CHATECH, VW Help Honor GNTC’s Darraj: Northwest Georgia mother awarded collegiate scholarship

June 18, 2019
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Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) student Kathrin Darraj was simply looking for a career that would help her spend more time at home when she considered learning how to design websites. And now, after less than a year of collegiate study, she is catching the attention of the right people. Now, there are some companies investing their money in her education.

In partnership with Volkswagen Group of America, Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Technology Council (CHATECH) awarded the Ringgold, Georgia mother with a $1,000 ChaTech Scholar Award Scholarship on June 12. She was one of 21 different winners from across the Tennessee Valley to be honored at a special ceremony held at Chattanooga’s Howard School.

Darraj, a 47-year-old mother of two, is enrolled in GNTC’s all-online Web Site Design & Development program.  But, that’s not the only reason she truly appreciates the value of technology and education.  “Actually, I have recently taught online classes myself and have since become more interested in the technical aspect of it all,” said Darraj. “And, with my teenage sons at home, technology plays a huge role for us.”

Georgia Northwestern Technical College CISCO & Computer Information Systems Program Director Dr. Dwight Watt poses with his student Kathrin Darraj after an awards ceremony at Chattanooga’s Howard School on June 12.”
Georgia Northwestern Technical College CISCO & Computer Information Systems Program Director Dr. Dwight Watt poses with his student Kathrin Darraj after an awards ceremony at Chattanooga’s Howard School on June 12.”

Darraj has a 17-year-old son who is mostly non-verbal and is home-schooled. She also has a 14-year-old son who takes courses online through Georgia’s Cyber Academy, as well as being a dual enrollment student. “I was looking for a career that would allow me to work a good amount of time, or all of the time, from home so I could help care for my family.”

With the additional aid in hand, it may help Darraj pursue her latest interest. “Now that I’m in the Web Site Design and Development program, I’m really interested in the Cyber Security program. Because I’m learning you really can’t do much Web Design without having to consider and implement some sort of Cyber Security measures,” added Darraj.

It was GNTC’s CISCO & Computer Information Systems Program Director Dr. Dwight Watt who suggested Darraj apply for the scholarship. “It’s often hard to know enough about a student in an online program to understand where they are coming from,” said Dr. Watt. “But, Kathrin (Darraj) really stood out to me. She is very thorough in her work and is always eager to dive in and investigate more than most. I couldn’t be happier for her.”

As much as this money will help Darraj and her fellow scholarship winners with the expenses of college, it is just as important to our economy that she succeeds. “Just a few years back, the south was a place where you’d find low wages, low skilled, low education jobs,” said Chattanooga (TN) Mayor Andy Berke. “So, what we have to do is have thriving industries and sectors which will change the course of that. The city that I grew up in was dying. We needed to be a place that was thriving. I think we’ve done an incredible job doing that over the last six years and ChaTech has been a part of that.”

After carefully reviewing scholarship applications from across the region, ChaTech awarded $22,500 to 21 scholar award winners for 2019. “That’s a huge jump over the awards we’ve offered in year’s past,” said ChaTech Executive Director Carla Askonas. “We want to thank our sponsor Volkswagen for a $10,000 grant which helped fund this year’s awards.”

Volkswagen Group of America, Chattanooga’s Chief Information Officer Knut Hilles spoke about how vital it is to help fund these scholarships. “It has been a pleasure to be part of this scholarship program for the past six years,” said Hilles. “Just 10 years ago or so, we would go through dozens of applications for I.T. jobs and there was a lack of qualified applicants, a lack of talent. However, this has changed over the past six years and we are excited about the business model for the future now.”

To learn more about the GNTC Foundation, or information on any of the more than 200 programs offered at GNTC, visit the college at You can also contact any one of our six campus locations at 866-983-4682. GNTC offers classes online and on-campus at the Catoosa, Floyd, Gordon, Polk, Walker, and Whitfield Murray Campuses in Northwest Georgia.

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, 12,785 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,499 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 5,286 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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