Four SGTC Diesel Technology students awarded Caterpillar Excellence Scholarships

Published 1:51 pm Thursday, May 26, 2022

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From Staff Reports


AMERICUS —Four students in the Diesel Equipment Technology program at South Georgia Technical College (SGTC) were awarded the South Georgia Technical College Foundation Caterpillar Excellence Scholarships recently in recognition of their hard work, work ethics and grade point averages.

Donald A. Gay and Jeremy Huiras of Leesburg, GA along with Bernard M. Bryan, III of Buena Vista, GA, and Bo J. Snider of Mitchell, GA were the students selected to receive the Caterpillar Excellence Scholarships.  Each student received over $1660 to use to purchase tools for their chosen career field.

Gay is a recent graduate of the SGTC Diesel Technology program and the other students will be graduating in the next one or two semesters.  Each of the students are already gainfully employed in the industry to hone their skills.

Donald A. Gay graduated from the Diesel Technology program in May and is currently employed with John Deere at Flint Equipment in Albany, GA.   “During my job interview with John Deere, the question was asked if I went to a technical college.  I told him yes, South Georgia Technical College.  The person interviewing me was very impressed when I spoke of South Georgia Tech and agreed that SGTC was a good choice if you were interested in joining the diesel career path.”

Gay had always liked working on his motorcycles, vehicles, and small engines but acknowledged that out of the three engine paths (small engine, gasoline, or diesel), diesel careers are the one currently in high demand.  Even though he had very limited knowledge in the diesel engine field, he searched the internet and word of mouth for the best place to learn those skills, technics, and the understanding of equipment and the proper way to use those tools.  Gay landed at South Georgia Technical College and the rest is history.

He took advantage of the “complete college experience” at South Georgia Tech.  Gay lived on-campus, was President of the Student Government Association, participated in SkillsUSA and other student activities, and graduated with honors.  And best of all, he was hired in his field before graduation.

“I am so grateful for this scholarship,” said Gay.  “My experience at South Georgia Technical College was wonderful and I really enjoyed the hands-on classes as well as the mental aspects of learning how things work and how to troubleshoot problems.  This is really going to help me complete my tool box for my new job.”

Another Leesburg student, Jeremy Huiras, is a second-year student in the Diesel program and is set to graduate in December 2022.  Before choosing South Georgia Technical College, he attended Lee County High School.  “I struggled throughout both middle and high school and often times I gave my teachers and administrators a hard time.  Attending South Georgia Technical College’s Diesel Technology program has given me another opportunity and it has taught me responsibility and what it will be like in the real-world using hands on learning,” said Huiras.

“If I had not applied at South Georgia Tech, I am not sure where I would be today.  This program has opened many new doors for me and given me many great job opportunities,” added Huiras.

Huiras’ family has a history of Diesel Mechanics.  He has helped his uncle work on big tractors and heavy machinery.  “The more I worked on that type of machinery, the more interesting and fun it became to me.  Trying to figure out why something is not working properly is what makes the job so fun.  You never know what is going to happen and it is very rewarding when you are able to fix a problem.”

Huiras is planning to use his scholarship funds to purchase tools to help him land a job with either Yancey Caterpillar or John Deere.  “Having the proper tools is very important in the field of work that I am going to be in and this is a great help,” added Huiras.

Bernard M. Bryan, III of Buena Vista is the third student to receive the CAT excellence scholarship this year.  He is set to graduate in December of 2022 also.  “I have always had a passion for mechanical work from an early age.  I started off working on a small farm around equipment when I was in high school at the age of 16.  Then later down the road at the age of 22, I was granted a job at a local shop in Ellaville, GA, working on equipment, irrigation engines, and diesel trucks.  After working there for a few months, I realized this was something I wanted to make a career out of and started to evaluate colleges,” said Bryan.

“I chose South Georgia Technical College because it had the best diesel program in the state and it was right here at home.  I could continue to work full-time during the day and attend classes at night.”  Bryan is now employed at Sun Belt Ford in Americus where he had been able to learn the computer side of the diesel field as well as the mechanical side.

“I’ve been in the field for a little over a year now and I have had to borrow tools from co-workers to complete jobs in a timely manner.  With this scholarship, I will be able to expand my tools to help with my mechanical ability out in the field.  I am so thankful for this opportunity,” added Bryan.

The fourth student to receive the Caterpillar Excellence Scholarship is Bowen J. Snider of Mitchell, GA. “I travel three and a half hours each week to the South Georgia Technical College campus.  But I have found a diesel program where I am able to work on equipment in a shop setting and not just on a computer simulator.  I learn best by doing, not only by myself, but in a troubleshooting situation with others.  This program allows me that opportunity and my instructor, Chase Shannon, is very encouraging and provides me with opportunities to experience engine repair, both in theoretical and practical applications,” said Snider.

Snider is a 2021 graduate of Glascock County High School.  He was involved in the Future Farmers of America and participated in activities and competitions related to farming, forestry, and diesel engines.  “I became extremely interested in diesel engines, particularly those associated with the timber industry.  During my senior work-based learning course, I worked with a local timber company learning to service, operate, and manage diesel-related logging equipment.”

Snider was a dual enrollment student at Oconee Fall Line and Athens Technical College.  But he wanted more opportunities to pursue diesel engines and welding.  And he has found that at South Georgia Technical College.

At the end of each week of class, Snider, returns home to work a long weekend servicing equipment for a local timber company.  Then on Monday, he returns to campus where he stays in the residence halls.  “Even though this is a lot of work, I know the importance of finishing this program of study because it has the potential to change my life.”

All four of the Diesel Equipment Technology students had words of praise for instructor Chase Shannon and for the diesel repair industry.  “We have the opportunity to learn on a wide spectrum of equipment and we are always learning something different.  Mr. Shannon stresses troubleshooting skills and to have patience and to do the job right the first time,” said Donald Gay.

“There is something about taking apart an engine and putting it back together and it runs better.  That is a feeling of accomplishment that no one can take away from you,” said Bryan.

All four students agreed another positive aspect about their career is knowing their jobs will never be exported oversees.  “There are always going to be machines that need to be repaired and that is good for the diesel mechanics,” laughed the students.  They also said sometimes, there is a misunderstanding about this field.  “You have to be intelligent.  It is not just about mechanical skills even though that is part of it,” said Gay.  “There is also the diagnostic part of the job.  You hook up the laptop to the engine to see what to do and why.  Then you use the hands-on skills to make the repairs. In this field, you have to be pretty well-rounded.”

The current estimated starting pay for entry-level diesel technicians is around $46,000 per year and the job outlook for the next five years is expected to grow by nearly 10 percent.

“These students exemplify and personify all of the qualities we look for in a scholarship recipient,” said South Georgia Technical College Foundation Executive Director and VP of Institutional Advancement Su Ann Bird. “We appreciate Caterpillar for the funds to be able to award these scholarships to these outstanding diesel technicians.”

Chase Shannon, SGTC Diesel Equipment Technology Instructor, also praised the students.  “These students are hard workers.  They have good work ethics, they enjoy challenges and they are very observant.  They never just put something back together the way they found it. If something is not working right, they always investigate why it is not working and then look at what else may need repairing while they are there.  That can be a big savings in real life,” said Shannon.

Each student thanked Caterpillar and the South Georgia Technical College Foundation for the scholarship.  Students were selected for this scholarship based on instructor recommendation, academic achievement, test scores, and interview.  Funding for these scholarships is made available by the SGTC Foundation through donations made by the Caterpillar Excellence Fund. The partnership with Caterpillar addresses the need for qualified Diesel Equipment technicians and assists students who have made achievements in the Diesel field.

South Georgia Technical College is currently accepting new students for Fall Semester.  Individuals interested in the Diesel Equipment Technology program can contact Chase Shannon at  Classes start August 18th, 2022 and individuals can apply on online at  SGTC has waived testing requirements for fall semester.  Registration will be held on July 19th and August 17th.