Families and friends gathered Friday to celebrate the graduation of Lanier Technical College's class of 2012 at Free Chapel Worship Center in Gainesville.
This year, Lanier Tech had a total of 1,419 graduates. This included 190 associates degrees, 473 diplomas and 756 technical certificates.
The college's five campuses include Oakwood, Forsyth, Winder-Barrow, Dawson and Jackson.
Lanier Tech President Russell Vandiver said the number of graduates for the past few years has been above normal.
"Our enrollment traditionally goes up when the economy goes bad," he said. "When people lose their jobs, they come back for additional training to either move up in their field or enter another field."
In addition, there has been a rise in the number of high school students with dual enrollment at Lanier Tech. This year, 95 of the graduates were dual enrollment students.
Vandiver said he expected the number of dual enrollment students to increase in the next year, with more than 300 already enrolled in the fall.
"We have converted our quarter system to the semester system," he said. "We actually made it easier for those students to do dual enrollment."
This year there has been a push in the state for more investment in technical schools through Go Build Georgia. The program helps students become more prepared by gaining skills needed for the workforce in Georgia.
"It will influence the programs we offer and add and keep us on track for what those requirements are," Vandiver said. "Our college's mission is workforce development. We've been doing Go Build Georgia for awhile because that's the nature of our business."
Vandiver said he hopes programs like Go Build Georgia will help bring the college to the attention of more people.
The graduation included a special recognition for members of Lanier Tech's Board of Directors and Foundation Board of Trustees.
"There is a lot of things they do out in the community and for our college," Vandiver said. "This is a great opportunity to give our thanks."
Friday's speaker was Ron Jackson, commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia.
"We have still been able to maintain services with a cut in the budget. That takes tremendous leadership," Vandiver said of Jackson.
Florence Louise Haynes, a student at the Winder-Barrow campus, graduated with a Medical Assistance diploma. She said she went back to school after not being able to find a job. Now she feels the move has prepared her to work in a medical office and has improved her typing skills.
Judy A. Rose, a student at the Oakwood campus, graduated with a certificate in Phlebotomy. She said she enjoyed her time at Lanier Tech.
"It made me feel like someone," she said. "You're never too old to learn. It's never too late to come back."
Sandy Reed, a student at the Forsyth campus, graduated with a Medical Assistance diploma.
"It's like the grand finale," Reed said of graduation. "It's exciting and nervous."
She just took and passed the exam to become a certified medical assistant, made possible by her education at Lanier Tech.
"It taught me to be a better person and a leader," she said.
Vandiver said what is exciting about graduations is family and friends who come to support the graduates.
"It's really one of these situations where a lot of the folks want to be there because they have been a part of it," he said.
Vandiver said he enjoys seeing the graduates' pride as they walk across the stage to receive their awards, then look into the stands to see family and friends.
"It's one of the highlights of my job," he said.