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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                       10/18/2018

                                                                                                (By Lisa Garrett)

PENDLETON -- In his last Annual Report Luncheon address before his retirement in June 2019, Tri-County Technical College President Ronnie L. Booth took the opportunity to publicly thank faculty and staff, along with community partners, for their contributions to creating strong partnerships leading to student success.

“Most of what we accomplished never would have happened without everyone’s determination and dedication to helping our students to be successful,” he said to the crowd of business, industrial, education, government and political leaders at the College's Annual Report Luncheon.  Dr. Booth distributed copies of the annual report, a 44-page publication that highlights the major College and Foundation accomplishments of 2017 - 2018.

“Our partnerships help students to be successful,” he said.  “We are better together.  It’s been another remarkable year,” he said.

“A major milestone was the opening of the long-awaited Oconee Campus, an example of partnership at its best.  We now have a full-service campus in each county. We have strong industry support in Oconee County and many businesses have named rooms at the new campus.

“We named the Learning Commons (at the Oconee Campus) in honor of Senator Thomas Alexander, who was a tremendous partner through the process. In addition, the new Student Success Center is now in full operation.  It is always filled with students, who have gone from sitting in hallways to having dedicated places to meet and to study.  This could not have happened if not for the partnership of all three counties,” he said.

Once again, the College earned top rankings in student success, transfer and graduation rates among the 16 technical colleges in SC, said Dr. Booth.  Tri-County ranks in the top five percent nationally for successful transfers to four-year colleges and universities. In addition, several of the medical programs achieved 100 percent graduate pass rates on licensure examinations.

He added that this fall the Bridge to Clemson program, a partnership with Clemson University, enrolled 850 students.  “These students persist and graduate at the same or higher level than native freshmen at Clemson,” he said.

The I-BEST programs are part of a new partnership which increased the College’s focus on unemployed, underemployed and underrepresented populations. The focus is to meet the needs that manufacturers have for good employees while meeting the needs of the unemployed and underemployed. “These programs are helping students to get from where they are to a better place in life,” said Dr. Booth.

Dr. Booth gave special recognition to students and graduates who are featured in the Annual Report publication.  The report features stories about some of the students behind these numbers, rankings and achievements.  “Their stories take many forms, but one thing is common:  their lives were transformed by their educational experience at Tri-County Technical College and our communities are better for it,” Dr. Booth said.

He recognized T.J. Earle, an I-BEST graduate who is now employed as a materials associate in the shipping and receiving department at BorgWarner.  “T.J. is an example of what our partnership with Adult Education does to help students to succeed,” said Dr. Booth.

I-BEST is a one semester program that allows students to explore careers in manufacturing and learn basic skills for entry-level manufacturing jobs.

“Our I-BEST program and partnership with Adult Education is now a model for the State,” said Dr. Booth.

The Michelin Manufacturing Scholars program, a first-of-its-kind and first-in-the-State program, is designed to build and grow the workforce of the future.  It is designed for entry-level manufacturing professionals and is a pathway leading to manufacturing careers with Michelin.  Since completing the Michelin Manufacturing Scholars (MMS) program in December 2017, Jake Jackson has been hired as a full-time Manufacturing Professional at the Sandy Springs plant, he has paid off his car, and he and his wife, Suzanne, bought their first home.   Jake works on one of the rubber mixing lines at the Sandy Springs plant.

Anastasia Berdan was year’s outstanding Computer and Information Technology student and one of five chosen for the BMW IT Scholars program

A native of Russia, Anastasia is the first person from her high school, located in the village of Vanino in Russia, who was accepted to a university-- Lomonosov Moscow State University.  She earned a master’s degree in social science in 2010.   After moving to South Carolina, she changed career paths and entered Tri-County. She was selected for the BMW Innovation Lab team and will graduate debt free in December.

As a senior at Westside High School in the late 1980’s, Nick Johnson never dreamed he would be an instructor.  Today he is senior Associate Development Specialist at Robert Bosch.

He is a 1994 graduate of the College’s General Engineering Technology GET program and was accepted into Bosch’s Apprenticeship program and began working at the plant. He says the program was a launching pad for him. 

Nick, who was selected to participate in the prestigious program that provides participants with an opportunity to begin technical training (while still in high school or as a current Bosch associate) and to enjoy career-enhancing benefits.

“I always wanted to go to school and Bosch afforded me the opportunity,” said Nick, who also has a bachelor’s degree from South Carolina State University.

Denise Bailey is an accounting graduate and the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Alumni award.   At 24, she enrolled in the Accounting program, while working full-time and taking a full academic load of online and day classes.  She was working on her master’s degree when she was hired at Elliott Davis in 2006 as a staff accountant in the tax department.  She now leads the Accounting Systems Consulting Specialty Group.  Denise is chair of the Business Technology Advisory committee and devotes a considerable amount of her time helping students to prepare for careers.

Danae Gaines Acker, a 2007 Media Arts Production graduate, has gone on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is a Technology teacher for grades 6 - 8 at Robert Anderson Middle School in Anderson. She says she is proudest of her Tri-County diploma because it had the most impact on her life personally and professionally. 

Many of the College’s Media Arts Technology (then Radio and Television Broadcasting or RTV)) graduates started in the traditional role of radio or TV work –and have parlayed their talents into other avenues of communication.

Jimmy Watt, a 1989 graduate of the College’s MAP (formerly Radio and Television Broadcasting) program and is Public Information Office for the Oconee County Sheriff’s Department. He began his career in radio and later served as an on air personality with several radio stations and was traffic reporter for WYFF News 4.  He also hosted the Fifth Quarter Show for the Clemson Tigers Sports Network for several years.

Other MAP graduates who started in the traditional role of radio have parlayed their talents into other avenues of communication.  Riley Johnson is Events Coordinator for the city of Seneca after years of working as an on-air personality for WESC radio and in advertising sales. 

Michael (Porkchop) Branch continues to work in radio on air and as Operations Manager for 92.1   He also serves on the College’s MAP Advisory Committee.

Regina Wherry was in her 40’s when she began Administrative Office Technology classes.  It was her first time as a college student and she says Tri-County helped her to find direction and confidence.  Since late last year, Regina has been working as a paralegal with the law firm of White, Davis, and White in Anderson. 

Jesus De Luna Soto, a Criminal Justice graduate, is a school resource officer at Seneca Middle School.  He graduated from Tri-County in 2015 with no debt, thanks to the lottery tuition assistance and a Pell grant.   He also had multiple job offers. After working at Clemson University’s Police Department for several years, he joined the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office.

Carrie Baxley, the College’s first intern at NASA, is spending her final semester as an Industrial Electronics Technology student at Langley, Virginia, in the NASA Pathways Intern Program.

“Partnerships will continue to be key to helping us to make a difference for our students and the community,” said Dr. Booth. 

“None of our work would be possible without your involvement and partnerships,” he said to the crowd. “ I will be working with many of you in coming months but I still wish to take this opportunity to personally thank you for the support you have given to me and to the college over the last 15 years,” said Dr. Booth, who will retire in June of 2019.  “I am so proud to have had the opportunity to play a role in improving the quality of life and economic development of this beautiful golden corner of the Upstate.”