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Akino Brown is OTC GOAL Winner

By MYRA THRIFT
Waycross Journal Herald Staff Writer
After graduating high school — before joining the U.S. Marines — Akino Blade Brown was relegated to sleeping on the streets and eating out of garbage cans. In quite a different scenario, Brown, a resident of Alma, stood Thursday before a huge crowd at the Waycross Exchange Club and accepted this year’s Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) honor.Akino Brown and Danita Cannon

“I am blessed to be here,”Brown said in accepting the award from Danita Cannon, vice president of Student Affairs at Okefenokee Technical College. “Without having someone to tutor me through high school, I’m not sure I would have made it. I had no sense of direction. I graduated by the skin of my teeth.”

After graduation, Brown found himself homeless, living on the streets, an experience that made him stronger mentally, as he decided to join the U.S. Marines. His sheer tenacity was a major bonus, boosting him to earn the rank of sergeant in less than four years. After getting out of the military, Brown registered for college at OTC because of its family-style classroom feel and the solid educational opportunities. He thanked OTC staff and faculty and the committee for selecting him to receive the GOAL award. Brown will participate in another level of competition March 24 at a regional competition in Fitzgerald.

Regional winners will then go to Atlanta May 26-28 to compete for the state GOAL title.
Brown was nominated by his program instructor, Derrell Harris, who pointed out that Brown started his education at Okefenokee Technical College following a distinguished career in the United States Marine Corps. “He brings a maturity and a wealth of life experiences to the classroom,” said Harris. “He is equally adept at theoretical and hands-on training. I give him the highest recommendation possible.”

Brown is enrolled in the Computer Information Systems (CIS) program and is working toward his Networking Specialist associate of applied science (AAS) degree. With the knowledge and experience that he receives at OTC, Brown hopes to expand his current computer business and manage his own network. “Choosing OTC was a great decision,” said Brown. “I chose a technical college because I wanted the value of a ‘meat and potatoes’ education where you get what you need to get a good job. The knowledgeable instructors and smaller class size has made the learning experience more personable.”

GOAL is a statewide program of the Technical College System of Georgia that honors excellence in academics and leadership among the state’s technical college students. GOAL winners are selected at each of the state’s technical colleges, as well as the four Board of Regents colleges with technical education divisions. The title of state GOAL winner earns the student the responsibility of traveling Georgia as the ambassador for the entire technical college system. To make that travel easier, the winner receives a new car.

Karen Boyle, coordinator for OTC’s GOAL program, congratulated Brown on his accomplishment. “All OTC GOAL nominees and finalists are to be commended,” said Boyle. “The GOAL process, by its very nature, requires participants to exhibit excellence in academics and leadership. It’s an honor to be included in the process.”

Other finalists included Jonathan Daniels, of Ware County, enrolled in the Respiratory Care Technology program and  nominated by his instructor, Faye Mathis; Jeffrey Hill, of Ware County, enrolled in the Computer Information Systems program and nominated by Derrell Harris; Travis Moxley, of Wayne County, enrolled in the Radiology Technology program and nominated by his instructor, Donna Yeomans; Jessica Steedley, of Ware County,  enrolled in the Respiratory Care Technology program and nominated by her instructor, Faye Mathis.

The finalists were chosen by a screening committee who reviewed nominations, heard nominees’ speeches and conducted personal interviews. Students then took part in another round of interviews and evaluations at the Waycross-Ware County Chamber of Commerce, where a panel of representatives from local business and industry considered the students’ academic achievement, personal character, leadership abilities and enthusiasm for technical education.

Judges hearing the nominations and making the final decision included chamber executive director Jan Sanchez, city manager Pete Pyrzenski, communications specialist Dave Callaway, attorney Ken Taft, Taylor Hereford, director of Development and Community Services at Waycross College and Ware County Extension home economist Heidi Flowers. Program chairman Ken Carroll served as master of ceremonies for the Exchange club. Incoming club president Tony Tanner presented door prizes and thanked the large audience for their attendance and participation in the program.

Photo:
Akino Brown is presented the 2010 Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership by Danita Cannon of Okefenokee Technical College at the Waycross Exchange Club’s March meeting.

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