CLARKSTON, GA — A Paralegal Studies program student and mother of five took Georgia Piedmont Technical College’s (GPTC) highest student distinction Jan. 23, while a mathematics instructor in the school’s GED Test preparation division became the first Adult Education teacher in GPTC’s history to be named its top faculty member.

GPTC narrowed the field of 28 student nominees and four finalists for the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) Student of the Year to 2020 winner Mandy Higginbotham of Covington.

“I am so honored to be GPTC’s Student of the Year. To win the GOAL award is confirmation that hard work and dedication pays off,” she said. “Going back to college in my mid-30s was hard, but I hope that someone else will be inspired to follow their dreams and know that they can do it, too.”

Higginbotham’s fellow GOAL finalists were Early Childhood Care and Education program student Erik Brown, Clinical Laboratory Technology program student Heather Edmisten and Marketing Management program student Bawala “Rocky” Wechsler.

GPTC Paralegal Studies Program Director Kye Haymore, who nominated Higginbotham for the award, said, “Mandy is an extremely dedicated and diligent student who displays the character and attitude that instructors desire most in a student. She has demonstrated her perseverance by continuing her studies and performing exceptionally well in the classroom while, at the same time, holding down a full-time job and raising her children.”

The College also named Chasidy Parks the 2020 Rick Perkins Award winner, an honor given to GPTC’s selection as its instructor of the year. Parks, also a Covington resident, shared her top-two finalist status with Air Conditioning Technology program instructor Samuel Mitchell.

“We work long hours, but we love our students and are so dedicated to them and their success,” Parks said. “This award means you feel appreciated and loved by your college.”

Additional Rick Perkins Award nominees were her fellow Adult Education program faculty members Vicki Douglas and Memie Harper.

“Chasidy is incredibly deserving of this award. She exemplifies learning, service and leadership,” said GPTC’s Dean of Adult Education Meghan McBride, who nominated Parks for the award. “This is evidenced by her daily interactions with the students and staff at our South DeKalb location where, as lead teacher, she continually encourages everyone to think about our goal of getting students trained for a career where they can earn a family-sustaining wage.”

All 22 of Georgia’s technical colleges statewide present these two awards annually. Local winners, selected through a series of interviews and speeches, serve as ambassadors to their communities on behalf of their colleges. GPTC’s winners will represent the College in its three-county service area of DeKalb, Newton and Rockdale.

The objective of the GOAL program is to recognize and reward excellence among more than 135,000 students studying within the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). GOAL was the first statewide program in the nation to honor outstanding technical education students. The Rick Perkins Award is presented to the faculty member who has shown the most dedication to the job, commitment to students and skill in the classroom.

GPTC’s announcements were made at a luncheon in the DeKalb Campus Conference Center in Clarkston. Winners received special on-campus parking spaces for a full year and $500 scholarships from the Georgia Piedmont Tech Foundation to assist with expenses for the regional and state competitions.

“I am so proud of our students and our instructors who were nominated. We look forward to the great things that our winners, Mandy and Chasidy, are going to do on behalf of the College in representing us at the regional and state levels moving forward,” said GPTC President Tavarez Holston.

GPTC’s GOAL and Rick Perkins Award winners will compete at the TCSG North Region competition on March 4 at Lanier Technical College in Oakwood. College winners representing Athens Tech, Atlanta Tech, Chattahoochee Tech, Georgia Northwestern Tech, Georgia Piedmont Tech, Gwinnett Tech, Lanier Tech, and North Georgia Tech will vie for three available state finalist positions from within the region for each award.

Statewide winners will be selected at the state GOAL and Rick Perkins Award competitions in Atlanta in April and will travel the state for a full year on behalf of Georgia’s technical college system. The grand prize for the state GOAL winner also includes a brand new car, courtesy of Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, the statewide corporate sponsor of the GOAL program.

GPTC’s 2018 GOAL Student of the Year, Crystal Wright, took home the honor as the statewide GOAL winner and drove away in her own new Kia two years ago. Wright was the third statewide GOAL winner in GPTC’s 59-year history and its second in three years. GPTC’s Stephanie Jackson won the statewide GOAL award in 2015.

The College’s 2019 GOAL winner Tina-Kay Rhoden and Rick Perkins Award winner Kelli Owen both garnered state finalist status, earning positions within a group of the top nine students and faculty members in Georgia’s technical college system last year.

Additional nominees for this year’s GOAL 2020 honor at GPTC were Clinical Laboratory Technician program student Kelly Tran, Computer Information Systems Programming program students Tigist Amare and Alex Muzu, Criminal Justice program student Natalie Salgado-Juarez, Database Specialist program students Simon Bedasso, Tsigehana Kitaw, Rachel Engida, Yared Mamo, Tri Dung Huynh, Haneen Alabdali, Mikiyas Kidane, Fisaha Berhe, Yisehke Bambore, Ashenafi Delle and Zerfinsh Nune, Design and Media Production program student Tamia Harvey, Electrical & Computer Engineering program student Akpobari Mark, Nurse Aide program students Fnu Lima, Sherry Willis and Dorothy Wilson, and Paralegal Studies program students Lacey Anderson, Earl Miller, Daniel Phillips and Patrez Thomas.