Northwestern Technical College broke ground Aug. 28 on the future Center for Health and Information Technology.
“Without the support and work of many individuals, we would not be here today,” Northwestern President Ray Brooks said. “Each day faculty and staff work with students toward a solid education and a career to ensure a brighter future.”
Northwestern Technical College was established in 1966 as Walker County Area Vocational Technical School and only had about 150 students enrolled. Nearly 2,500 students are enrolled now, he said.
“During the 2003 fiscal year, we served over 7,000 citizens of Northwest Georgia in one or more of our programs,” Brooks said. “For most, the reason they chose to enroll in college was to be able to live a more fulfilling life — to have a career, not just a job. They realized that in order to participate fully in the ‘American dream,’ they were going to have to continue their education.”
Brooks reflected on Sept. 11, 2001, adding Americans must be strong and work hard.
“We must never forget the message that was delivered on 9-11, and that we are all on the front line of this struggle between good and evil — each in our own way contributing to the greatness of our country,” Brooks said. “We must strive to be the best we can be — the best student, the best teacher, the best employee, the best politician, the best citizen, the best parent — and devote our time and energy to ensuring that with each tick of the clock that we make a difference.”
Brooks said without the students, the school would not exist.
“A school gives hope, pride and a reliable workforce,” State Rep. Mike Snow, D-Chickamauga, said. “That is what keeps our community strong. A lot of people have come up to me and said that they lost their job and plan to attend Northwestern to learn a new skill.
“I think we are lucky to live in this community and a lot of people from Chattanooga want to move here,” Snow said. “This building is costing $7 million, and you the taxpayers are paying for it.”
State Sen. Jeff Mullis said Northwestern is the best technical school in the state.
Kenneth Breedon, commissioner of Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education, said he thinks Brooks is the best college president he knows and is impressed with the president’s accessibility and eagerness to talk to potential students.
“I would be proud to have my children come here,” Breedon said.
“In 1992 we said we would not hire someone without a high school diploma or GED,” said Rhonda Beasley of Roper Corp, during breakfast before the groundbreaking. “We saw people get certificates and diplomas. I have less than 100 people in my plant without a diploma or GED now.”
Northwestern Tech comes to Roper to teach classes on new skills, she said.
Kathy Johnson of the Joint Development Authority said Northwestern’s “partnership” with the community and industry allows great things to happen.
“The Joint Development Authority works with Northwestern to get businesses up and running and placing displaced workers,” Johnson said. “ Georgia’s Quick Start program is a key program.”
Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said Georgia funded this expansion three years ago,
“The growth and need for expansion continues today,” Heiskell said. “We are truly grateful for this opportunity.”
Brooks presented some statistics on the college’s achievement.
“Our enrollment has increased by 17 percent over the fiscal year of 2002, with a record of 2,244 students enrolled for winter quarter,” Brooks said. “Employment information for fiscal year 2003 is not available at this time. However, 99.7 percent of our 2002 graduates were employed or continued their education, and 2003 graduates’ success rates are expected to be higher.”
Brooks also said 777 Northwestern students graduated in 2003; Northwestern awarded a total of $3.9 million in financial aid last year, including $2.4 in HOPE grants and scholarships; 15 career counselors helped students make career choices; and of 3,662 applicants to Northwestern programs in the last year, more than 65 percent went on to enroll in courses. The new Center for Health and Technology will house the following programs:
- Health information technology
- Registered nurse/licensed practical nursing
- Pharmacy assistant
- Cardiovascular technology
- Occupational therapy assistant
- Computer support specialist
- Social work assistant
- Database specialist
- Telecommunications technology
- Network security
- Early childhood education