Foundation Camp volunteer shares his story with campers, Applications currently being accepted

campers with ike

As Foundation Camp volunteer Dr. Ike will tell you, in addition to all the fun activities and the chance to experience life on a college campus, Foundation Camp gives campers strong role models, support, and encouragement.

The goal for Dr. Ike and all of the Foundation Camp volunteers is to make a difference in each camper’s life.

Applications are currently being accepted for the annual Foundation Camp for boys between the ages of 10 and 14 at Georgia Highlands College. The camp is two weeks and begins on June 24th and ends on July 3rd.

The camp, which is one of several partnerships between the 100 Black Men of Rome-Northwest Georgia and Georgia Highlands College, is funded by generous donors and the GHC Foundation, giving students the opportunity to attend the camp free of charge, including transportation and a breakfast and lunch.

The camp focuses on academics, athletics and enrichment courses intended to build self-respect and confidence, and to allow the young men to experience college.

Well over 100 kids attend Foundation Camp each year and enjoy numerous activities, such as canoeing, tennis, basketball, soccer, STEAM-related projects, biology and chemistry projects utilizing liquid nitrogen and a hovercraft, derby car racing, storytelling with live animals like an alligator, and more.

Foundation Camp is free, but there are a limited number of spaces available that are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

To apply or for more information, contact Jon Hershey at

Still not sure? Find out how Foundation Camp has become a special part of Dr. Ike’s life:

Chukwuemeka Nwokike was born in Nigeria. But around here, he’s called Dr. Ike.

He’s sitting on some bleachers in the gym when five or six kids he’s been mentoring for two weeks dive on top of him. Foundation Camp is coming to a close. He’s spent most of his time connecting with the group of boys between the ages of 10 and 14. His goal: make a difference in their lives.

For Dr. Ike, support and encouragement are paths to success… and not to mention a lot of hard work.

Dr. Ike moved to Georgia from Nigeria in 1999. He was the oldest of six kids, so he spent his entire life taking care of his siblings. And it stuck. He was drawn to the medical field where the focus is taking care of people.

His first job in health care was as a janitor. He eventually became a medical assistant after obtaining a certificate from Everest Institute.

He went on to work at a pain management clinic, where things were really good for him. In fact, the best they had ever been.

“I worked there for a year,” he said. “They encouraged me to go back to school, but I was scared. I loved my job. It was the most money I had ever made, and I was working in an office.”

In 2009, Dr. Ike started taking classes at Georgia Highlands College. He decided he would advance his medical career and become a nurse.

And he’ll be the first to tell you he didn’t come thinking anybody would help him achieve his dream.

“I came to GHC with the mindset that I had to do this all on my own, but instead everyone was encouraging me. Many of the professors worked with me even after I left, keeping up with me and helping me. That’s why I did so well at GHC. I met a lot of great people here.”

That encouragement and fostering was enough for Dr. Ike to earn his nursing degree from GHC and start the road toward becoming a medical doctor. He went on to graduate from Morehouse School of Medicine in 2018. He is currently working through his residency in internal medicine at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

He shares his story with the kids at Foundation Camp, and he works to show them the same kind of support he was shown over the years. He wants to be the living proof of what they can achieve.

“We get to take kids in and spend two weeks with them, and you see so much change in them in those two weeks. You can really make a difference in their lives,” he said. “It’s like me when I came to GHC, I thought I was alone, and then I met people who supported me and wanted to support me.”

The camp, which is one of several partnerships between the 100 Black Men of Rome-Northwest Georgia and Georgia Highlands College, is funded by generous donors and the GHC Foundation, giving students the opportunity to attend the camp free of charge, including transportation and a breakfast and lunch.

The camp focuses on academics, athletics and enrichment courses intended to build self-respect and confidence, and to allow the young men to experience college.

“It’s our responsibility to help them. There’s a lot of fun activities and a lot of learning activities, but we’re here to help them grow. It’s necessary,” he said. “That’s why I make time to come to this camp. I’ll always make time to come help. That’s how much I believe in this camp.”







GHC welcomes German student through elite exchange program

the host family together
(Lena Walter-Helk, wearing a black Rome Film Festival shirt, poses with her host family.)

GHC welcomes German student through elite exchange program

Georgia Highlands College is wrapping up its inaugural year as a host institution through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) for Young Professionals.

CBYX is funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Cultural Vistas. CBYX is a reciprocal fellowship that gives German young professionals the opportunity to live with an American host family, study at a local college and complete a six-month paid internship in their career fields.

GHC’s first CBYX fellow was Lena Walter-Helk, a business student from Schweifurt, Germany, a small town in northern Bavaria. Walter-Helk took a full load of courses at GHC’s Floyd campus in the fall and secured a job at WinShape Retreat in the spring.

Walter-Helk feels lucky to have been matched with GHC, explaining that she was welcomed with open arms and felt safe and well taken care of as a student.

“The professors at GHC are great and really understanding. They always offer help and I had fun talking to them about my experiences and Germany,” she explains. “Everyone at GHC seems to really enjoy what they are doing.”

Walter-Helk was also happy for the chance to take part in the extracurricular activities hosted by GHC throughout the semester. Furthermore, she credits her fellow students in inspiring her to work hard in her studies

“Attending classes at GHC prepared me well for my future life as a student at a university in Germany. I have never attended classes at this level of education and even though it was really challenging sometimes, it made me look forward to my studies,” she explains. “My overall experience as a student at GHC was just great and I am grateful I got to spend a semester here.”

Walter-Helk has lived with Jonathan and Amber Pewitt and their two sons during her time in Rome.

“She is almost like an older daughter to them now, and is like an older sister to their two children, two boys who are in elementary school and pre-school,” says GHC Professor of History Bronson Long.

Walter-Helk says living with the Pewitts has impacted her life for the better.

“They have supported me so much. They inspired me with their openness, hospitality and kindness,” she says. “Experiencing such a blessing has made my desire to live a life with purpose even stronger. I hope these relationships will last a lifetime.”

GHC is working to host two new German students in Rome and Cartersville through the program in the 2019-2020 academic year.

To learn more about the CBYX program or to apply to serve as a host family, contact Long at

David Mathis selected as new Director of Athletics at GHC

each of the new staff headshots

David Mathis selected as new Director of Athletics at GHC

New assistant director and head men’s basketball coach named

Georgia Highlands College has appointed David Mathis as the new Director of Athletics. Former Director and Head Men’s Basketball Coach Phil Gaffney has accepted a position as head coach for Gulf Coast State College’s men’s basketball team in Panama City, Florida.

Mathis has been with GHC for 26 years and has been instrumental in leading the athletics program from its inception, serving in an essential capacity as GHC’s assistant director of athletics.

Mathis is a very well-known member of GHC and a leader in the community, as shown by his record number of awards and recognitions, including GHC Alumnus of the Year in 2012; Organization Advisor of the Year and GHC Staff Community Involvement Award in 2011; the Vivian Benton Staff Person of the Year in 2002; Floyd County School’s Business Partner of the Year in 2005; the 2012 Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation Authority Horace Anthony Volunteer of the Year Award; the 2014 Georgia Highlands College Presidents Meritorious Service Award; the 2017 Heart of the Community Award; and in 2019, he was inducted into the Rome/Floyd County Sports Hall of Fame.

As one of his first decisions as director, Mathis announced that the women’s basketball head coach Brandan Harrell will serve as the new assistant director of athletics. Harrell will continue to also coach the women’s basketball team.

Mathis has also appointed Jonathan Merritt as the new head coach for the men’s basketball team. Merritt has been with GHC for six years as an assistant coach and has helped the men’s team reach the national stage, as well as aided a number of players on to graduate and transfer to Division 1 and Division 2 teams in the NCAA and NAIA. Merritt graduated from Shorter University in 1994, where he played basketball for a number of years. In 2009, he was also inducted into the Shorter University Athletic Hall of Fame.

For more information about athletics at GHC, please visit:


Grandfather and grandson to receive diplomas at the same time from GHC

grandfather and grandson

It’s rare to see a grandfather and grandson working elbow-to-elbow in a college science lab for credit towards their associate degrees, but for Ron Hale and his grandson Thorne, it was just another step closer to walking in the Georgia Highlands College Commencement this year.

Almost 50 years separates them in age, but on May 11th, at The Forum River Center in Rome, they’ll be side-by-side receiving diplomas with other GHC graduates.

Ron, 72, is an avid painter and is following his gift for the fine arts by returning to college. And although going back helps him pursue his passion, Ron says he is “doing now what he should’ve done 50 years ago.”

“I went into the military straight out of high school, got married, and started a family,” he said. “I just kept putting college off. I regret not doing it when I had so many opportunities.”

Ron hopes that by showing others in his life, like his grandson, that it’s always possible to achieve a goal, no matter your age, it will inspire them to do the same… and hopefully, he says, sooner than he did.

“I think the biggest reason I decided to go to college after so many years is I’ve got some wonderful grandchildren and they’re all coming up and moving through school,” he said, “and by doing this I can say, ‘Look, if I can do it, if I did it, then you can do it.’ It’s all about your attitude.”

Thorne, 25, also started a little later than others. When he first left high school, he took a few college classes, but ultimately decided to go into the workforce instead.

“I got a job and did that for a while, but it really just didn’t pan out,” he said. “I knew I had to go back and get some kind of degree. There just weren’t that many options, and I got tired of being the person on the low end of the totem pole.”

Thorne started around the same time his grandfather did. His grandfather helped inspire him to start back. He thought, “If he can do it, I can go back and do it, too.”

Ron said the two of them would pass each other in the hallway and cut up about being in college together at the same time.

Thorne said most people he told didn’t believe Ron was his grandfather, until Ron confirmed it.

“They would always say, ‘Really?’” Thorne said.

The two even shared a class.

“We had geology together,” Ron said. “We were lab buddies, side-by-side. We took the class at the same time. That was Thorne’s last science class and I needed one more, so we did it together. The professor said, ‘I don’t know if I’ve ever had a grandfather and a grandson in the same class.’ We are two generations going at the same time.’”

Both have enjoyed their tenure at GHC, noting the community of support students get from professors and staff at the college.

Ron and Thorne said going to GHC was one of the best decisions they ever made.

Ron will be receiving his associate degree in art from GHC and is currently working on his bachelor’s at Kennesaw State University and hopes to continue his art with a pursuit of a master’s degree, as well. Thorne plans on pursuing a career in radio and has completed his associate degree in communications.

The two will be walking in the next commencement one after the other. Ron will be walking first since his name comes first alphabetically. He said he is going to wait on stage after he receives his diploma for Thorne to get his, so he can give him “a great big hug.”

“If you think you can’t do it, I’m telling you, you can,” Ron said about his goal to inspire others to get their college degree and about getting his degree, too. “I don’t think you should ever stop learning. People talk about getting old. Well, I can’t help aging. That’s just a state of being. But getting old is a state of mind. And I don’t plan on getting old.”



GHC listed for best online two-year degree in Georgia

student on laptop working

GHC has been highlighted for having one of the best online associate degree options in Georgia by SR Education Group. The education research publisher recently released their first-ever online rankings categorized by state on their website:

Each college highlighted on the Georgia list was ranked based on several important factors, including retention rate, graduation rate and percentage of online enrollment data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The number of online associate degrees offered was considered in the ranking, as well.

“Community colleges offer some of the most affordable degrees in the country. With a growing number of these degrees becoming available online, we wanted to let prospective students know about these great, accessible options near them. By providing these resources, we hope to help more people reach their educational and professional goals,” said Sung Rhee, CEO of SR Education Group.

GHC offers over 30 areas of study in growing fields such as dental hygiene, nursing and criminal justice, including eight online associate degree programs and three online bachelor’s degree programs.

GHC is a state college within the University System of Georgia.

View the full listing and learn more at

To learn more about GHC, please visit

Commencement planned for May 11th, 973 diplomas to be conferred

graduate holding degree

Georgia Highlands College Commencement will be held on Saturday, May 11th, at The Forum River Center in downtown Rome at 10AM. GHC will have up to 973 students receiving diplomas.*

The nursing pinning ceremony will be held at 6PM on May 10th at West Rome Baptist Church.

The faculty chose Kristie Kemper as the 2019 Mace Bearer and Nancy Applegate as the recipient of the Wesley C. Walraven Faculty Award.

Regent Sachin Shailendra will give the commencement address and bring greetings from the Board of Regents. Student Government Association President Danielle Griesemer will speak on behalf of the student body.

The Honorary Faculty Marshals will be Frank Minor and Billy Morris, and Donnie Denson will speak on behalf of GHC alumni.

On the floor of the Arena will be reserved seating for staff and invited guests. Free parking is available at the Third Avenue Parking Deck (adjacent to the Forum) and West 3rd Street parking lot (across the bridge from the Forum). Shuttle service will be available throughout the day from Broad Street, all the parking decks, and West 3rd Street.

**973 students receiving diplomas based on number of students who applied for graduation as of April 22 or who were awarded a degree summer or fall 2018**

Year in Review: GHC Phi Theta Kappa chapter celebrates another award-winning year

ptk students

The Alpha Psi Omicron chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) at Georgia Highlands College once again has much to celebrate as the 2018-2019 academic year ends.

The year began with chapter members Caitlyn Ingram, Samson Jean and Cindy Mendoza Razo each winning a Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship, awarded to only 200 PTK members nationwide each year. Meanwhile, Karishma Patel was selected as a semi-finalist in the highly-selective Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

Later in the fall semester, the chapter hosted the Georgia Region’s Fall Leadership Conference at GHC’s Cartersville site after being elected to Regional Vice-Presidential Chapter in spring 2018. The chapter was later chosen to serve regionally yet again as the Regional Office of Chapter Relations for the next academic year. The chapter will attend the Honors Institute at San Diego State University on a scholarship this summer to prepare for these upcoming duties. 

The spring semester brought even more honors. In March, PTK members Vanessa Cornejo, Tajera Davy, Lisa Donohue, Cindy Mendoza Razo, Karishma Patel and Nicholas Whitmire were selected for the Coca-Cola All-Georgia Academic Team and honored at an awards luncheon in Atlanta.

At the organization’s Spring Regional Conference, the chapter brought home more awards than any other chapter in the region for the fourth consecutive year.

The chapter as a whole earned designation as a REACH Chapter. REACH stands for Recognizing Excellence in Acceptance and Completion with Honors and is awarded to PTK chapters that achieve or exceed a 15 percent membership acceptance rate for the year. The chapter also won the Distinguished Issue award for the group’s Honors in Action Project centered on a theme of “The Powers of Connection.”

The chapter’s officers, Lexii Daniels, Tajera Davy, Lamya Khateeb, Karishma Patel and Cindy Mendoza Razo, were recognized together as a Distinguished Chapter Officer Team. Cindy Mendoza Razo, chapter vice president of membership, was also honored individually as a Distinguished Chapter Officer and with a regional Hall of Honor award. Karishma Patel, chapter vice president of social media, received the Sarah Anne Staples Award.

GHC alumna Elle Summers was recognized as a Georgia Distinguished Alumnus at the conference. Serving PTK as a chapter officer as a student, Summers earned her Associate of Arts in psychology from GHC in 2017. Summers is currently pursuing a bachelor’s in sociology at Oglethorpe University.

GHC faculty and staff were also recognized for their contributions to PTK. Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Jones received the Georgia Distinguished Administrator Award while Betsy Clark received the Horizon Award for New Chapter Advisors and the entire chapter advising team won Top Distinguished Chapter Advisor Team. This team consists of Betsy Clark, Mackleen Desravines, Karen Huggin, Vincent Manatsa and Greg Smith.

Distinguished Administrator Award winner Todd Jones says he is proud to support PTK and is thrilled that the chapter and its advisors are receiving well-deserved recognition.

“Although I am honored to receive the Distinguished College Administrator award, it is the faculty that have served and continue to serve as advisors to PTK that deserve the special recognition as they are the one’s investing in the lives of our PTK members,” says Jones.

The advising team was honored again at the International Spring Catalyst Conference in April as a Distinguished Chapter Advisor Team at the international level. GHC’s PTK chapter was also recognized for its leadership role in earning the Georgia Region top Five-Star Regional Status and winning an international Excellence in Service Award.

“I am just so proud of our amazing students and grateful for everyone who helps and supports PTK,” said PTK lead advisor and Associate Professor of History Karen Huggin.

PTK is wrapping up the year with a basketball tournament fundraiser for JamQuest, an organization the group connected with at the Fall Regional Conference. The 3-on-3 tournament will take place at GHC’s Floyd campus on April 27. GHC graduates, friends and family are also invited to join the chapter at its reception at GHC’s commencement activities on May 11.

For more information on GHC’s award-winning PTK chapter, visit


Georgia Highlands College to host Career and Job Fair for students and the community in Rome

career fair

Georgia Highlands College will be hosting its annual Career and Job Fair on the Floyd Campus on April 17th from 10AM to 2PM. The event is free and open to the public.

Employers from across Northwest Georgia will be available to discuss full-time and part-time positions, as well as internship opportunities.

Attendees can prepare for their job search with the “Resume Doctor” and mock interviews while a mobile Career Lab will be available for on-site resume creation and printing. A photographer will be on site as well for free professional headshots.

Angela Wheelus, director of Student Support Services, hopes the Career Fair will showcase GHC’s workforce-ready students to employers and show other attendees how GHC can help them move their careers forward.

“By inviting the public to attend this Career Fair, GHC is able to highlight possibilities for people who are already in the workforce to see ways they can recharge their careers through many of our programs, while taking advantage of all the services offered at the fair,” Wheelus says.

Prospective employers attending the event include Famers Insurance, Murphy-Harpst Children’s Center, NAMI Rome, Nightingale Services, PSI Background Screening, Rome Comprehensive One-Stop and more.

GHC nursing students participate in disaster training with local emergency responders

nursing students in drill

Cathy Furtado and other Georgia Highlands College nursing students funneled into a small room at Heritage Hall Wednesday morning where several disaster victims were awaiting help during a disaster training simulation with the Floyd County Police Department and other emergency personnel.

The disaster victims were played by other nursing students who were given unique health problems, injuries and personality traits for the nursing students to deal with. Some were unresponsive. Some were “bleeding.” Some were yelling.

But Cathy and her fellow classmates knew exactly what to do.

“It was very surreal,” Cathy said, explaining this was the first time she had ever experienced this kind of exercise. “Our job was to go in, assess the situation, and begin triage. Your adrenaline gets going, but everyone on our team did really well.”

Cathy stated she was very glad GHC and local first responders put her class through the disaster training exercise.

Nursing student Betsy Chamblee echoed Cathy’s remarks.

“It’s something we need to know this day and age. It’s a very good learning experience,” she said. “You’re really nervous going into it, but it was really cool to see how everyone jumps into action.”

Betsy, who worked during the exercise to apply gauze and help victims out of the disaster area, said this was an experience she will never forget.

The disaster drill took part in several different phases. One was instruction in how to respond to certain types of incidents that might involve police and first responders – sharing the “how” and “why” certain protocols are in place.

The final phase included nursing students working through the triage scenario while assessment took place by instructors and public safety observers.

“The best way to prepare our nursing students for disasters is through simulation,” Director of Nursing Rebecca Maddox said. “By involving police and EMS in our simulation, students have the opportunity to work on their collaborative communication skills in addition to utilizing their critical thinking and assessment skills for triage and treatment.”

German CEO to speak at GHC about the solar industry

poster for event

Georgia Highlands College will host speaker Rainer Walter-Helk, CEO of Innotech Solar GmbH, for a presentation on “Entrepreneurship and the Solar Industry in Germany” on April 24 at 3:30PM at GHC’s Cartersville location.

The event is free and open to the public.

Walter-Helk will discuss his experiences as a CEO creating and operating a new solar energy company, along with the challenges the industry faces and the possibilities it presents to the world and its environment. He will also draw comparisons between Georgia, home to a growing solar industry, and Germany, a major world leader in solar technology.

Walter-Helk will be assisted by GHC student and Congress Bundestag Exchange Fellow Lena Walter-Helk.

“In the coming years, the solar industry has the potential to create more affordable, clean, renewable energy, as well as jobs here in Georgia,” said Professor of History Bronson Long, director of Global Initiatives and Study Abroad at GHC.

Long hopes hosting Walter-Helk will help GHC faculty, students and the general public in Northwest Georgia learn more about the importance of the solar industry.

The 45-minute presentation will be followed by a Q&A session and light refreshments. The event is sponsored by GHC Global Initiatives and Study Abroad Program and Students Without Borders.