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Congressman Kingston and USDA Director Present Check to OTC

Congressman Jack Kingston (R/GA) and Stone Workman, US Department of Agriculture Rural Development Director of Georgia, presented a ceremonial check for $99,000 to Dr. Gail Thaxton, president of Okefenokee Technical College, this past Monday at the Waycross/Ware County Airport.

Dr. Gail Thaxton welcomed everyone to the special occasion, and thanked various groups for their support. “I especially want to thank Congressman Kingston and Director Workman for their support of the USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program and Okefenokee Tech.  Also, I want to thank the USDA staff assigned to our area. Ricky Sweat and Tommy Hatcher have been genuine partners with us, and as a result, we have enhanced higher education and workforce training and development in Southeast Georgia.” USDA Check Presentation

Thaxton also congratulated and thanked Pam Farr, Dr. Jewell Sweat, Brenda Basile, and Donna Yeomans, OTC faculty and staff who completed the grant application and pushed it through. She acknowledged those present from the OTC Board of Directors and the Foundation Board of Trustees. She also recognized various community supporters who were in attendance, including city and county officials from Alma and Waycross, officials from Satilla Regional Medical Center, OADA, and the Waycross/Ware County Chamber.

“OTC prides itself in training students on equipment that matches the workplace environment,” stated Thaxton. According to Thaxton, the grant funds were just recently released to help purchase a digital processer for the radiology program and three Intravenous (IV) simulators for the nursing program.

The digital processer is used to process x-ray images, and the IV equipment is used to train students to insert IVs. According to Thaxton, “The IV simulators use technology and software – in simulations – to develop the required skill with rigorous, realistic practice before health care graduates ‘stick’ you and me in the ER or hospital room. “We have 77 radiology students and 322 nursing students who are already benefitting from this additional program equipment.”

Rep. Mark Hatfield expressed congratulations to Dr. Thaxton and the OTC staff as the recipient of this grant and complimented them for their dedication and excellence in meeting the needs of the workforce in our community. Rep. Tommy Smith also complimented the staff for their work and good stewardship of state and federal funds and thanked Dr. Thaxton, Hatfield, and others who helped gain the funds for the renovation of the former Satilla REMC building in Alma, which will soon become the new location of the Alma Campus.

Before the ceremony, Kingston talked to several allied health students about their training and career goals. In his remarks to the audience, he shared recent anecdotes involving medical care and said that he was glad to be able to help OTC gain funds for medical training equipment that will better prepare students for their jobs. He stressed the value of having current technology and real-world application in medical training programs that ensure that healthcare graduates are skilled and ready to go to work.

Kingston also praised Director Stone Workman for the work that he has done for the state of Georgia. According to Kingston, before Workman was appointed as director of the Georgia USDA Rural Development office, the rural development program had a 67% delinquency rate, and now it has a 0% delinquency rate. His work and aggressive pursuit of unclaimed money by other states has benefitted rural Georgia. Kingston called Workman a “great steward of the state’s money.”

Workman, who is a native of Monticello, Georgia, shared with OTC students, staff, and community supporters the ingredients for building a good partnership. He compared the work that goes into a good, lasting partnership as that similar to two mules tied together plowing a field. The US Department of Agriculture Rural Development office and Okefenokee Technical College are the two mules that, according to Workman, are plowing the field of workforce development in Georgia. Workman explained that the support of Congressman Kingston, along with that of local legislators and community supporters, is instrumental in the process.

USDA Rural Development serves as the lead federal entity for rural development needs. Rural Development is committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in all of rural America and works to make sure that rural citizens can participate fully in the global economy.

The RBEG program is designed to enhance business, stimulate the economy, and create or retain jobs. More information is available online at www.rurdev.usda.gov/ga.

Photo: OTC President Gail Thaxton proudly holds the check that represents $99,000 in Rural Business Enterprise Grant funds for OTC. Congressman Kingston (third from left) and USDA Director Stone Workman presented the check to Thaxton, along with USDA Area Specialist Tommy Hatcher and local legislators, Rep. Mark Hatfield (second from left) and Rep. Tommy Smith (right).

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