GNTC graduate forging bright future with welding diploma

May 2, 2022

When Josh Foster graduates from Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s (GNTC) Welding and Joining Technology program this semester, he is leaving with a diploma and renewed self-confidence.

Foster, 20, said he quit private high school at 17 to pursue his General Educational Development® (GED®) diploma after his brother, who is three years older, graduated and was no longer there to protect him.

“The other parents weren’t accepting that my brother and I had a single mother,” he said. “Their parents weren’t kind to my mother, and the other students weren’t kind to me.”

When he enrolled in GED® classes at GNTC’s Office of Adult Education, he knew immediately that the GED® program would be different than any of his previous academic experiences, he said, adding that Adult Education Lead Teacher and Site Manager Elisa Allgood Curole was kind and understanding and provided the one-on-one attention students needed so that the whole class could succeed.

“Josh had anger issues stemming from his failure to fit in with the other kids at the private school,” Curole said. “He found his fit in our classes. He determined his own work schedule, worked with his teacher to master the subjects in which he needed to test, and within four months, earned his HSE (High School Equivalency).”

Upon completing the GED® diploma in 2020, he opted for the Welding and Joining Technology diploma program as an affordable, two-year education. He attends classes on the Walker County Campus in Rock Spring.

“The moment I stepped foot in the welding lab, I knew welding was for me,” he said.

GNTC welding student Josh Foster waits as an automated guide feeds a metal plate to the track torch.
GNTC welding student Josh Foster waits as an automated guide feeds a metal plate to the track torch.

“Josh’s personality suits this profession well because in the welding industry you must be willing to work hard, and Josh is willing to do whatever work is needed to be done, and completes it on time,” said Tayler Davidson, instructor of Welding and Joining Technology. “One thing I believe that has helped Josh the most is establishing a strong work ethic.”

Davidson said he met Foster about a year ago and has watched his attitude transform.

“I feel now that Josh is more positive about working, he seems to enjoy working more, and his confidence in working and in general has improved tremendously,” he said. “Josh is a very smart, dedicated and hardworking individual who sets goals that he wants to achieve and does whatever it takes to achieve those goals.”

Foster said he got a pipe-fitter job with Callahan Mechanical Contractors Inc. in Chattanooga in November 2021 as he continued his education.

“His boss has graciously worked with Josh so that his job schedule and class schedule do not conflict, and he has moved from temporary employee to a permanent member of their team,” Curole said.

Foster said the most important lesson he learned at GNTC has been that “you can fall down as many times as you need to. All that matters is that you get back up.”

His education at GNTC has also boosted his self-esteem, which was poor when he first enrolled, he said.

“My experience at GNTC has given me a much greater respect for the time and effort that teachers put in,” he said. “It taught me the value of patience and, especially, hard work. As long as you don’t let the world affect you too much, you can be as great as you want to be.”

Foster’s achievements not only mark a victory for him but also exemplify what other students who have faced hurdles in their high school education can achieve with a nudge in the right direction and some encouragement.

“We work with them to develop the skills to find gainful employment and/or enroll in a program of study at GNTC,” Curole said. “We help them overcome stigmas that they may have attached to school and learning because of past, bad experiences. We encourage them to strive to do the best and be the best that they can be.”

The Office of Adult Education helps students to do more than earn their GED® diploma, Curole said.

“Yes, we act as surrogate parents and therapists, but we get to see the potential that is inherent in every student grow and take shape as the student realizes that he or she can accomplish great things with hard work,” she explained.

Curole acknowledged some GNTC students who come from even worse circumstances rise above them to graduate.

“But most of those students at least had their high school diploma when they started their GNTC journey. Josh started further down the ladder. He had to complete that step before he even started,” she said. “I am proud of the young man he has become.”

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 aviation, business, health, industrial or public service career paths. This past year, 11,134 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. GNTC has an annual credit enrollment of 8,528 students and an additional enrollment of 2,606 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. 

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