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GNTC students take top honors

Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) students had an outstanding performance at the 2019 SkillsUSA Georgia State Leadership and Skills Conference, March 21-23, in Atlanta. GNTC competed win 15 categories and took home 13 medals; five gold, six silver and two bronze.

Highlights from SkillsUSA Georgia include winning the gold and silver medal in Practical Nursing, GNTC's 2019 Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) winner receiving the gold medal in Automotive Service Technology, the TeamWorks team winning the gold medal for the fourth consecutive year and more.

"Our students worked very hard to showcase their talents in the competitions at SkillsUSA Georgia," said Missy Mclain, SkillsUSA advisor for GNTC. "We are so very proud of the success of our students and how well they represented GNTC."

Listed below are gold, silver and bronze medalists including the student's name, competition and county of residence. Team competitions are listed with the competition name first:

Gold Medal

Cole Allen, Internet of Things and Smart Home, Chattooga County.

Norberto Castaneda, Industrial Motor Controls, Floyd County.

Kimberlee Hall, Practical Nursing, Gordon County.

Brandon Neighbors, Automotive Service Technology, Catoosa County.

TeamWorks (team competition): Ryan Banks, Whitfield County; Jesse Flanagan, Polk County; Gabriel Lopez, Bartow County; and Joel Paez, Whitfield County.

Silver Medal

Josh Barlow, Medical Terinology, Floyd County.

Autumn Donaldson, Medical ssisting, Whitfield County.

Julianna Matthews, Extem poraneous Speaking, Lee County.

Chris Roberson, HVACR, Polk County.

Brittany Square, Practical Nursing, Henry County.

Welding Fabrication (team competition): Dakota Green, Gordon County; Timothy Myers, Catoosa County; and Luke Shehee, Catoosa County.

Bronze Medal

Ethan Mitchell, Electrical Construction Wiring, Gordon County

Colby Wyatt, CNC Technology, Chattooga County.

The award ceremony was led by Julianna Matthews, this year's president of SkillsUSA Georgia. Matthews is a Construction Management major at GNTC and earned a silver medal in the Extemporaneous Speaking competition.

"I want to thank my advisors and other individuals that believed in me," said Matthews. "I would not have the opportunity to see myself as I do now if it wasn't for them and SkillsUSA."

During the opening cer emony for SkillsUSA Georgia, a special recognition was held for GNTC alumnus Ryan Fincher, the 2019 SkillsUSA World Team Welder. Fincher was selected to represent the nation at the WorldSkills Competition in Kazan, Russia. The best welders from around the world will take part in the elite international competition.

GNTC was recognized as a Level 1 Quality Chapter and also received the Gold Chapter of Distinction during the 2019 SkillsUSA Georgia opening ceremony.

Gold medalists will advance to the SkillsUSA national competition in Louisville, Ky. The national competition will be held the week of June 24.


Georgia Northwestern receives $2.1 million

Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) has received a $2.1 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education called the Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP) to improve academic quality, institutional management and fiscal responsibility.

The five-year grant is intended assist eligible higher education institutions to become more self-sufficient and expand capabilities to better serve lower-income students and boost graduation rates.

"Student success is our number one priority at GNTC," said Pete McDonald, president of GNTC. "The faculty and administration of GNTC define student success as each student completing their academic program of study on-time and obtaining a job in their career field of choice."

The proposal, "Success through Coaching and Access" that led to the grant was spearheaded by Samantha Bishop, credentialing and grants assistant at GNTC. It was designed based on feedback from students, faculty and staff with an objective to better serve lower income, first generation students.

"We are very excited about all the ways this grant will greatly enhance our distance learning capabilities and student support resources," said Bishop.

The grant proposal was based on feedback from surveys, interviews and input from a program design team.

A five-year strategic plan was created based on the SIP grant. It consists of four key activities designed to increase the retention of full-time students seeking a degree, particularly underserved students.

The first activity in the Strengthening Institutions Program is the implementation of a videoconferencing-based distance learning system on all six campuses. GNTC serves nine counties in the northwest Georgia region with campuses in Catoosa, Floyd, Gordon, Polk, Walker and Whitfield counties.

Many classes are offered online; however, there are some programs and courses that require direct interaction between instructors and students that isn't possible through traditional online instruction. The telecommunications technology via live video will allow live interaction and also make distance learning a possibility for courses that previously were only available by traveling to a campus.

The first two campuses to be connected via video telecommunications technology will be the Gordon County Campus in Calhoun and the Walker County Campus in Rock Spring. Other GNTC campuses will receive these upgrades in later years throughout the program's five-year period.

The second activity is the hiring of five new staff members to assist with admissions, financial aid, dual enrollment and students who are considered at risk of completing their program of study. Larry Blanchard of Rome was selected to be the coordinator of the Strengthening Institutions Program at GNTC.

Blanchard will oversee a team of four student success coaches who will work with first year, high need students that may need additional assistance. The four new student success coaches are Matt Bryant, Walker County Campus; Tracy Gentry, Whitfield Murray Campus; Mary-Ann Russell, Floyd County Campus; and Victoria (Tori) Townsend, Gordon County Campus.

Gentry was previously with GNTC's Financial Aid department and Russell was with GNTC's Student Help Center before they became student success coaches.

Faculty development, both in-person and through the distance learning telecommunications system, is the third activity in the five-year plan. Topics will include synchronous interactive distance learning, cultural competency, utilizing on-campus resources and academic advising.

The fourth activity is implementing an institutional-wide data plan to address student needs, identify gaps in services and improvements to service and course development. GNTC will develop a strategy to improve workflows, policies and procedures based on data analysis to determine the best ways to advance student success.

"The college is very pleased to receive the $2.1 million 'Strengthening Institutions Program' grant from the U. S. Department of Education," said McDonald. "The funds will allow the college to dedicate additional staff to assist students to help them navigate through the challenges of college attendance, work and life."

• Many classes are offered online; however, there are some programs and courses that require direct interaction between instructors and students that isn't possible through traditional online instruction. The telecommunications technology via live video will allow live interaction and also make distance learning a possibility for courses that previously were only available by traveling to a campus. The first two campuses to be connected via video telecommunications technology will be the Gordon County Campus in Calhoun and the Walker County Campus in Rock Spring.


County celebrates Hudgins 103rd

Walker County maintains high ISO rating
Top fire services scores mean lower insurance rates for homeowners, business owners

Walker County maintained a 3/3Y ISO rating following a rigorous review of fire services in the unincorporated areas of the county and city of Chickamauga.

The 3/3Y classification by the Insurance Service Office will benefit homeowners and business owners. Insurance companies use ISO ratings in their calculations to determine insurance rates in a community.

"This validates all the hard work being done by our team to improve fire service in Walker County, while reinforcing the fact that our efforts provide a financial savings too," said Chief Blake Hodge. "These surveys take a lot of time and effort to coordinate. It's not easy to attain this mark."

The ISO evaluation looked at all aspects of the fire department, including equipment, manpower, training, number of stations and response times. ISO also evaluated area water authorities, 911 communications, public education, fire prevention efforts, code enforcement and inspections, among other areas.

Walker County received high marks for communications, water supply, fire hydrants and firefighter training.

ISO surveys over 43,000 communities, rating each one on a scale of 1 to 10. A lower number means fire service in a given area is better equipped to put out a fire and save a home or business. The ISO 3 rating, which is good for four years, places Walker County in the top 12% in the nation for fire protection.