Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) announced Drafting Technology student William Robert Rutledge as its 2022 Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) winner and Crista Resch, director of Ultrasound programs and instructor of Vascular Sonography, as the college’s 2022 Rick Perkins Instructor of the Year.

The winners were named during a ceremony on GNTC’s Gordon County Campus in Calhoun. The Rome Floyd Chamber, the Seven Hills Rotary Club of Rome and GNTC sponsored the awards.

The presentation also recognized Calhoun resident Shannon Edwards as Georgia Northwestern’s 2022 Dinah Culbreath Wayne EAGLE Leadership Institute representative. The institute recognizes and honors those students who have demonstrated superior achievement in Adult Education classes and programs.

Cory Allen, director of Drafting Technology at GNTC, nominated Rutledge for the GOAL award.

“Robert has been an outstanding student exemplifying strong work ethics, technical skill and a knack for leadership,” Allen said. “He holds great core values and not only succeeds, but helps propel other students to success.”

A panel of judges representing business, industry and higher education in the northwest Georgia region selected Rutledge from a group of four semi-finalists for his presentation on technical education at the Rome Floyd Chamber on Jan. 25.

“The skills that I have learned so far in my pursuit of an associate degree have already resulted in a job promotion from my current employer,” said Rutledge, a resident of Chattanooga, Tenn.

On Dec. 19, 2002, Rutledge was arrested after leading police on a high-speed chase that involved the Georgia State Patrol, Fulton County Police and a helicopter.

“As the officers are approaching me with their 9mms pointed at me screaming at me to ‘put the pipe down, put the pipe down,’ I was trying to get my last hit of crack cocaine,” Rutledge said.

He was sentenced to 17 years in prison without the possibility of parole. Rutledge said that at the beginning of his incarceration, his intention was to stay high. In 2005, he reached a turning point when he realized that his addiction was to blame for his incarceration and that he may never get to see his mom again.

“I saw the concrete and steel for the first time and knew that this was going to be my life for the next 15 years,” Rutledge said. “I begged God to give me the strength to never use an illegal substance for as long as I live and I am still sober to this day.”

Not long after that, Rutledge was transferred to a prison with a metal fabrication facility and was assigned a work detail at Georgia Correctional Industries (CGI) metal fabrication plant.

“It was when I got assigned to the work detail at the metal fabrication plant, having a machinists’ background, I started remembering who I was,” Rutledge said. “It was my work detail at CGI that gave me purpose, it gave me a schedule, it gave me the motivation to learn new things in the metal fabrication trade.”

Rutledge designed a reception desk for the Governor’s Office in the Georgia State Capitol Building while he was in the transition phase towards the end of his incarceration. Upon release from prison, he immediately signed up for classes at GNTC and was hired by CGI as a CAD Draftsman. He was onsite at the State Capitol during the installation of the desk.

“From my certificate in machine tool technology to the current skills I have gained in CAD programming, my technical education has provided me with a job all my adult life even when I was in prison,” Rutledge said.

As the 2022 GOAL Winner for Georgia Northwestern, Rutledge will move on to the regional competition and if chosen as a regional winner he will compete at the state level against winners from the other regions of Georgia. A panel of leaders from business, industry and government will choose the Technical College System of Georgia’s GOAL winner for 2022 and recipient of the GOAL medallion. The 2022 Student of the Year and state GOAL winner will serve as TCSG’s student ambassador during a number of system and college functions throughout the year.

As the grand prize, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia will award a new automobile to the state GOAL winner.

Crista Resch has been an instructor at GNTC since 2011. She is the program director of all Sonography Programs, which includes Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Adult Echocardiography and Vascular Sonography, and is also the instructor of Vascular Sonography at GNTC.

Prior to joining Georgia Northwestern, she served as staff development coordinator and registered vascular technologist at Harbin Clinic. During her close to 10 years at Harbin Clinic, Resch sat on the Advisory Board for the Ultrasound programs at Georgia Northwestern and acted as the primary clinical instructor for GNTC’s Vascular Sonography students.

Resch says that her career-long dedication to technical education stems from her experience as a student in college.

“We provide the best education and preparation that our graduates need to be successful. I know this first-hand because of my own personal experience as a graduate of GNTC,” said Resch. “I graduated from the very first Vascular Technology program at GNTC when it was named Coosa Valley Technical College.”

After earning her associate degree in Vascular Technology at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Resch attended Reinhardt University in Waleska and received her bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration. She was on the president’s or dean’s list every semester and quarter at both colleges.

“Even though I have been here over 10 years now, every December when a new class graduates, passes their national board exams and obtains employment, the overwhelming feeling of pride and excitement never fades,” Resch said.

Resch also says that her experience as a technical college student has given her a better understanding of what students go through in their studies and clinicals.

“I know that I had a hand in helping them be able to accomplish their achievements,” Resch said. “Their success is important to me because I know the struggles they have faced along the way. I have been there, I have been in their shoes.”

Resch was a previous nominee for Rick Perkins Instructor of the Year at GNTC in 2021. Her professional accomplishments include Registered Vascular Technologist at the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, 2013 to present; Organization member of Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, 2001 to present; and Basic Life Support Instructor at the American Heart Association, 2013 to present.

She is an active member of the Church at Rome and serves as a volunteer for several extracurricular activities at Johnson Elementary School, Model Middle School and Model High School.

As GNTC’s Rick Perkins Instructor of the Year, Resch will compete in the regional competition. If chosen as a regional winner, she will compete at the state level in the competition. A panel of leaders from business, industry and government will choose one instructor to be the 2022 Technical College System of Georgia’s Rick Perkins Instructor of the Year. The winner will receive a $2,500 cash prize. The Rick Perkins Award winner serves as an ambassador for technical education in Georgia. He or she will make many public appearances throughout the year, including addressing both chambers of the Georgia General Assembly.

The most recent state winners to represent GNTC were 2019 Rick Perkins Award winner Leyner Argueta, program director of Business Management, and 2013 Rick Perkins Award winner, Troy Peco, director of the Automotive Technology program.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of Northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma or a certificate in business, health, industrial or public service career paths. This past year, 11,820 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. GNTC has an annual credit enrollment of 8,591 students and an additional enrollment of 3,229 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training and Georgia Quick Start. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.