Students in Middle Georgia have until June 30 to take advantage of a Central Georgia Technical College scholarship provided for by a grant from the Georgia Driver's Education Commission that provides funds for the driver's education course at the college.
According to Andrew Parham, business and industry services specialist and the program administrator for driver's education at CGTC, the grant provided $19,940 in startup costs for equipment, gas, maintenance of vehicles and instructor training. In addition, the college received four driving simulators and two new 2015 Kia Optimas to support the program. Scholarships are available for up to 286 students to take the class. The scholarships are valued at $350 per student for the driver's education class.
The cars, according to Parham, are equipped with passenger side brakes for the instructor and adapted rear view mirrors. Also, they are marked to let the public know the vehicles are used for student driving. The cars also have cameras that record what is going on inside and outside the car while it is being driven.
More than 100 students have already taken advantage of this program since cost is no longer a factor, according to Parham.
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"Prior to the grant ... I can say that in a given month, during football season, we may have had a class from four to six students," he said. "This year, with the grant, we had a class of 20 students during football season. The class size has doubled... it's an opportunity to go to students in rural areas ... they can come and capitalize off the scholarship and grant, also. The cost factor to them has been eliminated."
Janet Kelly, assistant vice president for marketing and public relations for CGTC, said the driver's education class provides 30 hours of classroom instruction and six hours of behind the wheel experience with a trained instructor, and the class meets all requirements mandated under Joshua's Law. This program is offered by CGTC in partnership with the Georgia Driver's Education Commission, and the classes will be provided by the college in its 11-county service area.
According to Parham, the classes will be held at the Warner Robins, Macon and Milledgeville campuses, and possibly at the high schools. With the money from the grant, the college can now have three driver's education classes going on at the same time. In the past, the class was only offered at the Corder Road location in Warner Robins. In order to have the class at a high school, though, the class must have at least 15 students.
"The grant gave us the capability of more equipment that we could utilize at our satellite centers," Parham said. "We have more vehicles to use to satisfy the contact hours behind the wheel with the student; we can pick up and set up at any high school or any of our sites and do all the classroom time and driving time there if need be."
The class, according to Parham, may also have an additional benefit to parents. He said that some insurance companies give a 10 to 15 percent discount on insurance for students who have successfully completed the course in the classroom. In order to pass, a student must score an 80 in the course.
"For a high school student, this is one of the most important steps in a student's life ... getting a driver's license; it gives them a status of independence," said Parham. "So if you want to send someone in the world ... you want to make sure they have the right skills ... and can handle anything that comes at them. We try to open their awareness of what is going on around them ... so they can pay attention and react and hopefully save their lives and somebody else's."
Students are eligible to participate in the course when they turn 15 years old and attain a DDS driving permit, according to Kelly. Eligibility ends on the student's 19th birthday or six months after the student completes the 12th grade, whichever occurs later. For more information or to register for a class, Parham may be reached at 478-218-3209.