More than 300 GED graduates, including 57 Dawson students, walked across the stage on Aug. 31, at Free Chapel in Gainesville to receive their diplomas from members of the Lanier Technical College Board of Directors.
Brigitte Accary, originally from France and a former GED student, spoke to the new graduates.
"I am from France, and I am an American citizen and proud of it. With the support of my teachers and staff who convinced me, I decided to go for a criminal justice diploma to serve this country," she said. "I deeply encourage you to go further, college is your next step, take it, it will change your life for the best."
State Representative Kevin Tanner (R), District 9, was the keynote speaker. Prior to his first term as State Representative, Tanner was the Dawson County Manager where he oversaw day-to day-operations as the county's chief operating officer. He is also a successful small business owner.
Tanner was recognized in 2011 as the Appointed Official of the Year by Georgia's Association of County Commissioners, and in 2007 Georgia Trend Magazine named him one of Georgia's 40 under 40. Tanner serves on the Georgia House of Representatives Education Committee and several other committees.
Speaking to the graduates, he reminded the graduates that they had all ... faced many obstacles in [their] life" and "had to overcome to be where [they] are today."
"I am reminded of what James Agee said: ‘God doesn't believe in the easy way.' It is through this adversity, through these challenges that we grow and become stronger," Tanner said. "We are being molded into the type of people we are meant to be. We should never forget where we have come from but I have to think Thomas Jefferson was correct when he said: ‘I like the dreams of the future better than history of the past.'"
Tanner continued by reinforcing the idea that technical college/school graduates did not need to carry the stigma that they had in the past.
"For decades we have pushed our young people to attend four year colleges. We have made those that attend technical school feel like second class citizens," he said. "The reality of the situation is that if we teach someone a skill in technical school they will succeed in the workforce. Lanier Technical College's placement rate upon graduation with a certificate, diploma or degree is around 98 percent within the field of study within six months of graduation. Most of our colleges are less than 50 percent and many will never be employed in their field of study after graduating college. This is why we are seeing an increasing number of individuals with a college degree entering technical school to learn a trade."
Tanner encouraged the graduates to keep moving forward and to keep working hard.
"You have had to overcome many obstacles to be sitting in front of me today having earned your GED. I know you have worked hard and there were probably many times you wanted to give up, but you persevered and you succeeded," he said. "No one can ever take this moment and this accomplishment away from you. It is said that ‘Success isn't measured by the position you reach in life; it's measured by the obstacles you overcome to get there.' Today you have reached success. Don't let this be the end of your education. Education should be a life long journey."
He finished his speech by sharing some further words of wisdom from one of America's most successful entrepreneurs.
"Mary Kay Ash once said that, ‘Most people live and die with their music still unplayed. They never dare to try.' God only gives each of us one opportunity to live this life," he said. "I encourage you today to make the very best of it. Live it to the very fullest you possibly can. Learn each day and give back to others every chance you have. When you come down to the end of your life make sure that you have played every song that is in you. That when you die there wasn't one verse of music left unplayed."