BREAKING: Georgia Supreme Court upholds Dawson County man’s conviction for Hannah Bender’s 2019 murder
The district attorney recognized the "horrific” nature of Bender’s death, thanking those involved in the judicial process and stating that “justice was well served” in the case.
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Student safety first
Preparation stressed as college continues to grow
3 College Safety pic2
Miriam Torres, a college student, learns to put out a fire with an extinguisher. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson Community News

Classes started back Tuesday at Southern Catholic College in Dawsonville, but school leaders have been on campus for more than a week preparing for the new year.


The private liberal arts school, the state’s only Catholic college, opened in 2006 with about 50 students. Enrollment has since grown to more than 200 students.


Citing that increase, student leaders have taken steps to prepare for emergencies on campus. For the second year in a row, the college’s resident advisers met for an afternoon of basic life-saving tutorials at the Dawson County Emergency Services Training Center.


“I try to do everything I can for them to be prepared in an emergency,” said Andy Johnson, director of resident life at the college.


Dawson County Sheriff’s Lt. Tony Wooten taught a class on narcotics and alcohol during the afternoon session Sept. 1.


Kristina Larson, a junior, said the training is invaluable to the student body.


“If there’s a fire or something like that, we need to know what to do,” she said.


Participants were trained in CPR and learned to use a fire extinguisher. They also prepared for fire conditions by maneuvering through a dark, smokey maze in the department’s burn tower.


“What you are doing here is an awesome responsibility,” said Dawson County Fire Lt. Dexter Teague. “In a fire people tend to panic. Take what you learn here back to your friends.”


Larson described the group taking the training as the leaders at the college, and often the first on the scene in emergencies.


“We are the first responders,” she said. “We need to know everything we can to be prepared.”


Thompson said the training has paid off in the past.


“There was an incident about a year ago when a student was ill and needed EMS treatment,” he said. “The emotions and adrenaline control they’ve learned benefited them to take control and keep a good head on their shoulders.”


Robbie Hughey, chief of training for Dawson County Emergency Services, said the “worst feeling in the world is to feel helpless and not know what do to before EMS arrives.”


Johnson said he just wants the students to be as prepared as possible.


“And that’s what I want them to take back with them, whether it’s here on campus or two to three years later,” he said.