MACON — Carmel McIntyre of Macon will be honored next week by the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) at a luncheon in Atlanta in front of peers, family members, and supporters.
At 68 years old, McIntyre is the oldest, or most seasoned, GED graduate in Georgia for 2013, earning her the title of Golden GED Graduate of the Year. Each year the oldest GED graduate in Georgia is awarded with the Golden GED award and honored at a ceremony in Atlanta during the annual TCSG Adult Education Conference. This ceremony, to be held Oct. 3 at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta, is the Technical College System of Georgia’s Annual GED Awards Luncheon where some of Georgia’s best and brightest GED diploma recipients are recognized.
In her retirement, McIntyre finally got the opportunity she had sought since she was 15. She had the time and the opportunity to work toward earning a high school equivalent diploma. After moving to Macon in 2010, she researched her options and chose Central Georgia Technical College (CGTC) as the path to her future.
McIntyre who is a native of Northern Rhodesia, now known as Zambia, was forced to leave her home and her school at the age of 15 due to attacks in the Belgian Congo, now Zaire, north of her home country. Her father sought protection for his family and moved Carmel and her six siblings to Cape Town, South Africa.
At this point, Carmel and several of her siblings had to find work. She found a job as a file clerk at a shoe store and then began taking courses at night school. She gained skills in typing and learned the use of office accounting machines, and later on, computers. With the skills she learned, she had no trouble finding basic jobs such as data entry, but found that the jobs she was qualified for did not offer a sufficient salary.
In 1984, she moved to the United States with her late husband. After some time in a new country, she spent 15 years working in the tourism industry in Newport News, Virginia and eventually remarried. However, she still knew that she needed to gain the credential she had always lacked.
At age 65, she and her husband both retired and moved to Macon to be near family.
“I thought ‘finally, I have the chance’,” McIntyre said. “After we were settled, I started looking around to do my GED. I thought it might be too late, but I remembered my mother always said ‘learn something new every day, even if it’s just a recipe,’ so I made the call.”
Sallie Devero, assistant vice president for Adult Education at CGTC, answered that call and instantly gave McIntyre the assurance she needed to pursue her education.
“Ms. Devero answered the phone and it was like talking to a best friend,” said McIntyre. “She was so down to earth, so sweet, and so inviting.”
Devero encouraged her to at least give it a try.
“She told me ‘You don’t know what your potential is until you at least stretch it a little bit and see what power you really do have’.”
McIntyre stated she lacked the confidence to move forward, but after talking with Devero and the instructors at CGTC’s Adult Education Program, she found the encouragement she needed.
“I came to orientation and they found what my strengths were and my weaknesses,” she said. “It never felt like a chore. They were helpful, they were kind, they were knowledgeable, and they were patient, which is the big thing.”
Adult Education faculty at CGTC nurtured McIntyre helped her through the process she started in April 2012 of earning her GED. In May 2013, she was able to walk at the College’s graduation at the Macon Centreplex with over 100 of her peers. The only thing that defined her from the rest of the GED graduates was her age.
While McIntyre’s story is certainly not unique, she wants to use her story to encourage others and make sure people know that no matter what age or circumstances a person faces, it is never too late for education.
“Even when you’re a senior, you never give up learning,” she said. “There’s so much to learn. The more I learn, the more I realize there is so much I don’t know! So you just keep learning—don’t stop.”
McIntyre has now moved on to the next step in her education. She is pursuing a diploma in Practical Nursing at CGTC. She is in her third semester and has completed many of her core classes.
“Even if I never use the degree for a job, I at least want to have the knowledge!”
At next week’s awards luncheon, she will be cheered on by her husband and two of her sisters, the younger of which received her GED® in Atlanta three years ago. However, her entire family is very proud of her accomplishments. Her other brothers and sisters and children are spread across the globe, but she has been showered with congratulatory emails and phone calls because of her accomplishment.
Carmel is married to Wayne McIntyre and they reside in Lizella. Her stepson Chris, and his wife Marion, reside in Macon with twin daughters Stella and Campbell, age 5. Her sons both live overseas. Captain Robert-John Burt and wife Elina live in Abu Dhabi, UAE with their three children. Her son Martin Burt is a successful business owner in Johannesburg, South Africa.
CGTC offers test preparation courses, ESL classes, citizenship courses, as well as no-cost GED preparation courses at sites in 12 counties across the middle Georgia area.
If you or someone you know can benefit from the services offered through the Adult Education program at CGTC, call 478-757-6669 in Bibb County, or 478-987-6789 in Houston County.
More information about CGTC’s Adult Education program can be found at www.centralgatech.edu under the future students tab.
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