Our Alumni and Student Stories
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.
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."
Stay tuned, more stories coming soon!
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.
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.
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.
Rachel [Phillips] Butts
When it came time to choose her career path, Rachel [Phillips] Butts knew she wanted to work in dental health.
"I had only heard great things about Gwinnett Tech," she said. "I discovered they had my program of study and that it was very hands-on learning. I knew this would be the best option for me."
Rachel entered the Dental Assisting program and began preparing for her future.
"Throughout the program, my two program teachers - Leanna Harding and Amy Weaver- were my mentors. They were great teachers who really prepared us with everything we needed to be successful in the workplace," Rachel said.
Thanks to two internships during her time at Gwinnett Tech, Rachel also gained real-world experience - and a permanent job after graduation.
"My second internship was at Duluth Dental Services, where I now work as the dental assisting and treatment coordinator," she said. "I'm able to assist Dr. Geoghegan during procedures, educate patients on oral health and help them with their insurance as well as perform general office duties. Both he and his assistant Tammy have walked alongside me as I continue to learn."
Her favorite part of her job? "I have really enjoyed building relationships with the patients."
When she looks back on her education, Rachel is thankful for her time at Gwinnett Tech.
"Everything I learned in the classroom applied to my work environment," she said. "The hands-on learning really prepared me for success."
Working as a full-time server while maintaining a full-time class schedule is no easy feat, and Angel Esquivel credits the support and mentorship of her Dental Assisting Program Director Lea Anna Harding and instructor Amy Weaver. "They believed in me, even when I wasn't quite sure I was going to make it," Angel said.
During her time at Gwinnett Technical College, Angel worked hard to balance her school load with her workload, managing to graduate with a 4.0 GPA and the 2016 Distinguished Student Award. "Once I got home after work, I stayed up even later to study for my classes and exams," she said. "I was also involved with Phi Theta Kappa society and the National Technical Honor Society."
One of her favorite parts of the Dental Assisting program was the clinical internship, where she worked with, and learned from, local dentist Dr. Zachary Hyun Kim. "I respect how he even challenged me at times to keep me on track," she said.
Angel credits her success in her field to the hands-on experience her classes and internship provided - "It's more than just learning everything in the books".
Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Sarah Purvis remembers the day, as a high school student, that she underwent a thyroid ultrasound exam. She was nervous and uncomfortable, but, her ultrasound tech was understanding and educational.
"He showed me the monitor on his ultrasound machine, told me about the profession and put me at ease," Sarah said. "Ever since that appointment, I developed a strong interest in that career field."
Sarah's family moved from California to Gwinnett in 2014 and she began researching CAAHEP accredited schools for diagnostic medical sonography. "While there were several other schools reasonably close, I discovered Gwinnett Tech offered the highest standards for the program and their success rates in the workforce are extremely high," she said.
"Since starting the program, I've encountered the most passionate healthcare professionals. At clinical sites, the techs are constantly teaching us how to be better and more useful in the medical field. Our instructor's passion has encouraged us to not only grow in our skills, but also in our character and heart."
Sarah is president of Gwinnett Tech's Student Sonography Association and a member of the Lambda Nu National Honors Society. She is also in the Workforce Initiative and Opportunity Act program. "This has helped me achieve my goal of graduation by providing me financial support for required material and tuition."
For Sarah, her career can't start soon enough. "I really enjoy the interaction with patients, the process of the actual exam, and the fascinating medical cases encountered on a regular basis. I have always desired to work in a field where I can help those in need and benefit a large population - diagnostic medical sonography fulfills that desire."
Health Information Technology
When Katie Denning enrolled at Gwinnett Tech her goal was to be a nurse or radiology tech, however she quickly learned patient care wasn’t for her and switched programs to IT. It wasn’t until she was working as a pharmacy tech within a hospital did she become interested in how technology supports hospital staff to provide excellent patient care.
"At Gwinnett Tech I learned concepts that had an immediate impact on my job performance. I was learning how to write a Request for Proposal(RFP) in class and at the same time asked to help develop an RFP for an application my team was working on."
"Some might not able to picture an IT job as 'fun' but mine really is. It's interesting and there is always something new on the horizon as technology in healthcare continues to improve." Katie is currently employed at Northeast Georgia Health Systems in Gainesville, Ga. Visit our Health Information Technology program page.
Health Information Technology
When Samia Haroon enrolled at Gwinnett Tech she was hoping to start a career as an analyst. Little did she know by graduation she would have a job with Clinigence a clinical business intelligence software provider in Atlanta, Ga and be well-educated in Health IT. "My biggest inspirations were my mentors and advisers Director, Patricia Whitley and Advisor, Victoria Albee. I didn’t know a lot about Health IT. After a particular lesson about informatics in one of my classes, I knew that data was a focus and I wanted to learn more about how data plays a role in improving healthcare outcomes with the use of Health IT."
She credits Gwinnett Tech with giving her the tools to succeed. "I would love to acknowledge all the great available resources in the College, if you see school, like the math lab, computer science lab, the different student groups, the Student Life Center and the One-Stop office. It truly helps to be surrounded by individuals who are great at these crafts and are willing to engage with students with real-time effort and dedication."
"I feel I have gained more than what I wanted to accomplish at Gwinnett Tech." Samia now plans to earn her master’s in either informatics or predictive analytics. Visit our Health Information Technology program page.
Long before he came to Gwinnett Tech, Robin Prasher knew he would pursue a medical career. "My Mom has been a nurse for more than 40 years and my sister is a physician assistant - they have been my inspiration," he said. "My family always emphasized how important education was. My Dad always said, 'A thief can steal anything from you, but they will never be able to steal your knowledge and that's why it's the best thing to acquire'."
Today, Robin is a registered cardiovascular invasive specialist at Emory University Hospital Midtown. He credits Gwinnett Tech with launching his career. "I chose to pursue my cardiovascular technology education at Gwinnett Tech because I had gone to different colleges but never felt like I was getting the education I needed. I realized when I first took my anatomy class at Gwinnett Tech that this was the college for me. The teachers were so passionate about what they taught and really worked with the students in every way possible to help them succeed."
Before graduating in 2016, Robin won the Dean's List award and the Clyde and Sandra Strickland scholarship, which helped him decrease hours at his job so he could study more.
"My education at Gwinnett Tech helped me prepare for my career by giving me all the tools I needed," Robin said. "I have received many professional accolades from cardiologists at Emory, but the one I always remember is when the head cardiologist told the manager that they need more people like me in this field."
Little did Brenda Mauldin know that her path to becoming a Surgical Technologist began 25 years ago when she toured Gwinnett Tech's campus as a high school student. After many jobs following that high school graduation, she didn't think about going back to school until her husband asked "why didn't you go to school and chase that medical career you wanted?" Well, Brenda she took him up on that suggestion and didn't look back!
As a student, Brenda served as the President of the Hunter Green Class Surgical Technology organization.
Brenda credits her success at Gwinnett Tech to the faculty in the Surgical Tech program. "I cannot even begin to share enough accolades. The instructors are absolutely amazing, inspiring, honest, true and supportive. They are more than 'instructors'. They're not only teaching us about the surgical tech field, but also about life. As both instructors, mentors and friends, they have a knack for really bringing us out of ourselves, challenging our comfort levels and pushing us to not just get by, but to blow past expectations."
"It's taken me five years to get my two-year degree. It has been a nothing short of amazing experience and time for me. I have learned so much, not just about surgical technology, but about life in general. I'm really grateful for the experience."
Kallie Palmer has always been interested in nursing. As a little girl, she wanted to be a nurse, but, she didn’t think she was "good" at math and never pursued a nursing career. Kallie went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Education and began teaching adult education. Then, she had a "lightbulb moment" and wondered "what if, what if I just try? I didn’t want to have regrets. If I failed, then, at least, I can say I tried."
While Kallie is in school, she is taking advantage of the externships through Gwinnett Tech and Gwinnett Medical Center. Over the summer of 2017 she worked as a patient care tech at Glancy Rehabilitation Center in Lawrenceville, Ga. "My externship was invaluable. The staff wanted to help and teach me. I was able to work with a variety of patients seeking treatment and gained confidence working in the medical setting and with patients."
When asked what advice would you give someone thinking about a career change, she says "you only get one life, don’t sell yourself short and wonder what if."
After Kallie graduates from Gwinnett Tech in May 2018, she will pursue her Bachelor in Nursing and a career in medical surgical nursing.
For Jacyln Coppola, medicine and animals have always been passion. "I've wanted to work with animals since I was little! Animals and medicine are very interesting to me and I love learning about the medicine around animals! Not only is veterinary technology my passion, but I want to have a voice for those who don't get to have a voice."
During the summer of 2017, Jacyln attended a volunteer veterinary technician experience through Animal Experience International (AEI). Jacyln’s volunteer experience was in Guatemala where she assisted in caring for primates, birds and reptiles. During her trip, she experienced a variety of tasks including assisting in the feeding and caring for animals and hands-on instruction with medical treatments and surgery.
"Gwinnett Tech has the best veterinary tech program. I would never have known about AEI if it weren’t for my vet tech teachers." Jaclyn resides in Forsyth, Ga however she chose Gwinnett Tech for the vet tech program, learning and hands-on experience she would gain. After graduation, Jaclyn hopes to work in a wildlife facility or a zoo.