Chattahoochee Technical College supporters gathered for the inaugural Spark Workforce Awards event hosted by the Chattahoochee Tech Foundation on Wednesday, May 8, at the Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre in Marietta.
“Through their support of Chattahoochee Technical College, these individuals and organizations are helping to build a thriving workforce in our community,” said Chattahoochee Tech Foundation Board of Trustees Chairman Jason Anavitarte. “They are making a major impact by helping our graduates move into the workforce.”
Included among those honored at this event were Alan and Claire Peterson, who received the Volunteer of the Year award, along with the Beacon Foundation Charitable Trust, recognized as the Benefactor of the Year. The Alumni of the Year award was presented to Cecilia Byers of WellStar Health System. The Spark Workforce Awards event also featured a presentation by Jay Cunningham, President of Superior Plumbing and a Technical College System of Georgia State Board Member, and a longtime advocate for technical education.
“Jay Cunningham is a true champion of workforce development and technical education,” said Chattahoochee Technical College President Dr. Ron Newcomb. “He also generously supports Chattahoochee Tech’s veteran students through the college’s Jim Cunningham Veteran Services Center.”
Chattahoochee Technical College Vice President of Student Affairs and Chattahoochee Tech Foundation Executive Director Jennifer Nelson introduced each of the award recipients, beginning with Cecilia Byers, a Biomedical Engineering Manager with WellStar Health System who received the Alumni of the Year award. Byers earned three associate degrees from Chattahoochee Tech then continued with her education by earning a bachelor’s degree, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at Walden University.
“In her position at WellStar, Cecilia has the opportunity to work with Chattahoochee Tech interns as well as employ graduates,” said Nelson. “This is a true example of alumni paying it forward, helping to build an educated and trained workforce for the community while providing opportunities for our students.”
Nelson also noted that Byers actively participates in volunteer organizations to help spread the word about the importance of technical education and STEM related careers. Included among the WellStar officials attending the awards ceremony was Mark Haney, Senior Vice President of Real Estate, Facilities and Development Services. Haney also serves as Chairman of the Chattahoochee Technical College Board of Directors.
Recognized as the Volunteer of the Year for their steadfast support of the college were Alan and Claire Peterson, of Cobb County, who established a scholarship fund to honor the memory of their son, Mike. Thanks to their efforts for the past 15 years, the Mike Peterson Memorial Scholarship Fund has raised over $250,000 to purchase automotive, diesel, and automotive collision repair tool sets awarded to 82 Chattahoochee Tech students, with each tool set valued at approximately $6,000 to $7,000.
“We thank Alan and Claire for their tireless and generous support of our students,” said Nelson. “They are a true pleasure to work with, and we appreciate them so much.”
Nelson presented the final award of the evening, the Benefactor of the Year award, to the Beacon Foundation Charitable Trust, a local charity focused on poverty relief. Receiving the Benefactor of the Year award on behalf of the Beacon Foundation Charitable Trust was Elizabeth Smith Williams, who serves as the organization’s secretary/treasurer.
“Over the past three years, the Beacon Foundation has provided 30 academic scholarships and emergency grants for students,” said Nelson. “In addition, funds from the Beacon Foundation Charitable Trust have supported the college’s Special Population fund from which the college provides bus passes, books and book codes for the textbook lending program, and this year, helped us establish funding for homeless students needing short-term housing – a growing need for today’s college students.” Nelson noted that the college’s Special Populations students are those who may be economically disadvantaged, may be a single parent or displaced homemaker, or enrolled in a non-traditional program of study.
The inaugural Spark Workforce Awards marked a significant event in support of technical education, according to Chattahoochee Tech Foundation Board of Trustees Chairman Jason Anavitarte. “Today’s employers are in great need of the highly-skilled graduates produced by Chattahoochee Technical College,” said Anavitarte. “All those who so generously help our students are providing support that fills the gap and ignites the spark that empowers them to success.”