By Angi Harben
Final quarter graduates from the Macon campus of Helms College donned caps and gowns for their commencement ceremonies, attended by family members and friends at Anderson Conference Center on January 17, 2019.
With programs in Health Services and Hospitality and the Culinary Arts, Helms College earned its national accreditation in 2011 and has a growing reputation for its hands-on instruction from experienced faculty in supportive, experiential learning environments.
“We’re committed to providing access to affordable education that helps students succeed in fast-growing industries,” said Gary Markowitz, Ed.D, senior vice president of education at the private, independent postsecondary career school sponsored by Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA. “We’re equipping students to go out and build career pathways to success.”
As is the case with many of Helms’ graduates, Ciera M. Turner (Fowler) turned her zeal for cooking into an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts.
“I’ve always had a passion for cooking, and I wanted to further my education by attending culinary school,” said Turner, who was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and raised in Macon. “I learned how to cook from my father and my grandmother. I joined the United States Army as a Food Service Specialist (Cook), and once I came off active duty, I knew that cooking is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
She still serves her country as a Food Service Specialist in the U.S. Army Reserve, while also being married to Willie Fowler, Jr., and mother to her three children, Cayden Alise, Camden Amir, and Chaicin Jerome. She also works at Helms College and Edgar’s Bistro as a Chef’s Assistant.
She praised the small class sizes and detailed, hands-on training experience as the most valuable part of her education at Helms College.
“I love how the instructors went above and beyond to help me learn,” said Turner, who said her training also helped build confidence. “I was nervous to work on the line, but I learned how to put plated food out in a neat, timely manner. And what also helped build my confidence was cooking certain food items that I’ve never cooked – or even heard of!”
Turner is well on her way to accomplishing her future goals of opening a small restaurant in Macon or Atlanta and operating a food truck. She also wants to offer cooking classes for youth in Macon and the surrounding counties.
Turner’s fellow graduates earning their Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts included Christopher Omar Belin, William Lovette Brantley, Lynae Carlson-Radke, Anthony Lane Carr, Sara Doan, Knyquavia Glover, class salutatorian Alexandrea Elaine Guest, class valedictorian Jalyssa Elizabeth Hicks, Rakeem Lee Jackson, Joshua Oglesby, and Inissa Jase Zambrano.
Students receiving Culinary Arts Diplomas at the ceremony included Nikita Gilliard, Javonte R. Hamilton, Felicia King, Esther Turner, and Ke’shonta Williams.
“If cooking is your passion, then take a step out on faith and attend Helms College,” Turner said. “I can promise you that it won’t be easy. But it’s worth the sweat, tears, sleepless nights and hard work in the end. You won’t regret it!”
About Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA
Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia, a non-profit 501(c)3 charity, builds lives, families, and communities one career at a time by helping people develop their God-given gifts through education, work, and career services. More than 86 cents of every dollar of Goodwill revenue underwrites job training and placement services within the agency’s 35-county service delivery area. Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA is accountable to a local Board of Directors, belongs to this community and is not owned by any individual or company.
About Helms College
Helms College, a private, independent postsecondary career school sponsored by Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia, Inc. and licensed by the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission, offers accredited programs through its two hospitality schools as well as its new School of Health Services. Helms College is an institution of higher education that provides a unique approach to experiential learning and career education. Named in honor of Rev. Edgar Helms, the founder of Goodwill Industries, Helms College creates opportunities for students to discover their strengths and build upon their knowledge, skills, and attitudes through extensive integrative and experiential learning.