Donna Estes, program director and instructor of Health Information Management Technology at Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC), has set up a scholarship through the GNTC Foundation to assist her students in achieving their occupational certification. 

The scholarship is in memory of her late husband who was also a program director for GNTC’s Computer Information Systems (CIS) program. 

“He believed in the underdog students,” she said. “Charles always felt that no student should fall through the cracks.”

Donna met Charles, a GNTC faculty member of 16-years who passed in spring of 2019, when she first took over the Health Information Management Technology program in 2013. She said he welcomed her to the 600 Building on the Walker County Campus, where they were both located, and cheered her on as she built the program.

“Marriage was the absolute last thing I was looking for when I moved here from North Carolina,” Estes said laughing. “Our first date was to a (Chattanooga) Lookouts game on Labor Day of 2013 and we were married in December 2014.”

Estes said her passion for her program comes from her late husband’s drive to try and make things better for their students. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) administers the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) exam certification Estes’ students take towards the end of their last semester in the program. In most cases the certification is necessary to land a job post-graduation she said, and finances should not be an issue for those who can’t afford it.

“The RHIT certification is about $300,” Estes said. “It is my hope this will help someone and Charles’ name will be remembered.”

With around 50 graduates entering the workforce since she took over the program, Estes’ program boasted a 100% job placement rate for her students in Academic Year 2018. Her online only program has seen graduates enter the Atlanta, Chattanooga and northwest Georgia areas.

“We are delighted about the establishment of the Charles and Donna Estes Scholarship because it honors and continues the legacy of the late Charles Estes, a dedicated GNTC faculty member,” Lauretta Hannon, director of Institutional Advancement at GNTC said. “The GNTC Foundation is so grateful for her gift of this scholarship.”

Charles Estes is the only GNTC employee who has won both the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) award and Rick Perkins Award at the college. He was selected as the GOAL award winner in 1999 while he was a student and nine years later won the Rick Perkins Award as an instructor.