Ogeechee Technical College student Melissa Behling may have taken a slightly different path to arrive at OTC than most of her classmates, but she is marching forward to achieve her goals and excelling as she goes.
Behling was named the college’s 2016 GOAL winner at a luncheon held Tuesday in OTC’s Natural Resources Building, the newest building on campus.
This is the 45th year for GOAL, which stands for Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership and serves essentially as Ogeechee Tech’s student of the year. GOAL is a statewide program that highlights student excellence in technical education by focusing on academics and personal achievement.
The process of selecting Behling began at OTC when students were nominated by their instructors, 32 in all this year. Students can choose to move to the next level by preparing and giving three-minute speeches about technical education to both internal and external screening committees and answering questions in interview rounds from both committees.
From the 13 nominees that participated, five finalists were chosen and ultimately, Behling earned the title of 2016 GOAL student. Her next step will be to attend the regional competition in Warner Robins in March, competing against seven other technical colleges and then journeying to Atlanta for an announcement of semi-finalists.
Ogeechee Tech has produced three statewide winners, Lucas Teague in 2014, Alvie Coes III in 2011 and Molly Bickerton in 2008, plus several regional winners.
Behling, who is working towards her Associate of Applied Science Degree in Radiologic Technology, stood in front of the audience with her fellow GOAL finalists and the instructors who nominated each student, awaiting the announcement. When Dr. Dawn Cartee, president of Ogeechee Tech, opened the envelope and read Behling’s name, she immediately hugged her instructor, Jan Martin.
“I thank Ms. Martin above all else for nominating me for this award,” said Behling, after accepting the award. “She played a huge role in getting me here, at Ogeechee Tech in the first place, because I talked with her before I ever arrived in Georgia.
“I am thankful for the instructors, the students, the classes – everything this school has done for me. This is just the beginning. I look forward to going on from here.”
Instructor Jan Martin said of the Radiologic Technology program at OTC, “We only have great students. Because we are a competitive admission program, we get the cream of the crop. We get the best of the best.”
Martin said what encouraged her to nominate Behling was her leadership skills.
“She stands tall above her classmates,” Martin said. “She gets it, and she got it quickly. I’ve been pleased with her clinical skills.”
Also serving as an example of a stellar student, Behling apparently stays one step ahead in her academics and studies.
“She was asking questions about this semester before it began because she’d seen it in clinic,” Martin said.
Behling said she’s had a fascination with bones since her high school anatomy class and leaned towards the medical profession but knew it would be costly. Originally from Milwaukee, Behling spent six years in the Army as an MP (Military Police), mostly in Ft. Riley, Kansas and completed two deployments during that time. She is using the GI Bill to complete her schooling.
Behling is on track to graduate in December, but hopes to continue her education.
“With Radiologic Technology, there’s other modalities you can add, like MRI or CT,” she said. “It’s part of the stepping stones that will allow me to reach my ultimate goal of radiology assistant.”
When asked if she planned to return to Milwaukee when she completed her degree, she quickly responded, “No.”
“I fell in love with southeastern Georgia as soon as I got here. I’d love to stay here, in this area.”
But she did admit, “At the end of the day, it’s where the jobs are available.”
Behling already is a cheerleader for OTC and proudly boasts about her college.
“The advisors, staff, teachers, professors, instructors – all of the effort the school puts forth for the success of the students is wonderful,” she said. “They make you a better person.
“The small class size feels like a family. I don’t have family down here. This is my new family.”
Behling was anxious to make a phone call to her dad and significant other about the award following the luncheon, but said she wouldn’t be able to call her mom right away because she was working at a hospital in Milwaukee.
Kelli Waters, GOAL Coordinator told all of the nominees they were winners and congratulated their excellence.
Dr. Cartee concurred and said, “With 2,000 plus students, for your instructor to look at you, nominate you, and for you to be standing here, you have something very special to offer your school, to others in your field.”
The other finalists for the 2016 GOAL student and their programs of study were: Jaqueta Davis, Dental Assisting; Kasey DeMott, Diagnostic Medical Sonography; Zachary Hart, Funeral Service Education and McKenzie Murphy, Culinary Arts.