An Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology program student earned Georgia Piedmont Technical College’s (GPTC) highest student distinction in a virtual announcement March 17. During the same online ceremony, an instructor who focuses her time teaching incarcerated men and women in local jails became only the second Adult Education program teacher in GPTC’s history to be named its top faculty member.

GPTC narrowed the field of 18 student nominees and five finalists for the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) Student of the Year to 2021 winner Garrett Johnson of Conyers. Johnson, a mental health advocate, shared about his own challenge with ADHD and emphasized his desire to engage students in conversation about overcoming those obstacles.

“Being named ‘Student of the Year’ gives me the opportunity to show those who struggle with mental health conditions that success in the realm of academics is possible with good support,” said Johnson, who transferred to GPTC from a four-year university with a desire for more hands-on training in his field.

Johnson’s fellow GOAL finalists were Marketing Management program student Angalique AsheWright, Clinical Laboratory Technology program student Addisu Gebreyesus, Computer Networking Specialist program student Lakeisha Waller and Design and Media Production program student Tonisha Willis.

Electrical and Computer Engineering Program Director Obrin Griffin, who nominated Johnson for the award, said, “He is dedicated to his studies…he has excellent grades and follows it up with a pleasant attitude. I have found him to be very respectful not only to myself but to his other instructors and helpful to other students.”

The College also named Vicki Douglas as the 2021 Rick Perkins Award winner, an honor given to GPTC’s selection as its instructor of the year. Douglas, a Covington resident, was also nominated for the award in 2020 and shared her 2021 top-four finalist status with Air Conditioning Technology, Building Automation and Commercial Refrigeration Program Director Robert Croom; Early Childhood Care and Education instructor Jean Jones; and fellow Adult Education Program instructor Nicholas Michael.

“Technical college plays a role in the state’s economic growth — our employers and businesses who need a trained workforce, the high school graduate looking for affordable training in a career interest, the prodigal high school dropout, the immigrant or refugee starting a new life, to the inmate in county jail wondering if there’s hope for a future,” said Douglas. “Teaching at a technical college matters.”

Nominated by GPTC Vice President of Adult Education Meghan McBride, Douglas teaches math, science, social studies and language arts to students in the Newton and Rockdale County jails.

“Vicki is an indispensable and invaluable member of the GPTC family. She is always willing to go above and beyond in service of our mission, our students, our colleagues and our community,” said McBride. “Because of Vicki’s work, we became the first [Adult Education] program in Georgia to hold synchronous, remote classes inside a correctional facility…our Corrections students have been able to continue working toward their GED [high school equivalency], even in the midst of a pandemic.”

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 143,000 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 by President Tavarez Holston in a virtual address on YouTube on March 17. Winners receive 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 excited to make these announcements today, especially after the past year — when all of our students, faculty and staff have persevered through such difficult times. You have risen to the challenge and now it is time to celebrate,” said Holston in his virtual broadcast.

GPTC’s 2021 GOAL and Rick Perkins Award winners will compete virtually through the TCSG North Region competition on April 20. 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 through virtual competitions and with winners announced via TCSG’s Facebook Live event in May. 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 of being the statewide GOAL winner and drove away in her own new Kia three years ago. Wright was the third statewide GOAL winner in GPTC’s 60-year history and its second in three years. GPTC’s Stephanie Jackson won the statewide GOAL award in 2015.

Additional nominees for GPTC’s GOAL 2021 honor were Air Conditioning Technology program student Semere Girmehannes, Building Automation program student Tornubari Monkpe, Clinical Laboratory Technology program student Fitwi Tsegai, Cosmetology program student Chenal Jones, Criminal Justice program student Ashley Sinclair, Emergency Medical Services Professions program student Ebony O’Neal, Health Information Management Technology program student Susan Trumpet, Interdisciplinary Studies program student Christelle Tchato, Marketing Management program student Ashleigh Jackson, Medical Assisting program student Cynthia Casasola, Nurse Aide program student Kenya Brown, and Paralegal Studies program students Asha Cole and Haley Harrison.

For the 2021 Rick Perkins Instructor of the Year Award, additional GPTC nominees were Claudette Alexander-Thomason from the School of Arts and Sciences; Denise Beckford from the School of Health, Education and Professional Services; Lisa Hightower from the Adult Education program; and Mitzi Williams from the School of Business, Computer Information Systems and New Media.

Watch the GPTC 2021 GOAL and Rick Perkins Award announcements on YouTube here.