The Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) yesterday announced the state’s top technical college student and top technical college instructor for 2018. Crystal Wright of Georgia Piedmont Technical College received the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) award and Stephanie O’Donoghue of Chattahoochee Technical College received the 2018 State Rick Perkins Award for Excellence in Technical Instruction.
“What makes the Technical College System of Georgia so successful is our exceptional people,” said TCSG Commissioner, Matt Arthur. “Crystal and Stephanie are two inspirational individuals who represent the very best of technical education here in Georgia. They will be outstanding ambassadors for TCSG in the coming year,” he said.
Crystal Wright is an Interdisciplinary Studies student from Georgia Piedmont Technical College. She received the GOAL program’s grand prize: a new, made-in-Georgia 2018 KIA Optima, courtesy of KIA Motors Manufacturing Georgia and delivered by Ed Voyles KIA of Chamblee. In her acceptance speech, Wright reflected on the loss of her fiancé to suicide following struggles with mental health. She told the crowd how that tragedy was the impetus for her passion for helping people besieged with these issues. Before this week’s competition Wright is quoted as saying, “My proudest achievement thus far is my second place finish in Practical Nursing at National SkillsUSA. Being able to represent my college program at a national level gave me great self-confidence and pride.” Those virtues paid off and now she can say winning the statewide student of the year award can be her proudest achievement.
Wright’s many accomplishments also include winning a first place in the statewide SkillsUSA competition two years in a row, as well as placing second in the national competition last year. Her commitment to nursing, and in particular to mental health advocacy, resonated with the judges.
“Crystal is a standout student who thinks with both her head and her heart,” said Kaye Henry, program director for the licensed practical nurse program at Georgia Piedmont. Henry was also Wright’s nominating instructor for the GOAL award.
This is Georgia Piedmont’s third statewide GOAL winner in its 57-year history and its second in three years. Stephanie Jackson, a paralegal studies student, won the GOAL statewide award in 2015.
The GOAL program, now in its 47th year, recognizes the most outstanding technical education students at each of the 22 TCSG colleges and the technical division at Bainbridge State College. The Rick Perkins Award, now in its 28th year, highlights excellence in technical instruction. As award winners, Wright and O’Donoghue will make public appearances as ambassadors for technical education during the next year, including meeting with the Governor and addressing the Georgia General Assembly.
Each year, selection for the GOAL and Rick Perkins Award begins with the naming of the top technical education student and instructor at each college, as well as the technical division at Bainbridge State College. Regional competitions follow, which narrows the field to nine finalists for each award. In April, judges interview the nine finalists to decide a winner for each award.
Stephanie O’Donoghue, an Electrical and Computer Engineering instructor at Chattahoochee Technical College, is the winner of the 2018 Rick Perkins Award for Excellence in Technical Instruction and received a $1,000 cash award. Georgia Piedmont’s Paralegal Studies instructor, Kye Haymore, was also the college’s Rick Perkins award nominee.