Clarkston, GA – March 18, 2022 – The DeKalb Conference Center at Georgia Piedmont Technical College in Clarkston set the scene Thursday for a major nationally-recognized celebration. The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Community Policing ceremony was highlighted by remarks from the nation’s top law enforcement official, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. Also on hand were Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Kurt Erskine, local dignitaries, more than a dozen DeKalb police officers, and some 140 onlookers. Everyone convened to recognize the community work of three officers with DeKalb County Police’s PAL (Police Athletic League) program.

Dignitaries on the stage
Left to right: U.S. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, GPTC President Tavarez Holston, U.S. Attorney for Northern Georgia Kurt Erskine, and DeKalb Police Chief Mirtha Ramos stand as the ceremony gets underway.

The competition for the annual award was fierce with nearly 350 nominations received from 39 states. The awardees from PAL, detectives Khary Ricketts, LaTosha Prather, and retired detective Dan-nae Webber provide at-risk young people with a safe haven through sports and other activities. Attorney General Garland said that while the coronavirus put a hard stop on many such programs, Ricketts, Prather, and Webber stepped up their game by implementing a Virtual Summer Academy (VSA), of which GPTC is a part.

Honorees pose with the dignitaries
Left to right:  Honorees retired Det. Dan-nae Webber and Det. LaTosha Prather, U.S. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, honoree Det. Khary Ricketts, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, DeKalb Police Chief Mirtha Ramos, and U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine.
crowd clapping
The honorees received a resounding standing ovation for their work.

“They partnered with community leaders, teachers, coaches, businesses, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits to get the program off the ground,” Attorney General Garland said. “I don’t know how they did it but each of them told me you can do basketball, you can do cheerleading, you and do dance-remotely. I wish I had been in those programs.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland delivers his remarks

Georgia Piedmont provided life skills training and educational opportunities for teens enrolled in the VSA. Garland confirmed that eight of the nine initial participants found work and the ninth is currently enrolled in GPTC dual enrollment classes. Through its adult education division, Georgia Piedmont also provides high school equivalency and GED opportunities for the participants when needed.

“To have Georgia Piedmont Technical College recognized as part of such a prestigious celebration is truly humbling,” said president Tavarez Holston. “But it’s what our college does every day. Like our vision states – we are here to create unforgettable learning experiences.”

GPTC president Tavarez Holston
GPTC President Tavarez Holston addresses the crowd.

After the ceremony, Garland and the other VIP visitors toured some of the industrial program areas at Georgia Piedmont Technical College. He visited welding, air conditioning technology, and even snuck a brief peek -and listen- at the recording arts technology program.

AG Garland watches welding demo
Attorney General Garland and Associate Attorney General Gupta enjoy their welding demonstration.
AG Garland and welding instructor
GPTC welding instructor Willie Harvey gave AG Garland custom-welded chess pieces as a token of appreciation.
GPTC's Kelly Pollard and dignitaries
GPTC Dir. of Admissions Kelly Pollard (left) led the tour for AG Garland and the other visiting VIPs.