What do Kayla Dragon, Elizabeth Lemmons, Hensley Rutan and Jason Padgett have in common?
They all hail from Richmond Hill, they are all pursuing careers essential to helping their community thrive, and they all recently earned technical college scholarships to help them do just that though the Coastal Electric Cooperative Foundation.
Over 14,000 Coastal Electric Cooperative members allow their electric bills to be rounded up to the next dollar through Operation Round Up, according to the Cooperative. Those nickels and dimes are pooled together and invested back into the community to assist with the food, health, safety, education and shelter needs of citizens in South Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh and Long counties.
A 2020 graduate of Richmond Hill High School, Kayla Dragon is on the emergency medical services pathway at Athens Technical College. She hopes to complete the program to become a paramedic, “to help others in urgent situations.” Through Dragon’s part-time work as a restaurant server, she has gained teamwork skills, experience helping people and the ability to work in a fast-paced environment.
Elizabeth Lemmons began the aviation maintenance program at Savannah Technical College after graduating from Richmond Hill High School in 2020. Her goal is to work as an aviation mechanic, preferably in a specialized field. “I value doing my work properly and consider safety a key element,” Lemmons said. “In the aviation maintenance program, I have gained experience in real-world skills such as punctuality and accountability.”
Hensley Rutan graduated from Richmond Hill High School in 2020 and is in the machinist program at Savannah Technical College. His goal is to become a machinist for an aerospace or automotive company, where he says he wants to work on the cutting edge of technology. “I have always been a hands-on learner and creator,” Rutan said. “The career of a machinist hits the sweet spot of who I am. I am truly blessed to be part of the Richmond Hill community. Along with great family support, I have had great mentors in my life. I have so many people to thank – my family, my teachers, coaches, and scout leaders because they have all played a role in getting me where I am today.
Jason Padgett, a 2021 graduate of Richmond Hill High School, plans to attend Savannah Technical College this fall to begin the Fire Science program to further his dream of working for the Richmond Hill Fire Department. “Growing up, I was always taught to give back to my community, and what better way to do that than working for the Richmond Hill Fire Department,” Padgett said. “I'm passionate about firefighting and am eager to join the force, getting to give back to everyone that gave so much for me over the course of my life.”
For years, the Foundation awarded scholarships to students attending traditional colleges and technical schools alike, but beginning in 2019, the Coastal Electric Cooperative Foundation began offering additional scholarships specifically for local students attending tech school.
“The Foundation was looking to expand the scholarship program and opportunities for our local students,” said Coastal Electric CEO Chris Fettes. “By reducing some of the financial hardships of higher education, we’re hopeful that these investments will lead to promising careers in vocational and technical trades that will serve and support our members. With these scholarships, it’s entirely possible to go to technical school for a year and a half or two years and graduate work ready, with zero student loan debt,” Fettes said. “A student can pursue a rewarding career in a critical field and make their start without heavy financial burdens.”
The Coastal Electric Cooperative Foundation technical college scholarships are renewable, and are available to students of all ages pursuing a diploma degree or certificate program from any of the 88 campuses of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) or a recognized electric lineworker school in Georgia.
For more information on how to apply, eligibility requirements, scholarship amounts and deadlines, visit CoastalElectric.Coop/Scholarships.