In an emotionally uplifting commencement ceremony at Free Chapel, 1,111 students graduated from Lanier Technical College on June 13.
Dr. Ray Perren, president of Lanier Technical College, energized the audience and graduates.
"You see before you the men and women who are taking their rightful place as the central part of the workforce for Northeast Georgia," he said. "From air conditioning to IT to people who work in our doctors' offices and hospitals to the people who will repair our damaged automobiles to people who will weld our buildings, Lanier Tech graduates are in every part of our workforce. You cannot go anywhere without running into a Lanier Tech graduate."
More than 1,000 students from more than 40 different programs were eligible to participate in the ceremony with 16 percent earning the associate of applied science degree, 43 percent earned a college diploma, and 63 percent earned a technical certificate of credit. The practical nursing program had the largest number of graduates at 18 percent, early childhood care and education had 13 percent, medical assisting graduated 12 percent, welding and joining technology had 11 percent, cosmetology 10 percent and the remaining 36 percent earned their credentials from the remaining programs.
According to Perren, the average grade point average for the class was around 3.5.
"This class of 2014 represents the new reality of American education and business. In the next 10 years, 80 percent of the job openings will require training beyond high school, but will not require a four-year college degree," he said. "American business and industry are going to count on people just like you in order to move our economy forward."
The keynote speaker, David Byers, the Rick Perkins Instructor of the Year for the Technical College System of Georgia, charged the graduates to embrace adversity. Byers, the program director of Lanier Tech's Dental Hygiene Program, is the first-ever Rick Perkins recipient from Lanier Technical College.
"Last year, Georgia was rated as the No. 1 location in the nation where businesses want to build or expand. We all know how the economy has been over the past years," he said.
"So how do you improve the economy? You create jobs. How do you create jobs? That's what the Technical College System of Georgia is doing."
Byers said that it was Lanier Tech's mission to train people to get jobs.
"To make a difference with the economy, to entice these businesses to want to build in Georgia, we train a workforce. The major enticement to those businesses is you, the graduates," he said during the ceremony. "You are the cutting-edge workforce that these businesses are looking for. You have the skills, you have the knowledge, and you have the motivation to make a difference. You deserve the praise from tonight."
Using a personal story about obstacles and adversity from his early career with the Indian Health Service, Byers shared how he and his wife overcame adversity and challenged the graduates to embrace adversity.
The Byers family moved from the lush green climate of Georgia that they had always known to the brown, dusty desert climate of Arizona and an entirely new culture.
"As you go through life's journey, you will come across many forks in the path, you will come across many obstacles as well. You get to decide what you do," he said. "Anything that you choose to do is only going to be as good as you decide to make it, or allow it to be. Enjoy life's journey as you go along."