Alumni and Student Stories
Automotive, Construction and Trades
In 2017, I entered into the General Automotive Program at Gwinnett Tech with high hopes of becoming the best master automotive technician of the future. It was always my dream to work on cars as a kid, but I never got around to it because of my difficult life circumstances. I’d envisioned a lot as a child about my future, but was deeply discouraged by everyone. One issue always led to another, which prevented me from accomplishing anything. My poor decisions, lack of direction, and the immense struggles I went through for eight years took its toll on me.
I decided I would end my life because I felt it was too late to recover from my depression. That night I attempted suicide by driving my car up to 152 mph on the freeway, hoping it would crash and end my life. I don’t remember anything afterwards, but fate decided that I would not die that night. Fast forward to late 2017, with hopes of accomplishing a dream I thought was impossible, I enrolled at Gwinnett Tech. The first year I was excelling remarkably fast in my automotive courses thanks to the competent and professional instructors who took their time to help me learn. I was also named the first recipient of the Liberty Tyree Automotive Scholarship.
Gwinnett Tech held career fairs on campus to help students secure jobs before graduating, and not once, but twice, Gwinnett Tech has helped me secure two automotive positions. They also made sure that students were rewarded and recognized for their achievements, which lead me into Phi Theta Kappa and also National Technical Honor Society.
What really blessed my heart so much, was when Gwinnett Tech remembered that I told them that I would love to work for Hennessy Lexus of Atlanta after graduating. They went out of their way to contact the service director and set up an appointment for me. I knew nothing of this until the director of the automotive program told me that he had recommended me to Hennessy Lexus of Atlanta. Long story short, I got the position and am thrilled to be in the career of my dreams. Fixing my family and friends’ vehicles, working at a professional dealership, and providing quality service for our community is literally a summary of my life.
As a graduate of 2019 with a 3.9 GPA, I successfully received the AAS Automotive Technology Degree 10 years later. You can only imagine how happy I was after accomplishing not only my educational goals, but also starting a career that I truly love. I thought all this time it was too late, but it was never too late to follow my dream. Thanks to Gwinnett Tech, I am able to live my life with a purpose and to stand proud with on the foundation they have given me.
I began at Gwinnett Tech in 2009 after fumbling to find my place in the field I wanted. After a sad moment at a temp agency and a quick glance at my resume, I was mentored to earn a higher education degree. With my red marked resume in hand, I enrolled in classes. After beginning at Gwinnett Tech, I fell in love with learning and was guided every step of the way, from registering for classes, to finding a way to pay for the school without massive loans. I was able to graduate with honors in 2011 with my degree in criminal justice. I received a full-time position in my field of study, one month after graduating. After six years in the industry, I have gained tremendous connections and have grown professionally. I entered the career field ahead of many of my co-workers, because of the education I received from Gwinnett Tech. Once I began working in the field I immediately realized why I needed the basics, such as English and Public Speaking. Every course I took played a vital role in gaining and retaining employment in my desired field.
With the skills I learned at Gwinnett Tech I was able to enroll in a 4-year college, with the help of my Gwinnett Tech advisor, and enrolled in classes to attain my Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, and will graduate May 2019.
With the guidance and pep-talk from my former Gwinnett Tech advisor, I am now enrolled in a competitive Master of Public Administration program and scheduled to graduate May 2021.
I have continued to grow and excel in my career, and would not have been able to attain any of the greatness that I have without the amazing guidance and the education I received at Gwinnett Tech.
From a young high school mother to a college graduate, holding two degrees and attaining a third means a great deal and makes me proud I to tell people how I got this far and what made me keep going. The guidance and the knowledge I gained at Gwinnett Tech was helpful in many ways and was a smooth transition for me so soon after high school.
I am thankful for the opportunities that were available to me at Gwinnett Technical College.
Art and Design
Dale Carithers – Alumni
When Dale Carithers was a little girl she wanted to be a singer, artist or fashion designer. It wasn’t until high school when she started watching This Old House did she discover her love for interior design. “When I was in high school, every six months my parents would come home from work to a new furniture layout. I didn’t choose interior design, it chose me!”
While at Gwinnett Tech, Dale learned the fundamentals of interior design. She has been able to take her natural talent and apply the fundamentals to her budding career. “The program gave me a solid foundation to stand on and showed me how talented I am. I’m smarter, stronger and more business minded.”
Two projects Dale created at Gwinnett Tech were recognized by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Georgia Chapter with Design Excellence Awards. Her treehouse design was won in the Best Individual Residential Design Concept category and her college social station design received an award of merit in the Best Individual Commercial Design Concept category.
“My training at Gwinnett Tech prepared me well to deep dive into the vendor side of the business – establishing relationships that now make a difference to my clients. I’m excited to grow my firm, continue my involvement in ASID and mentor Gwinnett Tech students who may be my design colleagues across Metro Atlanta.”
Dale graduated from Gwinnett Tech May 2017 and now owns her own design firm in Dacula (GA) called My Ideas Interiors by Dale Carithers where she specializes in residential and soft commercial designs.
Art and Design
Ashleigh Esprit’s path to becoming an interior designer began at a young age. Born and raised in Atlanta, she was raised by her mother of West Indian descent. Ashleigh has always been around colorful and traditional styles all her life. Following her passion for Interior Design since a young age, she knew that transforming a space was not just a talent, but a gift.
“I chose interiors because it is a passion I’ve had since I was 10 years old. I always liked painting my room different colors and choosing feminine decor. It was meant for me to follow this path.”
“Gwinnett Tech has helped me by learning different techniques and skills that help my education life and my personal life. I’ve learned time management, using useful resources, communication and working with others in a group setting.”
Ashleigh Esprit graduated from Gwinnett Tech May 2017 with an Associate’s Degree in Interiors. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Interior Design at Brenau University (Gainesville, GA).
Automotive, Construction and Trades
Welding and Joining
Inspired by his heroes – his father and older brother – and their example of strong work ethic and family priorities, Matthew Brown knew he wanted his career to at least live up to their legacies. “My older brother inspired me to become a welder because he always talked about things he had made and the different opportunities a welding career offers,” Matthew said.
Matthew re-enrolled at Gwinnett Technical College in the Welding and Joining program, having previously graduated with a degree in Environmental Horticulture. “After my first degree, I took two semesters of landscape architecture at the University of Georgia but quickly realized I didn’t want to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life,” Matthew said. “That’s when I decided to go back to Gwinnett Tech.
“It may have taken me some time to discover my passion, but better late than never.”
A Zell Miller Scholarship and Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant recipient, Matthew avoided the burden of student debt and was able to focus all of his attention on his studies. After just one month in the program, Matthew secured a Production Welder position at Caterpillar, Inc., in Athens, GA, where his skills learned in the classroom are paying off profoundly.
“My proudest accomplishment is being able to produce the required number of parts per shift within my first two months, which others who have been there longer still struggle with,” he said.
Shawntel began her studies at Gwinnett Technical College with a singular goal in mind, to strengthen her business knowledge and start a small business. With her exposure to the faculty and staff at Gwinnett Technical College, Shawntel was immediately drawn to pursue higher education.
As a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Shawntel was recognized at Gwinnett Technical College’s 2016 Awards Ceremony receiving an “Award of Merit.” She studied hard, earning a place on the Fall 2016 and Spring 2016 Dean’s List while carrying 15 credits with a 4.0 GPA. In fact, Shawntel is a 2016 GOAL finalist, her hard work and dedication to her studies resulted in a nomination for GOAL (Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership).
A full-time student, a full-time executive at one of the nation’s largest retailers and a full-time mother, Shawntel plans to graduate from the Business Management program during the Spring 2017 commencement ceremony. Her goal is to pursue an undergraduate degree and, then, a Juris Doctorate and Master of Business Administration.
According to Shawntel “Gwinnett Tech provided the most up-to-date education and due to the quality of education I received, I was promoted quickly to an executive level. I learned I can ‘Be More, Do More and Have More’.”
Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management
“[They] offered outstanding instructors who actually cared for and invested in their students,” Kathy said. “I was also impressed with the school’s excellent level of sensitivity toward adult education.”
As a student, Kathy served as the 2015 Student Leadership Council president and MU Class Ambassador, was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and was a Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership, Student Organization Leadership Award, Award of Merit, and Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally Scholarship recipient. She even sang the National Anthem for the 2015 Commencement.
Kathy now works for the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services, assisting clients with issues or questions they might have regarding getting or receiving food stamps or Medicaid.
“I’m a part of promoting and affirming strong and healthy families and communities for the state of Georgia,” she said.
According to Kathy, Dr. Mark Newton, now retired director of the HRTM program, instilled in her invaluable knowledge that she’s applied to both her current job and beyond.
“Gwinnett Tech helped me to become more employable and realize my potential,” Kathy said.
With a high stress job in social work, student Laura Hofer knew she needed a career change. After having worked in the health field for several years she decided to change it up and look at computer science, after doing some research chose Cybersecurity at Gwinnett Tech.
She is currently earning her degree in Cybersecurity, along with a Certificate as a Cyber Crime Specialist. “I chose Cybersecurity because the field is in high-demand with great pay. I chose Gwinnett Tech because the College is recognized as one of the nation’s top producers of associate degree graduates in Computer and Information Sciences.”
“I also thought the field to be not only interesting but completely necessary in today’s society.” Graduating in December 2017, Laura plans to enter the Cybersecurity field and prevent cybercrime from happening.
Paul Truong has always been passionate about technology and curious how it touched people’s lives. After talking with others about Gwinnett Tech and reading about Gwinnett Tech’s Cybersecurity program, he decided to enroll. “I believe for one to succeed in IT, they’d have to be passionate about technology.”
“I am very happy with my decision to attend Gwinnett Tech. I chose Gwinnett Tech because it’s flexible and convenient for me to attend. My instructor Tony Tran, is extremely knowledgeable. Not only is he a great classroom instructor, but also became my mentor. I owe much of my success to him.”
“I would tell current and prospective students one thing, ‘The harder you work, the luckier you get.’ Meaning the harder you work, the more opportunities and experiences will come your way. During my time at Gwinnett Tech, I’ve joined the Information Security Association group, the Cybersecurity Competition Team, and attended multiple ‘outside’ of classroom functions relating to the Cybersecurity field. Students must immerse themselves in their field of study. If they do that, opportunities will present itself.”
Paul secured an IT Specialist position at Insight Global in Atlanta, Ga after he interned with Nanolumens in Peachtree Corners, Ga. “I truly believe it was the internship at Nanolumens that prepared me for my new position, Gwinnett Tech prepared me for this position with classroom and hands-on experience.”
Paul will graduate in December 2018 with an associate degree in Cybersecurity. Check out our Cybersecurity program.
For Networking Specialist graduate Evan Gross, graduating from Gwinnett Tech meant more than getting a diploma: it meant achieving one more goal. Diagnosed with Aspergers/Autism in elementary school, Evan has worked his entire academic career to focus on tasks and assignments and be a successful student. After graduating from Brookwood High School, Evan enrolled at Gwinnett Tech, where he maintained the Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) Scholarship and was a Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership nominee.
“Gwinnett Tech not only increased my knowledge, it also helped me with public speaking and interaction,” he said. “Preparing and giving the GOAL speech increased my confidence in public speaking.”
Evan praised Gwinnett Tech for their great reputation and placement history, as well as their wide range of computer programs and degrees. While a student, he had support from Disability Services and the Career Services Center. Thanks to his experience at Gwinnett Tech, he was prepared to interview and join the workforce after graduation.
Currently working at Eagle’s Landing Café & Grill, Evan is embracing the workforce environment, thanks to his employers’ and fellow employees’ support and encouragement. A proud alum of Gwinnett Tech, he plans to return and take more classes in the future.
After graduating from high school, Jae Eom not only wanted to find an affordable college, but also one that would help him determine exactly what he wanted to do as a professional. Guided by the mentorship of his high school teachers, Jae enrolled at Gwinnett Technical College in the Networking Specialist program.
In addition to learning “real world” skills like work ethic, networking and money budgeting, Jae’s time as a student at Gwinnett Tech also showed him new career opportunities. “I feel like a door opened for me in graphic design, ever since I took a web design class. It opened a whole new world for me to play with.”
After graduating from Gwinnett Tech, Jae plans to pursue further education as a graphic design major. “Even though there is still room for improvement, one of the things I’m most proud of is my skills as an artist,” he said.
Using the foundation of his Networking Specialist degree, Jae hope to combine his interest in technology and computers with his affinity for art and design, and pave the way for a fulfilling career as a graphic designer.
Bethany Wheeler isn’t waiting until graduation to get real-world experience. She’s already completed a graphic design/web development internship with the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, assisted Lilburn Day Camp with their marketing design and photography needs, and won a Project Yellow Light Billboard Design Scholarship (her billboard debuted in Times Square and is now featured on digital billboards all over the United States).
She credits Gwinnett Tech with giving her the tools she needs to succeed. “I wasn’t even sure that college was right for me, but once here I quickly overcame those fears. Gwinnett Tech has been a great launching board for me.”
“My classes here have been wonderful,” she said. “Sometimes they get a little overwhelming, but whenever you find yourself in a sticky spot the instructors are always willing to help strengthen your understanding of the course content. I believe learning is a team sport, and at Gwinnett Tech you get the feeling you are part of a learning community.”
Bethany plans to attend a four-year college after graduating from Gwinnett Tech and pursue a graphic design degree. “I hope to get a career following school where I can use my creativity to deliver a fantastic product to customers or bosses that will exceed their expectations.”
Early Childhood Care and Education
Dezire’e Morris Mattocks
When Dezire’e Morris Mattocks set out to achieve her dream of being a teacher, she knew that Gwinnett Technical College would give her a strong foundation. “I felt that they could provide me with the knowledge and hands-on experience that would get me a job in education right after graduation.”
Dezire’e traces her desire to teach back to her high school algebra teacher, who guided her to all A’s in math (her least favorite subject at the time!). That experience sparked Dezire’e’s drive to impact students with the same enthusiasm and love of learning.
After graduating from the Early Childhood Care and Education program at Gwinnett Tech, Dezire’e received her undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Early Childhood Education from Mercer University and is now in the doctorate program at Walden University for Ed.D. “I owe my career to Gwinnett Tech,” Dezire’e says. “When people ask me where I went to school, the first school I say is not Mercer University; it’s Gwinnett Tech.”
Dezire’e’s time at Gwinnett Tech was especially memorable because of her instructors. “Their passion for teaching and dedication to assisting each student to attain their success was amazing. [The teachers] brought out knowledge we as students didn’t know we had inside us,” she said. “Gwinnett Tech helped me realize my worth as an educator.”
Health Sciences and Life Sciences
Lance Adams has worked in the Bioscience and Pharmaceutical industries since May 2012. Having earned a Bioscience Technology degree from Gwinnett Technical College in 2012, he accepted a job immediately with Anitox, a global leader in the control of pathogens and other unwanted microbes. Lance worked in research and quality control for Anitox from May 2012 – September 2013. Tasks included research of new chemical and microbiological testing methods, live animal trials and analytical testing on raw material, manufactured goods and environment by titration, GC and UV-Vis spectrometer.
Currently he is a Site Services Coordinator with VWR. VWR is a leading, independent provider of laboratory products, services and solutions with worldwide sales in excess of $4.3 billion. Being onsite at Alcon, the global leader in eye care, he has performed services such as inventory management, chemical tracking and basic laboratory tasks on a daily basis since October 2013. Through hard work and dedication, he has been nominated to the HSE team at Alcon, and the Director Advisory Council for VWR.
Health Sciences and Life Sciences
Kristina Palermino is a graduate of the Bioscience Technology degree program class of 2014. Kristina graduated with a 4.0 GPA. She strongly supports the Bioscience program at GTC because it lays a substantial foundation for basic science knowledge and laboratory skills. The hands-on curriculum is challenging, but she values the wisdom and expertise she gained from instructors with different specialties and work backgrounds.
Upon completing her internship at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, she was hired as a lab assistant in the Microbiology and Immunology Division. She decided to leave Yerkes NPRC to pursue her personal and professional goals by obtaining her bachelor’s degree at Kennesaw State University. Currently, Kristina is attending KSU full-time with full scholarship and hopes to return to Yerkes after graduating in 2016.
Health Sciences and Life Sciences
Central Sterile Processing
Timisha Daniels, an Air Force medic and EMT veteran with more than 10 years of health care experience, originally entered the Radiologic Tech program at Gwinnett Tech. As she was completing her prerequisite courses for Rad Tech, Timisha became interested in the high demand field of Central Sterile Processing and quickly decided that was where she wanted to be.
Central Sterile Processing Technicians work with surgical equipment and instruments before and after surgeries. They help prevent patient infections by decontaminating, cleaning processing, assembling, sterilizing, storing and distributing the equipment, instruments and supplies used in surgery and other parts of the hospital. Read more about Central Sterile Processing.
After speaking with the Office of Veterans Affairs Timisha learned she could apply for the HOPE Career Grant and have her education completely paid for.
“I applied for the Hope Grant because the central sterile program is new to Gwinnett Tech and unfortunately caused a delay with receiving funds from the Veterans Affairs department. I was near the completion of the Central Sterile program and it was becoming difficult to maintain financially utilizing loans. I was unemployed once my clinical rotations began at North Fulton Hospital, and I wanted to make sure I completed my program without financial hurdles.”
“I am thankful for the Hope Career Grant.” Timisha will complete her program in December of 2017 and was able to use the funds to sit for the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) exam.
The HOPE Career Grant directly addresses specific workforce needs and is available to Georgia residents who are enrolled in a certificate or diploma program. To read and see more about the HOPE Career Grants Gwinnett Tech offers, please visit our HOPE Career Grant page.
Timisha lives in Snellville, GA and credits her success at Gwinnett Tech to the College’s Office of Veterans Affairs and supportive faculty who helped Timisha through the program. “Today, I am proud to be a Certified Sterile Processing Technician finishing her clinical rotation at North Fulton hospital in Roswell, Georgia.”
Health Sciences and Life Sciences
Certified Nursing Assistant
Becky Depew came to Gwinnett Tech on the recommendation of family and friends. “I heard good things about the Gwinnett Tech health care program, and because the variety of classes and programs appealed to me. Gwinnett Tech offers the ability to take classes online and in traditional classroom settings, which appealed to me.”
“My passion for helping people is why I chose to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). I truly enjoy helping people. Being able to make someone smile, at what could possibly be the worst time of their lives is why I do what I do.”
“The CNA program at Gwinnett Tech provided me not only classroom study, but clinical experience, where I was able to gain hands-on learning and experience. That opportunity allowed me get my foot in the door where I currently work.”
I highly recommend Gwinnett Tech’s CNA program; the opportunities to work directly with patients through our clinical experiences was invaluable. I truly feel without those experiences; I would not be working today. My instructors guided me through my education and helped me every step of the way.
Becky felt the completion of the CNA program was the beginning to a lifelong career in healthcare. After she earned her CNA certificate, Becky didn’t stop learning! “With my passion for helping people and hands-on learning at my job, I am now pursuing my Registered Nursing (RN) degree at Gwinnett Technical College.”
Becky completed her CNA program in 2015 and works at Gwinnett Medical Center in the Neuroscience Unit.
Health Sciences and Life Sciences
Clinical Research Professional
When licensed practical nurse Denise Blackman-Chinnery was unexpectedly laid off from her 20-year nursing career, she struggled to find a new job. As a working wife and mother of three, Denise not only wanted to find a new job, she needed a job… After qualifying for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, she enrolled at Gwinnett Technical College and was accepted into the Clinical Research Professional program, a perfect fit with her years of experience in various areas of health care. “I selected Gwinnett Tech because of its great reputation for producing well-trained graduates for more than 30 years,” she said.
Thanks to the knowledge and market awareness she gleaned from her program, Denise is now a Medical Support Specialist at Baxalta (part of Shire) in Social Circle, Georgia, with a goal to make a difference in the lives of her patients.