Columbus Technical College has announced its college and adult education students of the year — each overcoming stereotypes that could have blocked their path toward learning.
The 2018 Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) winner for Columbus Tech is 23-year-old respiratory care technology student Trey Brown of Columbus. The 2018 Exceptional Adult Georgian in Literacy Education (EAGLE) winner for Columbus Tech is 63-year-old Xavier Lewis of Columbus.
Brown, and his wife Jessica, also a respiratory care student, were among Columbus Tech’s four GOAL finalists this year. The couple attended Columbus State University and transferred to Columbus Tech to complete their program, according to the college’s news release.
“It just makes so much sense financially,” Brown said in the news release. “We’ll get our degree in under two years and then go back to CSU to finish our bachelor’s. So we’ll have two degrees within five years with hardly any debt.”
Brown praised the learning environment at Columbus Tech as part of his success.
“The faculty and technology here is amazing,” he said. “I know I’ll be ready to go when the time comes to start my dream job. The fact that there are small classes and plenty of one-on-one time with instructors is especially helpful for me with my condition.”
Brown suffers from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which has made learning difficult for him throughout his schooling.
“Teachers didn’t know what to do with me,” he said. “I couldn’t stay focused, and they’d just stick me in a corner or make me go to recess or take tests by myself. They just told me I had to change to be like everyone else. I am here to prove them wrong and to show if I can do this anyone can.”
Brown said he chose the healthcare field because he can empathize with others going through medical challenges.
“I felt alone in the dark at times,” he said, “and I think that will help me relate to patients.”
As a GOAL delegate, Brown will compete regionally in March and then move on to the state finals in April. This is the 47th year for GOAL.
This year’s EAGLE recepient dropped out of school at age 16. Despite finding work fixing cars, Lewis said he felt something was missing, so he decided to pursue his GED.
“When I took the placement test, it showed I read at a third-grade level,” Lewis said in the news release. “I took classes, studied, became a mentor to the younger kids in my class, but when it came time to take my GED tests, I failed the science portion seven times. But I didn’t give up. I was like ‘The Little Engine that Could.’ I just had to keep going.”
Lewis has since graduated from the GED program and is now enrolled in Columbus Tech’s automotive technology program. He and his wife have four children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
As an EAGLE delegate, Lewis will represent Columbus Tech at the annual state competition in March. This marks the 25th Anniversary of the statewide EAGLE competition, so Lewis affectionately has been nicknamed Columbus Tech’s “silver EAGLE,” the news release says.
The state’s GOAL winner receives a new car; the state’s EAGLE winner receives a full scholarship to his or her closest technical college. Both will travel the state as ambassadors for technical and adult education.
Columbus Tech’s Rick Perkins Instructor of the Year award is expected to be announced in January. The finalists for this year are Alicia Anderson (chemistry), Vernita Harris (business) and Denishia Tatum (nursing).