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First Hall Drug Court group graduates from Lanier Tech skills program
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Former Governor Nathan Deal shakes hands with Larry Galvez as part of a Drug Court pilot program ceremony Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, graduating participants who completed a training program at Lanier Tech for job preparedness. - photo by Scott Rogers

Nearly three years ago after a time of partying and selling drugs, Larry Galvez said his attorney gave him three options: years in prison, a prison-based rehab program or Drug Court.

The third door, one of Hall County’s accountability court programs that seeks rehabilitative solutions outside of incarceration, was Galvez’s choice.

“It was very challenging for me, but I made it through,” Galvez said. “I know if I could do it, everybody else can do it. You just have to put your mind into it.”

Galvez and eight others were recognized Friday, Nov. 13, as the first cohort, or group, in the state of Georgia to graduate from a workforce development program through Hall County Drug Court.

Participants of the “workplace fundamental skills training” program, which was a partnership between Drug Court, Lanier Technical College and WorkSource Georgia Mountains, completed 120 hours of instruction in areas such as computer training, electrical, welding, forklift operation and other professional skills. The costs were covered by a grant from Lanier Tech and WorkSource Georgia Mountains, said Hall County Treatment Services Director Jessi Emmett.

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“We are so proud of our participants and their accomplishments,” Emmett wrote in an email. “Each individual put many hours into their studies and now have a stronger foundation for better employment and a brighter future for themselves.”

Working the third shift, Galvez would finish work at 7:30 a.m. before heading to the Lanier Tech programs.

“I had to drink a lot of coffee,” he said.

Lanier Tech’s vice president for economic development Carl Rogers said the program’s genesis came three years ago after a call from former Gov. Nathan Deal’s office.

“Governor Deal has always had a passion that people should have a second chance,” Rogers said.

The former governor handed the graduates their certificates and spoke at the ceremony about this experiment that the participants proved to be a success. Deal said he predicts “that you’re going to see a wealth of job opportunities opening up.”

“We’re all very, very proud of each one of you,” Deal said. “I hope you’re proud of yourselves. You should be. As has already been said, this is not the end. This is just the beginning as a step that will hopefully be very beneficial to you in the future.”

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Kristina Smith receives a certificate from former Governor Nathan Deal in the first cohort of a Drug Court pilot program Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, graduating participants after completing a training program at Lanier Tech for job preparedness. - photo by Scott Rogers

The nine participants who completed the Lanier Tech manufacturing skills curriculum are moving on to different paths. Some are pursuing their GED, while one person working in Lawrenceville wants to “use his creativity skills to start his own company,” said Drug Court coordinator Suzanne Stanley.

One woman is employed with Fox Factory as a result of her participation in the Lanier Tech program, and others are interested in continuing their education at Lanier Tech.

“Take advantage of this,” said Lanier Tech executive vice president Tim McDonald at the ceremony. “Never forget that you’re writing your own history book, and today you closed a chapter. … What’s the next chapter? Think about what that is, and let us help you. There’s plenty of people that will support you.”

Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden, who presides over the accountability court along with Judge Jason Deal, said the program provides practical skills for manufacturing careers

“given the growth of that sector that we’re fortunate to have” in Hall County.

“It opens a pathway to have skills in those areas that could lead to employment with those manufacturing companies and/or promotion within those companies, creating better financial opportunities for some of our participants and some skilled workforce members for manufacturers,” Bearden said in a statement. “Like a college degree, not everyone that did the program works in manufacturing currently, but if they wanted to explore that career path, they have some marketable skills in that arena now due to this program.”

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Lanier Technical College Vice-President for Economic Development Carl Rogers welcomes participants Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, in the first cohort of a Drug Court pilot program that have completed a training program at Lanier Tech for job preparedness. - photo by Scott Rogers
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