ATC’s newest graduates translate classwork into careers

May 8, 2019

Before they turned their tassels Tuesday night, Aiken Technical College graduates Morgan Brewer and Michael Meshey already had turned a new corner that took them from the classroom to careers at the Savannah River Site.

Brewer and Meshey, both graduates of ATC’s two-year radiation protection technology program, were among more than 400 students who received their degrees during commencement in the Convocation Center at USC Aiken. They started working and training in March and will go into the field in June.

Brewer started working full-time in March while going to school full-time, too.

“I get up at 4 in the morning and don’t get home until 9 at night,” said Brewer, who is from Aiken. “It’s definitely long days, but it’s been worth it, for sure. I’m glad I’m in the career I want to be in.”

Meshey, of North Augusta, said having a job before graduation means not having to worry about paying back student loans.

“Being able to get a paycheck so soon while still in school is really nice,” Meshey said.

Both Brewer and Meshey agreed ATC gave them the technical training to meet the challenges of their new careers.

“All of our studies has given us the upper hand,” Brewer said. “We already know the material.”

“What they’re teaching us in training is almost a refresher of what Aiken Tech has already given us,” Meshey said.

Brewer said graduation had been a “long time coming,” and Meshey answered without hesitation when asked what he’s looking forward to now that school is over.

“No more physics,” he said.

ATC President Dr. Forest Mahan welcomed the graduates and their families and supporters.

“Graduates, the primary reason you are graduating today is because you decided to invest in your future and you made it happen,” he said, asking the audience to applaud their perseverance.

Mahan also recognized the 12 Midland Valley High School students in the first graduating class of the Early College program. A partnership between ATC and Aiken County Public Schools, Early College allows Midland Valley students to earn either an Associate of Arts or an Associate of Science Degree – or both – while still in high school and participating in extracurricular activities.

“In this cohort of 12, there are athletes, a high-ranking officer in the Naval Junior ROTC, two outstanding student award recipients here at Aiken Tech, honor society members, former junior marshals and double majors,” Mahan said. “Even with all of these activities, this cohort was able to maintain high grade point averages, ranging from 3.2 to 4.0 on a four-point scale.”

Students in the Early College program can transfer their credits to four-year colleges and universities.

“That will allow them potentially receive their bachelors’ degrees by the age of 20,” Mahan said. “This is an amazing accomplishment. In fact, you’re receiving your college degree about a month before you receive your high school diploma. To say you’re advanced is an understatement.”

During the ceremony, Mahan also recognized the faculty member and staff member of the year.

Dr. Brian Logan, the chairman of the science department, received the faculty award, and Shareffa Harris, an administrative assistant in the academic and student affairs division, received the staff award.

Dr. Thomas J. Clark, Command Sgt. Maj. (retired), the executive director of the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon, gave the commencement address.

In his position, Clark promotes, coordinates and advocates for the “Fort Gordon Cyber District” to stimulate investment in cyber growth and capitalize on opportunities to benefit the community, according the the commencement program.