the luncheon, which included SGTC’s GOAL screening and selection committees. The screening committee, who selected the four semi-finalists from a selection of all GOAL nominees, consisted of SGTC staff members Deborah Jones, Ed.D., assistant vice president of Student Navigation and Institutional Support; Mark Brooks, director of Administrative Services; Sammy Stone, director of Campus Safety and Dorms; Dianne Trueblood, Information Systems director; and Julie Partain, Dean of Enrollment Management.
The selection committee, who interviewed the four finalists following the luncheon, included Marcus Johnson, Phoebe Sumter Medical Center; Eshonda Blue, co-founder of Innovative Senior Solutions; Mattye Gordon, SGTC board of directors member from Taylor County; Kim Christmas, Pharmacentra; and Don Smith, assistant to the President at SGTC.
Carter, with the help of Rhett Simmons, chairman of the Americus Sumter Chamber of Commerce who partners with SGTC to host the GOAL program, then recognized each of the GOAL nominees and semi-finalists, as well as their nominating instructors. The semi-finalists included Stephanie L. John of Ellaville, networking wpecialist; Noah McCleskey of Pinehurst, welding & joining technology; and Alexandra M. Joiner of Cordele, marketing management.
Additional GOAL nominees included Jeremiah L. Lumpkin of Mauk, air conditioning technology; Tiana K. Reese of Americus, culinary arts; Shaketia N. Tyson of Americus, criminal justice technology; Paul D. Strozier of Ellerslie, diesel equipment technology; Bailey Mills of Cordele, aviation maintenance technology; and Desiray C. Kenney of Cordele, accounting.
Following the presentation of plaques, each finalist’s nominating instructor delivered a one-minute speech about why they chose their nominee above the rest, followed by a three-minute speech from the finalist about their “story.”
“Being a great student definitely gets one noticed, but a student with drive, passion, goals and objectives sets the pace – my nominee, Lexi [Alexandra Joiner] is a pace setter,” said Karen Bloodworth, Joiner’s nominating instructor. “When she first enrolled in the marketing program in 2017, she immediately stood out as an excellent student – academically, attendance, work ethic, the whole nine yards. She’s engaging in the classroom, asks thought provoking questions and has her post set on earning her marketing degree and concentrating on a public relations career.”
Bloodworth said Joiner has “soared” by being involved in student organizations and through being an active member of the community. “I definitely see her succeeding in her career,” she said.
Following her speech, Bloodworth announced that due to unforeseen circumstances, Joiner would not be present to deliver her speech, but would arrive later in the program in time to participate in the interview and judging process.
Former SGTC Teacher of the Year Andrea Ingram then introduces her nominee and GOAL finalist, Stephanie L. John.
“When I found out that Stephanie had risen to the top and been selected as a GOAL finalist, I immediately began thinking of two things that capture her essence: a diamond in the rough, and the Hope diamond,” Ingram said. “A diamond in the rough … describes a person with great potential that simply has not had an opportunity or refinement to become fully appreciated. Stephanie is a diamond, and her education at South Georgia Tech is essential to her refinement. Like the Hope diamond … Stephanie is hope for a brighter future.”
John elaborated on what her instructor meant by “a diamond in the rough” by telling her story.
“A little over three years ago, just as my daughter was turning one, everything in my life was falling apart,” she explained. “I was losing everything – my marriage to drugs, my home to abandonment and separation, even my health and sanity to guilt, depression and hurt.”
John had to start over – with nothing but her mother and her daughter, who she had to fight to regain custody of after a later incident. At the same time, she fought her own mind, which was shutting down due to the intense stress and emotions that she felt after going through a divorce.
“I started with no job, no house, and barely a car because I couldn’t afford that payments,” John said, fighting back tears. “So, I’m 28 now, and I have just begun my fourth semester of secondary school ever … South Georgia Tech has made it possible for me to be a full-time parent, work two part time jobs, and still attend college and make it so affordable … I’m just so thankful for the opportunity to get the education that I need to give me and my daughter the future that we deserve.”
The third and last GOAL finalist, Noah McCleskey, introduced by nominating instructor Brenda Gilliam, says he is also thankful for finding a home at South Georgia Tech, but says this isn’t his first stint at secondary education.
“Technical colleges are given a bad reputation, often being seen as ‘the other option’ for individuals who aren’t cut out for universities. I’m here as living proof to tell you that that could not be further from the truth,” he said.
McCleskey graduated from high school as the salutatorian with a 4.0 GPA. After that, he attended Mercer University in Macon, and left there with a 3.6 GPA after realizing that a university would not be able to offer him the path that he wanted to take in life.
“With the help of a wonderful instructor, I have truly found my passion in the welding program. As I’ve gotten further in the program, I have seen the advantages and benefits that a technical college can offer that far surpass what a university can even try to offer,” he said, going on to list cost of education and employability as two advantages of the technical college system offers over universities.
“This ‘bad reputation’ is something that needs to be addressed, and it’s something that I would like to have a voice for,” McCleskey said in closing.
President Watford congratulated each nominee and thanked each finalist for sharing their inspirational stories.
“Regardless of what happens after today, know that you have friends here and that you have people who support you and are very proud of you as South Georgia Tech graduates,” he said.
The SGTC 2018 GOAL winner will be announced in February, and from there, he or she will compete at southern regional judging. Three finalists from that region will be named and will compete in the state GOAL competition in Atlanta in April, and vie to be named the 2018 statewide GOAL winner. The state GOAL winner becomes the student ambassador for the Technical College System of Georgia, and receives the grand prize of a new car.