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 OTC Holds Commencement Exercises

Okefenokee Technical College’s first bi-annual 2010 commencement was held Friday, July 16, 2010, at the Waycross Middle School auditorium.

Ms. Ola Smith, president and CEO of McKinney Community Health Center, was the keynote speaker. In her address, Ms. Smith praised the faculty and staff for their work over the years that has culminated in a new allied health building (a 9-year project); SACS/COC accreditation; strong enrollment numbers; facility renovations; and skilled, confident graduates. She also noted the accomplishments of staff and students involved with Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL), SkillsUSA, Exceptional Adult Georgian in Literacy Education (EAGLE), Phi Beta Lambda (PBL), and other award programs and organizations.

According to Smith, the quality of the programs at OTC can be explained by the dedication of the faculty and engaged program advisory committees members who work hard to ensure that programs are current and effective. In addition to strong programs, Smith noted the services that OTC provides, such as admissions counseling, career placement, retention, and financial aid. She praised student services staff for the individual attention that they deliver students.

Smith spoke of the generosity and dedication of the staff, noting donations to the OTC Foundation and various other charities. She praised the Foundation’s committement to students and the college’s fiscal integrity, one of the factors that makes the college a vital part of the community. She also praised the leadership of Dr. Gail Thaxton.

In her final remarks, Smith, a member of the 2010 Technical College Director’s Association (TCDA) and past president, asked graduates if they realize the significance of what they are receiving today. She explained that the diploma or degree that they have now earned is their ticket for greater choices and opportunities in the job market and in advanced education. “Graduates, look in the eyes of your family, friends, and instructors,” stated Smith, “and see the hope that they have in you. You have a responsibility, now, to give back to your family, your community, and yourself.”

The ceremony began at 7 p.m. with the processional of graduates, followed by the invocation and presentation of colors. Austin Johnson gave the invocation, and the Ware County JROTC presented the colors. The audience then enjoyed the National Anthem sung by Ms. Shay Williams.  

Danita Cannon, vice president for student affairs, welcomed guests to the ceremony and introduced Mr. Akino Brown, the 2010 Okefenokee Tech GOAL winner and current graduate of the computer support specialist degree program and networking specialist degree program.

Mr. Brown began his address to fellow graduates by asking them to remember the challenges of attending college. He directed them to recognize the significance of commencement, a celebration of their accomplishments and one that indicates that they overcame challenges. “Now,” stated Brown, “don’t let future challenges and obstacles stop you from achieving even more.”

Following Akino’s remarks, the audience enjoyed the talent of Ms. Williams once again, as she sang “Break Away.”

President Thaxton then welcomed a number of special guests and thanked Ms. Ola Smith, OTC Board chair for assisting with the ceremony. Thaxton also recognized OTC board members Philip Cook (Clinch) and Pete Pyrzenski (Ware), as well as faculty and staff, for their work and dedication to students and education.

Thaxton’s introduction of Smith included details of her military service, education, and community service: Ms. Smith is the Chief Executive Officer of the most productive community health center in Southeast Georgia, the McKinney Community Health Center, Inc, and she has worked in health care for 30 years as of next month (August 2010).

Ms. Smith spent three years in active Army as an officer and an additional six years in the U.S. Army Reserve Military Intelligence. She attended South Carolina State University and graduated from Columbus College. Ms. Smith has a BBA and an MBA.

She worships at Greater Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church where she is a member of the Steward Board, the Lay organization and Finance Director. She is also a member of the Waycross Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Ms. Smith is very active in the community and serves on numerous boards.

Following Smith’s speech, Thaxton conferred upon graduates the applicable award of diploma and/or Associate of Applied Science degree. Then Thaxton; Dr. Steve Pearce, vice president for academic affairs; and Smith awarded diplomas and degrees to participating graduates. The following students had satisfactorily completed requirements for graduation by either end of quarter winter 2010 or end of quarter spring 2010 and were eligible to participate in commencement:

Bacon County: Tammy Adams, Practical Nursing; Loretta Booth, Cosmetology; Akino Brown, AAS Computer Support Specialist and Networking Specialist; Jesus Gonzalez, Electronics Fundamentals; Lekeisha Kelly, Practical Nursing; Amanda Hersey, Practical Nursing; Regenia Howell, Practical Nursing; Amy Hyers, Cosmetology; Jade Medders, Practical Nursing; Gary Mikel, AAS Respiratory Care Technology; Pam Mikell, Practical Nursing; and Aimee Simmons, Cosmetology

Brantley County: Tammy Cannon, Forest Technology; Clint Clifton, Air Conditioning Technology; Rhea Crews, Practical Nursing; Rebecca Dowling, Cosmetology; Lori Mercer, Cosmetology; Margie Sellers, Practical Nursing; Jessica Simmons, Cosmetology; and Candi Symons, Practical Nursing

Charlton County: Heather Ackerman, AAS Accounting; Dawn Carter, Paramedic Technology; and Pia Dykes, Cosmetology

Clinch County: Amanda Adams, Practical Nursing; Heather Bennett, Practical Nursing; Marla Griffis, Practical Nursing; Angelique Kruger, Practical Nursing; and Chelsie Wheeler, Practical Nursing

Jeff Davis County: Timothy Reagin, Air Conditioning Technology

Lowndes County: Tameeka Roberson, Practical Nursing

Pierce County: Danielle Atkinson, Early Childhood Care and Education; Laura Ballou, Practical Nursing; Candace Handley, Practical Nursing; Donna Jordan, Practical Nursing; Nicole Kenn, Early Childhood Care and Education; Sophia Kitchen, Early Childhood Care and Education; Darianna Mitchell, Cosmetology; Kaleah Pauley, Networking Specialist; Katie Strickland, Practical Nursing; Holly Thornton, Practical Nursing; and Jennifer Youmans, Cosmetology

Ware County: Carneshia Baldwin, Early Childhood Care and Education; Lisa Barnes, AAS Accounting; Christy Bennett, Paramedic Technology; Brent Boyett, Electronics Fundamentals; Robin Davis, Practical Nursing; Kathy Dixon, Business Administrative Technology; Sanya Faison, Practical Nursing; Stephanie Fullwood, Practical Nursing; Jared Griffin, Electronics Technology; Christina Hampton, Practical Nursing; Marissa Hooks, Practical Nursing; Emily Kerch, AAS Accounting; Algernon Leggett, AAS Networking Specialist; Tiffany Lee, Practical Nursing; LaShune Lewis, Practical Nursing; Cassie Martin, Cosmetology; Kimberly McElroy, Criminal Justice; Lisa Neloms, Accounting; Tiffany Neloms, Early Childhood Care and Education; Emily Parada, Radiologic Technology; Chris Paglinawan, AAS Accounting; Mitzi Price, Practical Nursing; Gwendolyn Pierce, Practical Nursing; Robyn Ramsey, Criminal Justice; Stephen Smith, Forest Technology; Cletecia Studivent, Early Childhood Care and Education; Pebble Wells, Early Childhood Care and Education; Yanina Wild, Practical Nursing; and Jesseca Wolfe, Accounting

Wayne County: Tabatha Soliz, Criminal Justice

Akino Brown, on behalf of the OTC Student Government Association (SGA), presented honor pins to eligible graduates, signifying their outstanding accomplishment. Floral arrangements were provided by OTC’s environmental horticulture program instructor, Mark Deal.

Neal Murphy served as Graduation Marshal, and Sondra Chapman was the pianist.

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Ola Smith (third from left), president & CEO of McKinney Community Health Center, was the featured speaker at OTC’s commencement exercises Friday, July 16, 2010. OTC President Dr. Gail Thaxton (right) introduced Smith, who is also chair of the OTC Board of Directors, to graduates and guests. OTC board members Pete Pyrzenski (left) and Philip Cook (second from left) were on hand to congratulate graduates.

Photo 1

Twenty-nine Ware County residents participated in OTC’s recent commencement: (Front to back - L to R): Kathy Dixon, Stephen Smith, Algernon Leggett, Yanina Wild, Chris Paglinawan, Brent Boyett, Cletecia Studivent, Cassie Martin, Emily Parada, Jared Griffin, LaShune Lewis, Christy Bennett, Lisa Neloms, Lisa Barnes, Robyn Ramsey, Emily Kerch, Mitzi Price, Tiffany Lee, Marissa Hooks, Robin Davis, Tiffany Neloms, Carneshia Baldwin, Kimberly McElroy, Gwendolyn Pierce, Sanya Faison, Stephanie Fullwood, Christina Hampton, Pebble Wells, and Jesseca Wolfe.


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