Keynote Speaker: The Honorable Casey Cagle, Lieutenant Governor of Georgia

Albany Technical College will hold Spring Commencement Exercises on Thursday, April 30, 2015, at 7pm, at the James H. Gray Civic Center in Albany. A VIP reception preceding the ceremony will be held 6pm to 6:45pm in the Meeting Room at the Civic Center.

More than 200 candidates for associate degrees, more than 500 candidates for diplomas, and more than 1,000 candidates for technical certificates of credit are expected to graduate. Among these graduates, nearly 100 students were honored at an earlier ceremony on the Albany Tech campus on Tuesday with such distinctions as General Education Development highest test scores, Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL), Presidential Scholar, Honors with Distinction, National Technical Honor Society (NTHS), ATC Ambassadors, American Criminal Justice Association Club, Collegiate DECA, Phi Beta Lambda (PBL), Student Government Association (SGA), and SkillsUSA. In addition, nearly 100 high school students will graduate with college credit through Albany Tech's dual/joint enrollment programs. Over 30 students will graduate with their General Education Development (GED®).

Among the list of graduates for Thursday evening's ceremony are four dually enrolled Dougherty County high school students who will all be graduating with their associate degrees in Engineering Technology. Jonathan Banks (Monroe Comprehensive High School), Brennon Farmer (Westover High School), Dexter Hooks (Monroe Comprehensive High School), and Brandon Johnson (Westover High School) began their journey at Albany Technical College two years ago in the Robotics Enrichment Academy in the summer and later, dually enrolled in the college's Engineering Technology programs.

Jonathan Banks, a senior and candidate for graduation at Monroe Comprehensive High School, always had a passion for art and technology. With an accumulated Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.37, Banks has participated in such groups as SkillsUSA, Beta Club, Monroe and Albany Tech Robotics teams, the 2013-2014 Albany Chapter Beautillion, Monroe Leadership Team and Art Club. He has also served as a Student Ambassador at Albany Technical College and is currently in the gifted program, engaged in the gifted internship program. A Georgia Merit Scholar, Johnson is the son of Donna Banks and Wayne Banks and says he enjoys being creative, artistic, imaginative, constructive and progressive.

"My life motto is 'Tetsuo, Nostalgia and Neotony,' said Banks.

Tetsuo is the Japanese word meaning iron man, nostalgia meaning to reminisce, and neotony being the mindset of being forever young.

"When I associate these words together, I find my philosophy of life is to grow in strength, but to have fun, remember the experiences I've had and keep a calm mind while I do so," he added.

After he graduates from high school and Albany Tech, Banks plans to attend Georgia Southern University to study Computer Science and later, to enter the workforce as a computer technician.

Brennon Farmer is a senior at Westover High School and serves as the Head of Special Committees of the National Honor Society at Westover. He is also a Students Achieving Success in Engineering Technology (SASET) math peer tutor at Albany Technical College and is also part of the First Robotics Competition Team (Titans Alliance) and a Student Ambassador at Albany Tech. He leads up the electrical division for the Titans Alliance. The son of Regina Farmer, Farmer's educational goal is to go on and earn his bachelor and master's degrees in Electrical Engineering at Georgia Tech and work as an Electrical Engineer.

Dexter "Dre'on" Hooks is a senior at Monroe Comprehensive High School. He has remained active in extracurricular activities, including being a cast member of Shorter Production Company of Blakely, Georgia, Beta Club, Monroe Comprehensive High Leadership Team, Monroe High Literary Team, Drama Team, Drive Captain for Monroe's Robotics Team and the Captain of Albany Technical College's Titans Alliance Robotics Team, which won the Rookie All-Star Award, Highest Rookie Seed Award, and Rookie Inspiration Award, all awards achieved as a First Robotics Competition (FRC) organization. He also serves as a Student Ambassador at Albany Technical College.

The son of Edric and Drenda Jackson and Dexter L. Hooks, Hooks has a creative mindset and also believes in whatever has been started must be finished. Two accomplishments he is most proud of includes perfect attendance since kindergarten and obtaining his associate's degree while still in high school.

"My desire is to never fail and accomplish all tasks placed on me," said Hooks.

After graduating from high school and with his associate's degree in Electronics Engineering Technology at Albany Technical College, Hooks plans to continue his studies at Savannah State University to obtain his bachelor's degree. He plans to continue on to earn his master's and doctorate degrees as well.

"I have two mottos that stay with me in my head no matter where I am, 'I think, therefore I am' and 'my dreams can become my realities,' " added Hooks. "These mottos are on my walls, so every morning when I see these, they let me know that no matter what I think or believe in, as long as I persevere in life and put my mind to it, I can accomplish anything."

Brandon Johnson is a senior at Westover High School. He is a member of the Westover Marching Band and the Albany Technical College Robotics Team. Serving as a Student Ambassador at Albany Technical College, Johnson's hobbies include playing guitar, video games, computers, astronomy, and listening to music. The son of Lisa and Frank Dombrowski, Johnson's career goal is to have a job in the field of Electrical Engineering. He hopes to go on to earn a bachelor and master's degree in Electronics Engineering.

"My life motto is 'never give up, strive to be better,' " said Johnson.

Keynote speaker for the ceremony will be The Honorable Casey Cagle, Lieutenant Governor of Georgia. A successful entrepreneur and respected former State Senator, Cagle made history in 2006 by becoming the first Republican elected to Georgia's second highest office. In November of 2010 and 2014, in recognition of his outstanding efforts on behalf of the state his family has called home for seven generations, Georgia voters overwhelmingly re-elected Cagle.

Raised by a single mother, Cagle learned early on the challenges that single-parent families face. With the love and support of his mother, he overcame these challenges against many odds. His mother also instilled in him the values of hard work and honesty that have defined his career in public service.

After a leg injury ended his dreams of playing college football, Cagle returned to Gainesville, Georgia in 1986, and became the proprietor of his first small business, a tuxedo rental company. At just 20 years old, he began realizing the American dream as his business expanded throughout North Georgia. After founding Southern Heritage Bank in 1999 and earning his reputation as a community and business leader in Gainesville, he focused his efforts on serving the citizens of Georgia.

In 1994, Cagle was elected the youngest state Senator at just 28 years old, and was overwhelmingly re-elected five times. In the Senate, he rapidly established himself as a capable and effective lawmaker. He was appointed to serve as Chairman of the Finance Committee, Vice Chairman of Science and Technology, and as a member of the Appropriations Committee and Natural Resources Committee. His ability to build consensus made him a successful leader in lowering taxes, protecting private property rights, and standing up for Georgia's families.

In 2006, Cagle became Georgia's 11th Lieutenant Governor. As the first ever Republican in Georgia to serve in that office, he focused his conservative principles to help make Georgia a place where businesses could grow and families could prosper. Championing the Charter Systems Act, he improved education in the state, while providing a path to career technical education for Georgia's high school students.

Additionally, Cagle launched the Georgia College and Career Academy Network, a partnership between local community leaders, school systems, and Georgia's technical colleges. The college and career academies provide a relevant and rigorous curriculum aimed at preparing students for a highly skilled, 21st Century economy upon graduation. Thanks to Cagle's leadership, Georgia has 33 college and career academies with additional academies planned every year.

An avid triathlete, Cagle leads Healthy Kids Georgia, an effort to encourage local partnerships that introduce children to healthy lifestyle options. Under the slogan of "Be Fit. Be Healthy. Be You," the initiative helps acquaint children with ways to improve their health and wellness. Working together, local communities are beginning to stem the tide of childhood obesity in ways that are proven to increase academic achievement and reduce long-term healthcare costs.

Cagle's leadership has been recognized beyond the state of Georgia as well. After being renamed one of the 100 most influential Georgians, Cagle was one of four public servants in the country to be honored by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools with the Champion for Charters Award.

Notwithstanding his many accomplishments in private and public life, Cagle is most proud to be a husband and a father. He has been married to Nita, his high school sweetheart, for 28 years and they are the proud parents of three sons: Jared, Grant, and Carter. They live in Chestnut Mountain and are active members of Blackshear Place Baptist Church.

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