Tifton Gazette


February 5, 2014

Moultrie Tech names Fitzgerald native Julie McDonald as 2014 GOAL honoree

MOULTRIE — A job layoff and free 20-minute massage at the Ronald McDonald House in Jacksonville, Fla., where her young daughter was recuperating as a patient, have made all the difference in the world for Moultrie Technical College (MTC) Neuromuscular Massage Therapy (NMT) program student Julie McDonald of Fitzgerald.

Both of these life-altering events brought McDonald to Moultrie Tech and helped her gain her most recent achievement as MTC’s 2014 Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) winner. The announcement was made Wednesday at the annual GOAL luncheon on the Moultrie Veterans Parkway Campus.

Out of approximately 2,000 students at Moultrie Tech, annual GOAL winners represent the College as the one Student of the Year. All 25 of Georgia’s technical colleges statewide, as well as one Board of Regents school with a technical division, present these awards. Local winners serve as ambassadors to their communities on behalf of their colleges. McDonald, 42, will represent the College in its service area of Colquitt, Tift, Turner and Worth counties.

Her journey to a career in neuromuscular massage therapy began with the birth of her youngest child, Callie Lowery, ten years ago. Callie needed physical and occupational therapy to help relieve the symptoms of arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that affects the joints and muscles.

McDonald says she saw how much therapy helped her daughter, and McDonald herself enjoyed learning how to perform the hands-on work for Callie. She explains that, one day following a long day of doctors’ appointments in Jacksonville, she was offered a 20-minute massage at no charge at the Ronald McDonald House where she and Callie were staying. McDonald says that, as an exhausted parent and caregiver, those few minutes changed her life. She made a commitment then to give back.

In 2010 McDonald, who is originally from Knoxville, Tenn., but has lived in South Georgia for 17 years, earned a diploma in Early Childhood Care and Education from East Central Technical College. She went on to employment as a Pre-K teacher’s assistant at a local childcare center until she was laid off from that position in the Spring of 2013. When she learned of the pending closure of the center, she took the steps to complete the additional core course work she would need to be prepared for the competitive admissions process into Moultrie Tech’s Neuromuscular Massage Therapy program. The program is one of only two at technical colleges in the state of Georgia – the other being in Rome. For McDonald, things were beginning to come full circle.

She says of her choice to attend technical college, “I wanted to make the most amount of money in the least amount of time. And the only way I could do that was through technical education.”

The transition to Moultrie Tech and into the program has not been without its trials. McDonald lives in Moultrie during the week so she can concentrate full-time on her studies in the rigorous, one-year NMT program. She is able to spend weekends with husband Andy and her three children, Ean, 16, Drew, 12, and Callie, 10, in Fitzgerald.

When asked how she juggles it all, McDonald said, “You just do it. My kids are proud of me and are rooting for me. I’m doing this to provide a better life for my family. I’m proud of the example I’m setting for my children.”

McDonald, who was nominated for the award by her instructor Michaela Underwood, expects to graduate from MTC’s Neuromuscular Massage Therapy program in August. Her career aspirations include working in a rehabilitation facility with patients who suffer from chronic injuries or chronic pain, in addition to offering relaxation and deep tissue massage therapy for other clients as part-time employment.

She says it’s about providing people with a “better quality of life.” Volunteering her time as a licensed massage therapist following graduation, adds McDonald, is just as important as finding a paying job. She plans to help people through therapeutic touch by giving back at the Ronald McDonald House in Jacksonville and as a volunteer in hospice care.

“I want to give a sense of calm and peace to patients,” added McDonald. “Your job can be your passion.”

Of winning MTC’s GOAL Student of the Year title, she said, “It was humbling and exciting to be recognized for all my hard work and the sacrifices I’ve made. It’s a true honor. I’m excited to represent Moultrie Tech – a great school, a great faculty, a great staff.”

Also honored at Wednesday’s luncheon were McDonald’s fellow GOAL finalists - Business Administrative Technology program student Chance Caskey of the MTC Tifton Campus and Practical Nursing program student Tiffany Erving and Medical Assisting program student Timothy Walker, both of the Moultrie Campus – as well as 19 additional nominees.

The Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce workforce development committee, represented by Chamber Vice President of Marketing Terry Shuler, presented McDonald with a cash award of $200 and each runner-up with a $100 prize. McDonald also received a scholarship from the Moultrie Tech Foundation to assist with expenses for the regional and state competitions.

For the third year Moultrie Technical College’s Tifton Campus will host the regional GOAL competition on March 10 in which winners representing nine technical colleges will compete for three available state finalist positions from within the region. McDonald will be one of the competitors and will vie for a regional finalist slot.

Moultrie Tech administrators say they are optimistic about McDonald’s chances at the regional and state levels. A statewide winner will be selected at the state GOAL competition in Atlanta in April and will travel the state for a full year on behalf of Georgia’s Technical College System. Carmaker Chevrolet will donate a 2014 vehicle to the state’s winner.

McDonald said of the opportunity to win a new car, “I can already envision myself driving that car!”


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