South Georgia Technical College’s Barnhill and Lee awarded Smarr-Smith Criminal Justice scholarship

Published 4:18 pm Thursday, December 21, 2023

Staff Reports

Americus, GA – South Georgia Technical College Criminal Justice Technology graduates Charles Allen Barnhill of Albany, and Andrew Lee of Leesburg, were awarded the Smarr-Smith Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice scholarship recently by the South Georgia Technical College Foundation.

    The Smarr-Smith endowed scholarship at South Georgia Technical College was created in memory of fallen Americus Police Officer Nicholas R. Smarr and Georgia Southwestern State University Campus Safety Officer Jody C. Smith.  The endowment was created by the Smarr-Smith Foundation, private individuals, and an anonymous donor.  Both Nicholas Smarr and Jody Smith attended the criminal justice program at South Georgia Technical College.

   Sergeant Charles Barnhill is a career law enforcement officer, currently employed by the Leesburg Police Department.  He has spent the past 23 years in law enforcement, serving as a correctional office, police officer, road-patrol corporal, and a School Resource Officer with the Lee County School System.

   “I’ve always wanted to go back to school and pursue my degree.  But like most of us, life happened, and I went to work as a Correctional Officer at the ripe old age of 19.  Then at 22, I became a police officer and I kept telling myself, I will do it later, I have time.  Then I got married and my responsibilities got greater.  Working a regular shift then getting all the overtime and extra duty details I could get to help support my new family,” said Barnhill.

   His wife went back to school to get her degrees in education.  First an associate, then bachelor’s and finally a masters.  She always pushed her husband to go back to school.  “My wife told me that is was something that no one could take away because I earned it,” said Barnhill, who added “after 23 years, I finally did it.  I have accomplished getting my associate degree in Criminal Justice.

   “I would like to continue my education because after going to South Georgia Technical College, they gave me the confidence that I can do this and go on and pursue my bachelor’s degree.”

   Leesburg Police Chief Christopher J. Prokesh, Barnhill’s boss and a former Smith-Smarr recipient, said “Charles Barnhill has proven to be a highly self-motivated and valued resource for our agency, and is loved by the staff at his school.  I am pleased to recommend him for this scholarship.  He paints the mural of what ‘dedication’ truly means within our profession.”

   Georgia Department of Corrections Special Agent Andrew Lee is the other SGTC Foundation Smarr-Smith scholarship recipient.  “Special Agent Lee is a dedicated professional with a great zeal towards his professional work.  I have the pleasure of supervising him and I think he is a quality candidate for the Smarr-Smith Criminal Justice Scholarship,” wrote Randy Howard, Jr., Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Georgia Department of Corrections Southwest Region Criminal Investigation Division.

   “Firstly, I would like to say I greatly appreciate the opportunity to receive this scholarship,” said Lee.  “I have great respect for Nick Smarr and Jody Smith.  Their dedication to upholding peace and justice, their selflessness in serving their community, and honor in upholding the oath they took is a testament to their character as men.”

   Special Agent Lee started his law enforcement career at the Albany Police Department in 2016.  He has also worked for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and is currently employed as a special agent for the Georgia Department of Correction’s Office of Professional Standards Criminal Investigations Division.

   “I work full-time and am the father of four children,” said Lee.  “I plan to continue my education toward my bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and this scholarship will be a tremendous help.”

    South Georgia Technical College President Dr. John Watford congratulated Barnhill and Lee on their accomplishments and thanked the Smarr and Smith families and others for their support of this scholarship. “We all regret that this scholarship opportunity had to come at the expense of the lives of two outstanding South Georgia Technical College students and law enforcement officers,” said Dr. Watford.  “Our hearts will continue to go out to the family and friends of Officers Smarr and Smith.  But it is our prayer that this gift will assist other POST certified officers who wish to continue their education. We hope that the fine men and women who earn these scholarships will honor the memories of Officers Smith and Smarr through their service to our citizens and that the memory of Nick Smarr and Jody Smith will continue to live on through the lives of these scholarship recipients.”

    Nicholas Smarr and Jody Smith, both attended the South Georgia Technical College Criminal Justice Program.  Smarr attained his Associate of Applied Science Degree in June of 2011 and became a certified law enforcement officer in 2012.  Jody Smith had attended South Georgia Tech in 2010 and had returned in 2016 to begin completing his Criminal Justice associate degree.

   Twenty-seven Smarr-Smith scholarships have been awarded since the scholarships were endowed.  Charles Kinnamon and Adam O’Neal were the first two scholarship recipients. King W. Mitchell, Antoinette L. Johnson and Emerson R. Lundy were the second three recipients. Dalton Lee Windham and Cora K. Baker were awarded the scholarships in December 2018. Brandon Glover, April Cosby, and Matthew Pearce were the Smarr-Smith scholars in 2019.  Amneh Laursen, Chris Owens, Monteze McCall, Cedric Smith, Chandler Buchanan and David Rueda-Fierros were the 2020 scholars and Christopher Prokesh, Michael Cobb, Rodney Gore, and Eric Taylor-Hair received the awards in 2021.  Lt. Teresa Miller, Alisa Colwell, Michael Middleton and Hunter Fallin were recognized in 2022 and Jason Kyle Gourley was awarded the scholarship in the spring of 2023.  Barnhill and Lee are the newest recipients in 2023.

   For more information about donating to the SGTC Foundation or endowing a scholarship at South Georgia Technical College, contact Su Ann Bird, Executive Director of the SGTC Foundation and Vice President of Institutional Advancement, at 229.931.2110 or sbird@southgatech.edu.  Contributions may also be mailed to the SGTC Foundation, P.O. Box 6102, Americus, GA.   Additional donations can be added to the Smarr-Smith Scholarship fund and all donations will be recognized and shared with members of the Smith and Smarr families.