Three SGTC students awarded Caterpillar Excellence Scholarship

Published 3:30 pm Friday, June 23, 2023

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AMERICUS – Three 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.

Wyatt Morgan of Buena Vista, Randy Robert II Ampler of Montezuma, and Joah Gay of Millan 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.

All three of the students were Spring Semester graduates of the SGTC Diesel Technology program and all are already gainfully employed in their chosen career field.

Luke “Joah” Gay, is a third-generation farmer, and has been around farm equipment since he was a young child.  He was naturally inquisitive and wanted to know how to fix things when they were broken.  That curiosity and drive to learn led him to becoming the primary mechanic for his family’s farm.

“Six months of trying to learn how to repair equipment on my own showed me that I needed further schooling to be able to mechanic and fix things like I needed to,” laughed Gay.  “I started looking into programs and decided I wanted to become a certified diesel mechanic.  That was what led me to apply to SGTC’s diesel technology program.  I also wanted a degree so that I could get a job working with John Deere or another company if I ever decided that I no longer wanted to farm.”

Gay decided to attend South Georgia Tech because it was the best diesel program closest to him.  “This program allowed me to continue to work on my family’s farm as their main mechanic, while still being able to go to the classes and complete my degree.  My farming background gave me a head start in the program, because I already knew the basics like wrench sizes.  That knowledge allowed me to help other students struggling with understanding the lesson.”

He also liked that his instructor, Chase Shannon, gave him assignments to match his skill-level.  “My instructor made sure to adapt classroom learning to best suit all the students in the class,” said Gay, who added that he has taken what he learned at SGTC and implemented it on the farm.  “This has greatly improved my mechanical capabilities and benefited our farming operation.  The problem I run into is that we don’t always have the tools on the farm that I have access to in the classroom.  This scholarship will allow me to be able to buy the tools I need which will help me be a better mechanic and have a faster turnaround time on equipment.”

Wyatt Morgan of Buena Vista has a story similar to Gay.  “Diesel mechanics has always been a big part of both mine and my family’s life.  So, I knew diesel mechanics was what I wanted to do from a young age.  South Georgia Technical College was the best school for me to attend because of the high recognition of their diesel mechanics program and the location of the school,” said Morgan.

Morgan’s grandfather was a diesel mechanic and he had always wanted to follow in his footsteps.  He also added it was easy to pick diesel mechanics as his area of study because of his family’s background in it.  His grandfather, father, and uncle also work on equipment, bulldozers and semi-trucks.  Growing up around heavy equipment peeked his interest in operating and working on equipment.

“All in all, diesel mechanics has always been my passion and South Georgia Technical College has greatly enhanced this through the in-depth knowledge and experience that I have gained from studying at their facility.  From the education I have received, I feel greatly equipped to follow in the footsteps of my father and grandfather by becoming a third-generation diesel mechanic,” said Morgan.

Randy Robert II Ampler was the third student to receive the scholarship.  He is 28-years old and has two sons and a daughter.  He was born in the Philippines and came to America when he was 18-years old.  When he arrived, he found work at a dairy and started as a milker, maternity, medic, and worked in the breeding department before moving to a heifer driver and finally to the shop doing maintenance on machinery.

“I realized that I needed to find a better job or a new career path in order to support my family.  I wanted to work in the diesel equipment field because when I was a kid, my ambition was to become a mechanic, because I love everything about vehicles,” said Ampler.

After researching, he decided the best diesel school for him was South Georgia Technical College.  “I chose this college because it is the number one technical college in Georgia and while studying, I also work in a dairy every weekend and during school days, I work in the J&M Tank Lines.”  He is now employed full-time at J&M Tank Lines.

The scholarships will allow Ampler and the two others to purchase tools for their new careers.  “These tools will help me to fix equipment more efficiently and with precision while I am advancing my career as a diesel equipment mechanic,” said Ampler.

All three 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.

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 17, 2023 and individuals can apply on online at  SGTC has waived testing requirements for fall semester.  Registration will be held on July 18 and August 15.