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Lanier Tech student advances in competition
GOAL program honors academics, leadership
Lanier Technical College Vice President Dr. Linda Barrow, left, announces Laura James as the winner of the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership during the award ceremony.

After being laid off from her corporate job of 30 years, Laura James knew it was time to do something different with her life.

“I was just tired of being in an office,” James said. “I wanted to be my own boss.“

She always enjoyed working outdoors, so she started a landscaping business in Lumpkin County called Going Green Lawn Service.

She knew she needed to hone her skills in order to compete in the industry, so she enrolled in Lanier Technical College.

James began taking classes in the horticulture technology program at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Campus in the fall of 2009.

James was honored Thursday evening as the Lanier Technical College winner of the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership at the college’s Oakwood campus.

GOAL is a statewide program of the Technical College System of Georgia. It honors students who demonstrate excellence in academics and leadership.

Local GOAL winners are selected at each of the technical colleges.

In February, James will compete against eight other school winners at the regional judging in Forsyth.

James and the other GOAL winners from each college will go to Atlanta in April. Three finalists from three regions will be announced in Atlanta on April 24. The 2013 state GOAL winner will be awarded a new car from Chevrolet, sponsor of the GOAL program.

Students are nominated for the award by their instructors. Gary Love, horticulture instructor, nominated James.

“She is one of the hardest-working students that I have,” Love said. “I think that comes from her having a very deep interest in horticulture. It is her livelihood.”

James said she was surprised to hear that she was the winner.

The nominees stood in front of an audience and shared the ways their lives have changed since they became students.

James said after listening to the encouraging and at times heartbreaking stories of the other nominees, she thought for sure someone else would win.

James said Lanier Technical College has had a tremendous influence on her business, family and life. Her son and daughter are also currently enrolled at the college.

“In the spring of 2010, we lost our home to a fire,” James told the crowd. “Were it not for the generosity of the administration at the Forsyth campus replacing all of our textbooks, and the understanding of our instructors, we would not have been able to complete the quarter.”

James is now set to graduate in the spring.

The Gainesville Lions Club presented James with a check for $500, and the runners-up were awarded $100. The Lanier Technical College Student Government Association also awarded the winner a plaque and a check for $450.

The runners-up were given plaques and checks for $100.