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by Lauren Anderson

When Latissa Jones was laid off from her job in the banking industry, she was naturally concerned about her family, her lifestyle and her future. After all, she was raising and homeschooling five children (with another on the way), all while trying to get her own small nonprofit business off the ground.

Instead of dwelling on her circumstances, she used that time to evaluate her life and career. "I decided: I”m 40-something, and the show is half over. This is intermission. Now it”s time to take care of my passion and spend the rest of my life doing what I love," Jones says. Culinary arts is that love.

She researched culinary options at multiple colleges and signed on with Gwinnett Technical College, despite a commute that would span 90-miles round trip.

"If I was going to do it, I was going to do it right… with Gwinnett Tech. The online courses and flexible schedule offset my commute and fit into my world," Jones says.

"Even though the commute may be long, I compared all schools with culinary arts programs and talked to instructors – and decided that Gwinnett Tech had the new, more advanced equipment and technology, with instructors that still practice in the field and speak from experience not just textbooks," Jones says. "That sealed the deal for me. I knew my choice was Gwinnett Tech."

Jones is by no means alone in her selection of Gwinnett Tech as the right fit for her career goals. Enrollment for spring quarter is up more than eleven percent, the largest increase among Metro Atlanta technical colleges. Gwinnett Tech is one of 34 technical colleges in the state system.

Noted for up-to-the minute program offerings, instructional flexibility and a nimble approach to curriculum development, technical colleges reflect a national trend toward career-focused education and life-long learning. Many of the fastest growing fields today – such as healthcare and IT – are perfectly suited to those earning a two-year associate degree like that offered at Gwinnett Tech.

Gwinnett Tech”s course delivery also has student lifestyles in mind. Classes are offered on a quarterly basis for faster completion of programs, and students have the option of night, weekend and extensive online classes.

Fast and flexible works perfectly for Jones. As if the 90-mile commute wasn”t enough, her car "died" earlier this year. Undaunted, she has been taking three separate county transportation systems to get to school, a two-hour trek to and from her home in Jonesboro.

The extended bus commute "gives me lots of study time," she laughs.

This positive outlook and dedication to her studies has not only propelled Jones in her educational goals but also helped her earn the title of Gwinnett Tech”s 2007 Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) winner.

"Latissa certainly personifies the model “technical college student”," says Gwinnett Tech President Sharon Rigsby. "The student life-learners on our campus like Latissa – 50 percent of whom are over the age of 26 – are similarly dedicated

go-getters with many demands on them related to jobs, family and, as in Latissa”s case, drive time. Their dedication fuels their desire to be successful and, thus, makes them excellent hiring candidateswith bright futures."

Looking for a career that fuels your fire or pacifies your passion? Gwinnett Tech has added a number of new programs this year to help get you started, including:

  • Bioscience Technology degree and certificates, preparing students to perform clinical research studies of drugs or medical devices on humans.
  • Cyber Crime Specialist cert