The students and faculty of Columbus Technical College are the best around but on occasion a few of them will rise above the rest. That was the case Thursday as the winners for the annual GOAL (Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership), Rick Perkins/Tim Justice Faculty Award, and the college’s first EAGLE (Exceptional Adult Georgian in Literacy Education) winners were announced at a luncheon meeting of the North Columbus Rotary Club.
Thirty-seven year old early childhood education student Denitra Hardnett broke into tears when her name was announced as the GOAL winner for Columbus Tech. The GOAL competition is fierce. Students must be recommended by a faculty member, obtain a high grade point average, and have a certain number of hours toward their program. Columbus Technical College named twenty semi-finalists and then four finalists (Manuel Johnson, Safiya Pearson and Belinda Baker). After her name was called, Harnett was asked to give a short testimony on how technical education has changed her life. The married hairdresser and mother of a nine-year-old girl recalled being in a rut and waking up crying – knowing there was more to life. She wanted to set an example for her daughter.
“How am I going to show her things like ‘failure is not an option’ and encourage her to work hard in school if I wasn’t doing that?,” Harnett recounted. “I decided to go back to school. I didn’t need a football team, dorms, or a sorority. I wanted a quality education that would produce quick results.”
Sixty-one year old EAGLE winner Carrie Freeman can relate. She dropped out of her Memphis, Tennessee high school in 10th grade. While she was fortunate to be able to find work, her family moved to Columbus from Atlanta after her business failed; Carrie was stuck. Finding herself at the Department of Labor filling out a job application for a cook’s position, she found out that without a GED, she wouldn’t qualify for that –or virtually anything. This was the mid-2000’s. Carrie set out to get her high school diploma equivalent. When she took the placement exam, the news was not good.
“I tested at a third grade level,” Freeman remembered. “I was just so disappointed in myself and frustrated but I was determined to finish all the testing and get my GED.”
Carrie Freeman is the primary caregiver for her 13-year-old grandson.
“He’s so proud of me that he saved his own money and paid for one of my tests.” Freeman said proudly. She and her grandson even do homework together. She’s slated to earn her GED any day now.
Rick Perkins/Tim Justice Award for Excellence in Technical Education winner Carl Sandy is the program director for Columbus Technical College’s surgical technology program. He sets high expectations for his students and makes sure his class is always ready to go.
“Even if there is a surgery scheduled to start at six a.m., I make sure my students are there at least 30 minutes earlier,” Sandy said. “There’s only so much room; we want to make sure we get in. Learning is more than what is in the textbooks. I hope I’m also teaching enthusiasm and the importance of taking initiative.”
All three winners will compete regionally and, if successful there, continue to the state level. Congratulations to all!