An 18-year-old dual enrollment student is getting ready to receive an associate degree in Applied Technical Management and a diploma in Welding and Joining Technology from Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) as well as his high school diploma from Rome High School when he graduates this May.
Andrew Harrell is currently taking six college level courses at GNTC while also taking one virtual high school course. When he is not in the classroom or in the welding lab, he is on the road competing and winning in welding competitions. So far this year, Harrell has won $11,000 in scholarship money as well as a customized Lincoln Redface SA 200 welding machine.
“The welding machine is what I am most excited about,” said Harrell. “I think that makes three or four machines I have at home.”
The GNTC student said when he bought a flux core-welding machine at 16-years old he knew he wanted to pursue a career in welding. Harrell started his career path as a dual enrollment student at GNTC and began taking a mix of evening and night classes. While classes were on hold in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harrell broke his back while riding dirt bikes with his friends.
“That didn’t stop him,” GNTC Welding Instructor Clint Chadwick said. “When we began having limited labs during the summer, Andrew was in the welding booth working hard despite his injury.”
For Harrell, the hardest part of dual enrollment for him was not his injury. Instead, it was learning how to balance his time between high school and college classes as well as sports and extracurricular activities. Harrell took a break from baseball this year and has been traveling to compete in various welding competitions. He represented Rome High School in the SkillsUSA Georgia competition and placed first. He will represent his high school post-graduation at the SkillsUSA national competition later this year.
“He won the region and state competition. If he does well at nationals he will have the chance to compete at the WorldSkills Competition,” Chadwick said.
After winning at the gold medal at SkillsUSA Georgia, Harrell received an invitation to participate at an American Welding Society (AWS) competition at Georgia Trade School in Acworth. Harrell placed first at the competition, winning a $1,000 scholarship that he applied to tuition costs.
Harrell also traveled to Flemingsburg, Kentucky, this year to compete against 123 welders from 17 different states at the Kentucky Welding Institute (KWI). The dual enrollment student placed first, winning a $10,000 scholarship to KWI and the custom welding machine. Since the scholarship is conditional to KWI exclusively, Harrell is weighing his post-graduation options.
“I have to think about how I would support myself if I moved to Kentucky,” he said. “Everything besides tuition would be out-of-pocket and I don’t know if I am ready for that yet.”
In the meantime, Harrell is working towards a job at Mullins Mechanical & Welding LLC. in Carrollton. “I know someone who works there and it just feels right,” said Harrell.
According to Chadwick, Harrell worked hard to make sure he had everything wrapped up this spring.
“While attending GNTC, Andrew has taken both day and evening classes. His current class load is over what a traditional full-time student would take,” Chadwick said. “He is ultimately in the position he is in because of his work ethic.”
Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s (GNTC) Spring Commencement Ceremony will be held in Rome at the Floyd County Campus as a drive-thru ceremony tonight at 7 p.m. Spring semester GNTC graduates from all six campuses are invited to attend the ceremony.
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. For more information about GNTC, visit us at www.GNTC.edu. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.