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Region's top technical college students, teachers honored
Luncheon held at Forsyth Conference Center
The Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership recipients from technical colleges in north Georgia include, rear, from left: Sherry Crane, Lanier; Shelly Dirig, Gwinnett; Kenneth Shuman, Georgia Northwestern; and April Skelton, Athens; and front, from left: Johntavious Johnson, Chattahoochee; Ashley Jordan, North Georgia; Demetrica Wright, Atlanta; and Robert Knox, Georgia Piedmont. - photo by Jennifer Sami

SOUTH FORSYTH — North Georgia’s technical colleges celebrated the best of the best Tuesday during the annual GOAL and Rick Perkins Awards Luncheon.

The event, organized by the Technical College System of Georgia, recognized the top teacher and student from each of the eight technical schools in the region.

“This has statewide implications for us,” said David Parrish, spokesman for Lanier Technical College, whose Forsyth Conference Center served as the luncheon site. “This is kind of like the Olympics for us.”

GOAL, short for the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership, recognizes a technical college student for academic excellence and personal achievement.

The winner of the state competition, which will be announced in April, will serve as an ambassador for technical college education in Georgia.

Sherry Crane, Lanier Tech’s representative, hopes to be that ambassador. A Commerce resident, she started school in 2012 and plans to graduate in 2015.

For years she and her husband were small business owners, when the sagging economy hurt their construction business in 2007, Crane went into insurance.

She’s currently studying business administration technology and is grateful to the technical college format for being flexible with her schedule as a mother, wife and full-time employee.

Crane said it “is an honor just to be asked to participate ... and to be recognized by your instructors and be chosen by your school.”

Noting that Georgia is known nationwide for its technical college system, Lanier Tech President Ray Perren said the luncheon was “an opportunity for us to literally recognize the best of the best.”

“This is also an avenue for us to engage the public more on what the technical college system of Georgia is all about, and it gives us another avenue for sharing our mission of workforce development,” Perren said.

“All of those students we saw here today, when they graduate, they’re going to work and going to make a difference for the communities in which they live.”

In addition to GOAL students, teachers at the eight technical colleges received Rick Perkins Awards.

Dentist David Byers, who was Lanier Tech’s honoree, said he’s had a lot of fun representing the school and teaching students that “if they set goals, they can achieve whatever they want to do.”

Byers, who owned his own private dental practice prior to teaching is exactly what Lanier Tech is looking for in its staff, Perren said.

“These instructors have all been practitioners in the field in which they’re teaching,” he said. “So not only do they have the credentials to teach at an accredited college, but they also have the work experience that makes learning and teaching come alive for their students.”

Francine Shuman, the state’s GOAL and Rick Perkins Award judge coordinator, said technical colleges do “change lives and make a difference in this state.”

It’s what the awards are all about, she said.

“It’s a celebration of our outstanding students and instructors and it gives us a chance to honor them and showcase programs and the caliber of students and instructors that we have,” she said.