Ogeechee Technical College's top student nearly took home the top prize in the recent state-level Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership competition.
Stuart Gregory, OTC's GOAL winner for 2013, was first runner-up in the state.
The Technical College System of Georgia's GOAL competition is held annually to recognize students within the system's colleges who rise above others during a selection process at the college level. Regional winners are selected from across the state, and then finalists at the State GOAL competition, which is held annually in Atlanta. From four finalists, a state winner is chosen to be the Technical College System's ambassador for the next year.
Ogeechee Tech participates in the annual competition on the local level, through a process of nominations from instructors, review of information by internal committees, internal interviews, and finally interviews by external judges.
Gregory's high finish continues a recent string of success by OTC GOAL winners.
In 2008, Ogeechee Tech GOAL winner Molly Bickerton won the top prize in the state competition, driving home a new Chevrolet, among other honors and prizes.
In 2009 and 2010 Amanda Miller Roberson and Cynthia Simms, respectively, were regional finalists. Ogeechee Tech's 2011 winner, Alvie Coes III, won the coveted State GOAL award, and just like Bickerton, ended up driving a new Chevrolet.
Michael Williams, the college's 2012 winner, was also a regional finalist.
That run of success coincides with the tenure of Kelli Waters, Ogeechee Technical College's activities and special populations coordinator, who has coordinated OTC's GOAL program and coached the competitors since 2008. Having a state winner right out of the box could have given her an excuse to relax the level of intensity, but it instead intensified Waters' quest to have the college's GOAL winners do well at regional and state levels.
"I have learned quite a bit over the six years I have been GOAL coordinator at Ogeechee Tech. Having great students from which to choose makes the process easier," Waters said. "I have gained insight into what makes a good GOAL representative. The really difficult part is narrowing the field. I always hate that only one local winner can be chosen, since we invariably have several students who would fair well in the regional and state competitions."
As 2013 state runner-up, Gregory enjoyed the competition and the camaraderie he developed with other winners from around the state.
"The whole process was phenomenal! I really considered the whole GOAL competition a way to improve myself. I was forced out of comfort zones, and really felt like I grew professionally through the activities," he said.
Gregory is a computer information systems student at Ogeechee Tech. While he was disappointed at coming so close without actually winning the state GOAL award, he realizes it is special to be No. 2 out of roughly 180,000 students in the Technical College System of Georgia.
Technical College System Commissioner Ron Jackson made just that point at the awards dinner when the four finalists were introduced, singling them out as "the top four out of 180,000."
Gregory joins the long list of successful Ogeechee Tech GOAL winners and said he will enjoy being a spokesman for the college over the next year.
"I believe in technical education and in Ogeechee Tech," he said. "I am honored to work on behalf of Ogeechee Tech, telling my story, and telling the story of the college. Ogeechee Tech has changed my life, as it has the lives of so many others."