Georgia Piedmont Technical College: A Second Shot

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I’m getting a second shot. If you want something really bad enough, you can go for anything you want. I’m now enrolled as a regular college student at Georgia Piedmont Technical College (GPTC) in Clarkston. Now I’m not saying that going back to college is for everyone, but it’s something that I wanted to do just to see if I could meet the challenge of being a regular college student. The reason why is not necessarily to do it all over again. I’ve been to college before, but I’m getting a re-do. This time with grades and for credit.

I was one of the first two students at Georgia State University’s inclusive education program called IDEAL, an acronym for Inclusive Digital Expression And Literacy. In IDEAL I was an auditing student in all my classes and didn’t receive any credit or grades. I graduated, but I didn’t earn a degree. After IDEAL ended, I went to work at Compassionate Atlanta, but I thought maybe I do want to go back to school just to try and see if I can actually do it for real this time. I decided to go back because I wanted to see what regular college was all about without being in a specialized program.

Why Georgia Piedmont?

After looking into different schools in the metro area, I decided to apply to Georgia Piedmont Technical College. Because of COVID-19, I did not have to take college entrance exams to get into GPTC because GPTC no longer requires them if your high school GPA is high enough. Now that Georgia Piedmont only looks at my high school GPA, I got in without getting tested, which is great since I don’t always do well with testing.

Now let’s take a look at the history of Georgia Piedmont Technical College. GPTC was founded in 1961, originally known as The Dekalb Area Vocational School. I go to the Clarkston Campus in Dekalb, which opened in 1963 with 1300 students. Now there are five campuses / locations of GPTC. Three in Dekalb County, one in Newton County, and another in Rockdale County. Here, students can learn Automotive Repair, Carpentry, Heating & Air (HVAC) certification, Cosmetology, Nursing, Medical Assisting, and there’s even a Truck Driving School.

100% Job Placement For GPTC Graduates

In 2014, GPTC added the Georgia Film Academy that offers a direct route for students to be trained and then enter the Georgia film industry as production assistants, set builders, film editors, camera operators, and more. In total GPTC has 40 programs of study and is now part of the Technical College System of Georgia. Today there are almost 4000 students at the five GPTC campuses–way bigger than you might have thought. And they have a 100% job placement rate for their graduates.

There are several programs and pathways. For example, you can get your GED, your associate’s degree, or a diploma or certificate in a specific career field. They are committed to helping students who need to get their GED or learn English as a Second Language. They offer many services such as counseling services, disability services, academic support, tech support, veterans services, and career services. They really want to support all students whatever their career path.

Technical college is a great alternative for people who don’t want or need to go to a traditional four-year university. Most people train for careers where they work with their hands. I had to find a major that would fit into what I wanted to do as a career and one that wouldn’t require physical labor so I picked Business Administration because that’s something I can use my mind to do.

Everyone Is Welcoming And Accommodating

GPTC is a much smaller school and campus than Georgia State, and this has some advantages. The good part is you get your needs met more often than at a big university. Everyone I have met at Georgia Piedmont has been genuinely helpful. I don’t think they have many students with a physical disability, yet they have been very open and receptive to me. From the very start, they have been willing to assist me any way they can. From the receptionist at the welcome desk, to the security guards and police officers, to the maintenance staff, everyone I have met is welcoming and supportive. They have tried to think about ways to make accessibility easy for me.

For example, originally my classroom was
meeting on the second floor. Because there is only one working elevator, the decision was made unbeknownst to me to move where my class meets to a room on the first floor across from the dean’s office. I did not request this move, but the staff was concerned that I might not be able to get to class if the elevator was ever out of service or if there was a fire. I appreciate how accommodating they all have been towards me.

Students Are From All Over The World

At the Clarkston campus, there are students who come from all different countries. In my English class there are people from all different age groups from teens and 20s on up and a variety of countries including Iran and the Congo! Most of the students in my class are working adults. Here’s one interesting fact. My Georgia Piedmont English professor used to be in my mother’s English class when my mother taught at Lithonia High School. It’s pretty interesting how the tables have turned.

Posted on Georgia Piedmont’s website is their statement of values:

Our values are internally-held principles from which our culture stems. Our values guide the attitude and intention with which we approach our work.

Learn

●  Be teachable.

●  Use knowledge effectively.

●  Challenge others to learn.

●  Recognize the need for change.

Serve

●  Be mindful of people’s needs.

●  Engage positively when interacting.

●  Be forgiving of inconveniences.

Lead

●  Influence with integrity.

●  Own the work.

●  Respect diversity.

●  Take initiative developing solutions.

This is only my first semester, but Georgia Piedmont has definitely been living up to these values in my experience. I’m really enjoying the experience so far. Right now it is going smoothly–let’s hope it continues. One class at a time.

The Takeaways

Celebrate:

  1. Georgia Piedmont Technical College offers a variety of career training options on multiple campuses.
  2. The staff and students reflect diverse backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, and interests.
  1. The staff and students are helpful, friendly, and encouraging.
  2. The school offers a variety of majors, services, and activities.

Educate:

  1. They do not offer dining services at the Clarkston campus–snack machines only–so be prepared to bring your own lunch or dinner if you will be on campus all day.
  2. The building is accessible overall, and where there has been a difficulty with accessibility, they are making every effort to correct it.
  3. Although the Clarkston campus has plenty of parking, there is limited handicapped parking.

Jimmy Freels
Community Outreach Associate
Compassionate Atlanta
http://jimmyfreels.com

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