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staff member; a few finalists were then chosen for each award, and the final decision was selected by a panel of judges, which included J.D. Dickerson Primary School Principal Brandon Boston, Tattnall County High School Counselor Shaquila Foreman, Altamaha EMC Accountant Marilynn Hopkins, Kennedy Broadband Representative Milly Kennedy, and Greater Vidalia Chamber Director of Community Development Ann Owens.

Student of the Year

STC names the Student of the Year through the annual Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) Award, which highlights “student excellence in technical education by focusing on academic excellence and personal achievement.” The selected student then travels to Atlanta to compete for the state GOAL award; if named the state GOAL Student, the student spends the year serving as an ambassador for technical education, and making many public appearances throughout the state and at state congress.

Business Management Student Elizabeth Paradice was selected as the 2023 STC GOAL Student. Paradice, who is set to graduate in Spring 2024, is well-known throughout the Vidalia campus of the college, as she works in the bookstore and uses any opportunity to help guide younger students through their college experience.

Growing up in a family of eight adopted children, Paradice said she learned from an early age how to handle struggles and hard times. “The most important lesson I learned along the way was that no matter what trials and circumstances may happen, these do not have to mean you’re a failure; but they allow us the opportunity to pick ourselves up, to dust ourselves off, and to keep moving forward one step at a time,” she emphasized.

Paradice chose to attend STC because of her desire to own her own gymnasium and serve as a gymnastics coach to youth throughout the area. Paradice first became involved with the sport in the summer of 1996, when the “Dream Team,” composed of U.S. Gymnasts Amanda Borden, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Jaycie Phelps and Kerri Strug, inspired two of her sisters and herself to take part in the sport. Paradice spent many years training with well-known coaches, such as Olympic Gymnast Kurt Thomas, to achieve her ultimate goal of reaching the Olympics.

Sadly, that goal became unattainable when an injury revealed an underlying condition that would keep her from succeeding in the sport. She was performing a difficult skill in a floor exercise when she was dropped by her coach, resulting in damaged ligaments and bones in her knee, and a dislocated hip. While receiving treatment for these injuries, it was discovered that Paradice had a severe developmental hip disorder, forcing her retirement in 2009 at the age of 16, after 13 years of training. “It is truly terrifying to discover that the one goal – the plan that you built your life around – is suddenly gone in an instant,” she commented. “I had to give up my goal, refocus my heart, and rediscover the girl I was and the life outside of the sport I loved.”

Paradice said that she soon recognized her love for children, which she believes partially stemmed from the time she spent with her siblings and coaching younger gymnasts to learn new skills. “I just wasn’t ready to give up my sport, so I began coaching,” she said.

She opened up a gym with one of her sisters in 2012, but the facility closed later that year. “Teaching and helping kids pursue their goals and dreams, and most importantly, giving them a place where they were safe and loved, and could be whatever they wanted to be in the time that they were in the gym, was the greatest and most fulfilling to me,” Paradice emphasized.

She continued, “I wanted to open up another gym, and I wanted to learn everything I could about a business and how to operate it successfully. I am now in the second semester of the Business Management Program, and I have already learned so much. STC has given me and taught me so much in the pursuit of my goals.”

She added, “The first step is the one you believe in – the second one might be profound. My life has been a series of steps, most of which were composed of doing the next right thing; however, in the last two years of coming to STC, I have finally begun to take the steps toward the next best thing. These steps, I truly believe, will help me to not only achieve my goal of becoming a business owner, but will allow me the opportunity to give back to others the love, compassion, and challenge to be [the best] that was sewed into me by others.”

Other Nominees

Other nominees for the award included Lillie Ann Brown, William Tucker Copeland, Shannon Detwiler, Jamaal Fields, Tenekia Foreman, Cristian Mateo Granjeno-Avila, Kelly Joseph, Kimberly Register, and Chesley Woods.

The other three finalists — Copeland, Granjeno, and Woods, — also addressed the crowd about their experiences at STC. Copeland spoke to how the Industrial Electrical Technology Program had provided him with a hands-on experience, which helped him to overcome challenges brought on by his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Granjero talked about how the low cost of the college and helpfulness of the staff helped him to become a first-generation college student. Woods discussed how the college allowed him to use his personal experience with mental health to pursue a career in the field. Faculty Member of the Year

The annual Rick Perkins Award is given to the Faculty Member of the Year at the college, as it recognizes the achievements by the institute’s most outstanding instructors. The winner of this award then goes on to compete for the Georgia Rick Perkins Award. If selected, this instructor then serves as an ambassador of technical education to the public and makes many appearances.

This year, Associate of Science in Nursing Instructor Donna Jean Braddy, Welding Instructor Michael Crumpler, and Air Conditioning Technology Instructor Vince Scott were finalists for the award. Crumpler was determined to be the awardee by a panel of judges.

He thanked the judges that sacrificed their time to select the winner and to his fellow staff members for their help in his success. “Thank you to Southeastern Technical College for allowing me to do what I absolutely love, and that is to teach welding, I look forward to representing us as we go forward.”

Crumpler concluded his acceptance speech with a quote from Roy Bennet, which read: “Believe in yourself — you are braver than you think, more talented than you know, and capable of more than you can imagine.”

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