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OTC Holds Commencement Exercises

Okefenokee Technical College held commencement Friday, January 21, 2011, at the Waycross Middle School auditorium. Mr. Pete Pyrzenski, general manager of Republic Services, was the featured speaker.

Pyrzenski addressed a packed auditorium of 86 graduates, their friends and relatives. Everyone chuckled at his opening remark, “I promised Dr. Thaxton that I wouldn’t talk trash tonight.” To the graduates, Pyrzenski encouraged appropriate cheering and celebration with their family in recognition of this milestone in their life, followed by a commitment to lifelong learning. “Now you have established a solid foundation through Okefenokee Technical College for which you will build success the rest of your life,” stated Pyrzenski, who also talked about the importance of a good attitude and staying the course. He concluded by congratulating graduates for a job well done.

The ceremony began at 7 p.m. with the processional of graduates, followed by the invocation and presentation of colors. Dr. Steve Pearce, executive director of grants and special projects, gave the invocation, and the Ware County JROTC presented the colors. Jessica Moore then captivated the audience with her rendition of the National Anthem.

Tara Eichfeld, OTC registrar, welcomed guests to the ceremony. She encouraged graduates to recognize those who helped them get where they are and congratulated them for meeting their educational goal. “Tonight you leave here as OTC alumni,” she said.

The 2010 Rick Perkins award winner, Doug Furman, brought a message to graduates from the OTC faculty and staff.  Furman, the welding and joining technology program director, relayed his personal struggle with reading as a young child with dyslexia. According to Furman, this experience led him to become an instructor and it is what drives him to help students find hope through opportunities that education brings. “Education opens doors and provides hope,” stated Furman, “and I became an instructor because I wanted to provide hope to others like the people in my past did for me.”

Following Furman’s remarks, the audience enjoyed the talent of Ms. Moore once again, as she sang “From A Distance.”

President Thaxton then recognized a number of special guests, including Mr. Pete Pyrzenski’s wife, B. J., and their two daughters, Morgan and Loren.

Thaxton also recognized OTC board member Daniel Johnson from Pierce County, as well as faculty and staff, for their work and dedication to students and education.

Thaxton’s introduction of Pyrzenski included details regarding his employment with Republic Services, Inc. In his current capacity, he oversees three divisions, a major landfill, more than 141 employees who service 38 counties and more than 42,000 customers. “Many of you probably recognize him from his tenure as city manager for the city of Waycross,” said Thaxton, “a position he held from 2005-2010.”

According to Thaxton, prior to coming to Waycross, Pyrzenski was the CEO of Pinnacle Prime Contractors in Valdosta and public works director for the City of Valdosta. He was also operations manager for waste management in Pompano Beach, Florida.

Pyrzenski holds an associate’s degree in criminal law, a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration. He is a graduate of Leadership Georgia and a member of the OTC Board of Directors, “giving his time, effort, and support to our students and our mission.”

Mr. Pyrzenski is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and of the U.S. Army Reserve, achieving the rank of captain. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003.

Following Pyrzenski’s message, Thaxton conferred upon graduates the applicable award of diploma and/or Associate of Applied Science degree. Then Thaxton; Danita Cannon, vice president for academic affairs; Eichfeld; and Pyrzenski congratulated and awarded diplomas and degrees to participating graduates. The following students had satisfactorily completed requirements for graduation by either end of quarter spring 2010 or end of quarter fall 2010 and were eligible to participate in commencement:

Appling County
Haley Garrett, Cosmetology

Bacon County
Megan Baladez, AAS Respiratory Care Technology; Samuel Douglas, Practical Nursing; David Eason, Electronics Fundamentals; Ashlie Hennesy, AAS Respiratory Care Technology; Christina Hersey, Accounting; and Ronald Jones, Welding and Joining Technology

Brantley County
Jessica Adams, Medical Assisting; Sharyn Cerrillo, Surgical Technology; Teresa Dickerson, Criminal Justice; William Highsmith-Gee, AAS Criminal Justice; Amy Hiers, AAS Respiratory Care Technology; Nicole Hunt, Cosmetology; Sherri Lewis, Medical Assisting; Heather Mikels, Cosmetology; Erica Rowell, Cosmetology; Satilla Sirmans, Cosmetology; and David Smith, Welding and Joining Technology

Camden County
Lacey Dowling, Cosmetology

Charlton County
Jessica Bowen, Forest Technology; Hannah Drury, Surgical Technology; Faleshia Lathan, Cosmetology; and Rebekah Peeples, Practical Nursing

Clinch County
Delois King, Business Administrative Technology; Cassondra McBride, Medical Assisting; Sharmaine Moore, Surgical Technology; and Cassandra Taylor, AAS Clinical Laboratory Technology

Coffee County
Kristi Gross, Surgical Technology; Evelyn Medders, Cosmetology; Salentha Reives, Accounting; Angela Timoneri, Surgical Technology; Jonna Wright, AAS Respiratory Care Technology

Lanier County
Judy Simpson, Surgical Technology

Pierce County
Etta Cason, Practical Nursing; Jessica Clark, Practical Nursing; Terri Davis, Medical Assisting; Karen Hamelin, Medical Assisting; Cara Lynn, AAS Respiratory Care Technology; Alisha Smith, Practical Nursing; Terri Speake, AAS Criminal Justice; and Hope Spikes, Cosmetology

Ware County
Shirley Bechiom, Practical Nursing; Leah Brown, Cosmetology; Jonathan Daniels, AAS Respiratory Care Technology; Joyce Christopher, Business Administrative Technology; Justin Drawdy, Welding and Joining Technology; Lucinda Evans, Medical Assisting; Glen Fish, Automotive Collision Repair; Kimesha Green, Practical Nursing; Heather Harrell, Marketing Management; Lisa Bohannon-Harrell, Practical Nursing; Megan Hickox, Cosmetology; Hailey Howell, Cosmetology; Patrick Humbers, Surgical Technology; Angela Jackson, AAS Clinical Laboratory Technology; Tamekia Kates, Business Administrative Technology; Kaleidra Kitchen, AAS Clinical Laboratory Technology ; Lena Lewis, Cosmetology; Tabitha McGee, Cosmetology; Margaret Milkas, AAS Clinical Laboratory Technology; Annabell Mitchell, Practical Nursing; Jamie Mitchell, Practical Nursing; Amy Mosley, AAS Respiratory Care Technology; Jennifer Nails, Surgical Technology; Pamela Oliver, Practical Nursing; Reba Register, Practical Nursing; Sharrie Roach, Business Administrative Technology; Jessica Schreiber, Practical Nursing; Frankia Smith, Medical Assisting; Siera Smith, AAS Clinical Laboratory Technology; Timothy Steverson, Welding and Joining Technology; Georgia Todd, Medical Assisting; Robert Visicaro, Environmental Horticulture; Michael Ward, AAS Health; Tylet Washington, Practical Nursing; Meka Williams, Cosmetology; and Brandi Wolfe, Practical Nursing

Wayne County
Candice Long, Business Administrative Technology.

OTC Vice President for Economic Development Andy Brannen, on behalf of the OTC Student Government Association (SGA), presented honor pins to eligible graduates, signifying their outstanding accomplishment. Floral arrangements were provided by OTC’s environmental horticulture program instructor, Mark Deal. Neal Murphy served as Graduation Marshal, and Sondra Chapman was the pianist.

Pete Pyrzenski and Dr. Gail Thaxton

Pete Pyrzenski (left), general manager of Republic Services, was the featured speaker at OTC’s commencement exercises Friday, January 21, 2011. OTC President Dr. Gail Thaxton welcomed Pyrzenski, an OTC Board Director, and introduced him to graduates and guests.


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