Before being announced as Ogeechee Technical College’s 2021 GOAL winner, Miranda DeLoach told people attending the ceremony Wednesday evening how memories from childhood led her to become an OTC culinary arts student.
DeLoach previously started her studies at a four-year university – it was Georgia Southern, as has been the case for more than one of OTC’s previous Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership champions – before realizing she was interested in something other than the degree she was pursuing.
“The earliest childhood memories I have are of me standing next to my father in the kitchen listening to him as he tells me what he’s cooking and tells me how he learned how to cook it, usually from his grandmother, and then a few years later me joining him in the kitchen and working alongside him to prepare food for my family,” DeLoach said.
By cooking for her parents and others, she wanted to share with them the joy she felt in doing so. That same passion for cooking eventually led her to transfer from the university to the technical college’s culinary arts program, she said.
As the college’s GOAL winner, DeLoach becomes a spokesperson for the education available at Ogeechee Tech, and could potentially become an honorary statewide spokesperson for the Technical College System of Georgia.
“Technical schools are so unique in the way they approach education,” DeLoach told the socially distanced crowd in the OTC Natural Resources Building Oak Room. “There’s hands-on learning you don’t get in those huge classes where professors don’t even know who you are. Professors here, even ones I’ve only had for one semester in one class, know me by name.”
She is expected to represent Ogeechee Tech in a regional competition April 27 among GOAL winners from seven other TCSG colleges in the southern part of the state.
The southeastern region and two other regions will each send three regional finalists, nine finalists in all, forward to the state competition. Each of those competitions is being held virtually this year. But the statewide GOAL winner will still receive a new car to travel to events around he state, said OTC Career Placement and Student Support Services Director Cindy Phillips, the school’s GOAL coordinator.
DeLoach was accompanied by her parents, Crystal and Michael DeLoach. They all currently live in Reidsville, and Miranda DeLoach, now 22, graduated from Pinewood Christian Academy in Bellville.
Now set to graduate from Ogeechee Tech in May, she isn’t working in her field yet, but plans to work for a local bakery after getting her culinary arts degree.
Chef Bryan Richard, Ogeechee Tech’s leading and only full-time culinary arts instructor, received the Nominating Instructor Award for having nominated DeLoach. He also nominated last year’s Ogeechee Tech GOAL winner, Erica Deaton, who went on to be a regional finalist.
Anthony Blitch, a cybersecurity student from Claxton nominated by instructor Terry Hand, was named Ogeechee Technical College’s 2021 GOAL runner-up Wednesday evening.
Blitch, who was accompanied by his wife Michel and their son Carter, 4, also told of a path change. After working in a series of veterinary clinics over 13 years and aspiring to become a veterinarian, Blitch chose cybersecurity and is now working in that field for a bank.
Other finalists were construction management student Maia Olsen, nominated by instructor Jeffry Robinson, and opticianry student Kendra Welch, nominated by instructor Deborah DeLoach.
Instructors this year nominated 16 students, 10 of whom participated in the GOAL competition by giving a speech and answering questions in two interviews, Phillips said.
A GOAL screening committee, made up of nonteaching OTC staff members, selects the finalists, and a selection committee, made up of OTC board members and people from community partner organizations, chooses the winner.
This is the 50th year of the GOAL program, which is older that Ogeechee Tech. But the college has established an outstanding track record in the competition, as OTC President Lori Durden mentioned in her remarks.
“Here at Ogeechee we all are winners,” Durden said. “In the last 13 years we have had three state winners, three first runner-ups and six regional finalists. “So that’s 12 out of 13, not too bad, right? So, no pressure, but we have high hopes and high expectations for all of you.”