Three South Georgia Technical College Diesel Technology students awarded Caterpillar Excellence Scholarships

Published 9:08 am Friday, March 15, 2024

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Staff Reports

Americus, Ga.—Three students in the Diesel Equipment Technology program at South Georgia Technical College (SGTC) were awarded the South Georgia Technical College Foundation Caterpillar Excellence Scholarships recently in recognition of their hard work, work ethics and grade point averages.  They were recommended by instructors Chase Shannon and David Cox.

Ja’Ron Davis of Blakely, and Cole White and Caleb Howard of Leesburg, were the students selected to receive the Caterpillar Excellence Scholarships.  Each student received over $1660 to use to purchase tools for their chosen career field.

All three of the students expressed their appreciation to Caterpillar and the South Georgia Technical College Foundation for the opportunity to receive these scholarships.  Even though they have not completed the program yet, each student is already working in this field.  They also represented SGTC and the Diesel Equipment program in the Georgia SkillsUSA competition in Atlanta recently.

“Driven by a passion to enhance my expertise in Diesel Equipment, I was determined to select the ideal college to advance my education and pave the way for a successful career as a Diesel Technician,” said Ja’Ron Davis.  “During my search, I discovered South Georgia Technical College, a prestigious technical college in Georgia.  This turned out to be the perfect fit.  Not only did it have a high ranking in technical education, but it also received commendable compliments for its Diesel and Heavy Equipment Technology program.  The affordability of the school, coupled with the convenience of on-campus housing, sealed the deal for me.”

Davis enrolled and the rest is history.  He has completed one year of the program and has landed a job in the mechanical field locally.  He works part-time and attends class full-time.  “During my time at South Georgia Tech, the support has been invaluable to me.  They recommended me for the job I have now and are flexible with my work schedule, allowing me to balance work and school seamlessly.  My instructors are great and go above and beyond to assist each student while ensuring a safe learning environment for all.  Choosing to further my education in diesel equipment at South Georgia Tech was the perfect decision for me.  I am excited about my future in the Diesel Technician field.”

Davis said he is also considering returning to SGTC for the Caterpillar Heavy Equipment Technology program after graduating from the regular Diesel program or talking with Caterpillar about using the skills he has already learned.

Caleb W. Howard of Leesburg, agreed with Davis that SGTC is a great place to pursue a Diesel Technician education.  He came to SGTC based on recommendations from his father-in-law and other diesel equipment technicians.  He is currently working for United Rentals.

 Howard began working for a local company that built and sold different types of farm machinery while he was still in high school.  “It was during this time that I discovered that I really liked what I was doing,” said Howard.

His father-in-law started taking him with him to work on jobs that he was doing at local farms and other areas and this gave Howard the opportunity to put his hands on things that needed fixing and not just put together.  “I really enjoyed what I was doing, so I started asking people in the industry to give me advice and knowledge about how to pursue a career as a diesel mechanic.  They recommended South Georgia Tech and I made the decision to enroll.”

He is very glad he did.  After completing his first year, Howard was given the opportunity to work as an intern technician for United Rentals.  “I have been with United Rentals for a year now and I love it.  The atmosphere, the people, and the variety of tools and equipment to work on, is helping me further my knowledge as a diesel mechanic.”

With this scholarship, he hopes to purchase tools that will help him be successful today as well as help him reach his goals of one day having and working out of a service truck.

Cole White began his journey to South Georgia Technical College and the Diesel Equipment Technology program because of his passion for cars at an early age.  He started doing yard work for a family friend when he was still in middle school.  The friend allowed him to help him work on his ’79 Chevy Chevelle SS.  “He taught me a lot about the technical side of how cars work and how to repair them.  When I was 15, I bought my first car, a ’91 Volvo 240.  The previous owners let it sit up for a while, so naturally when I started driving it a lot of issues popped up at once.  I fixed them all by myself and I have learned a lot from it.  Currently the car has 355,000 miles on it and it is still on its original engine and transmission.”

During his senior year of high school, White started looking at colleges.  “I knew I wanted to do something related to diesel mechanics because I like working on gasoline engines but have had little experience with diesel engines.  I decided to enroll at South Georgia Technical College because it has one of the best diesel programs in the state and it’s close to home.  I have learned a lot from my instructors and I’m working on getting all the certifications I can so I will be prepared for a great career.”

  White is currently working at Swain Equipment LLC in Albany and that is helping him expand his knowledge even more.  “My coworkers let me borrow tools from their tool box because I don’t have my own yet.  My instructors work with my schedule so I can work and go to school.  After I graduate, I want to pursue a career working on diesel boat engines.  This scholarship is helping me kick off my career by allowing me to purchase tools I will need in out in the field.”

     The current estimated starting pay for entry-level diesel technicians is around $46,000 per year and the job outlook for the next five years is expected to grow by nearly 10 percent.

“These students exemplify and personify all of the qualities we look for in a scholarship recipient,” said South Georgia Technical College Foundation Executive Director and VP of Institutional Advancement Su Ann Bird. “We appreciate Caterpillar for the funds to be able to award these scholarships to these outstanding diesel technicians.”

Chase Shannon and David Cox, SGTC Diesel Equipment Technology Instructors, also praised the students.  “These students are hard workers.  They have good work ethics, they enjoy challenges and they are very observant,” said Shannon.  Cox agreed and said “These three students have what it takes to succeed in life.  They have ‘stick-to-it-ness.’  They are always asking questions and when they finish one task, they ask what else we have for them to do or learn about.”

Students were selected for this scholarship based on instructor recommendation, academic achievement, test scores, and interview.  Funding for these scholarships is made available by the SGTC Foundation through donations made by the Caterpillar Excellence Fund. The partnership with Caterpillar addresses the need for qualified Diesel Equipment technicians and assists students who have made achievements in the Diesel field.

South Georgia Technical College is currently accepting students for Summer Semester.  Classes start May 23 and individuals can apply on online at  SGTC is waving the $25 application fee in March.  Students use the code MARCH24 to receive the discount.  SGTC is also waving the testing requirements for Summer and Fall Semesters.

  Individuals interested in the Diesel Equipment Technology program can contact Chase Shannon at or David Cox at and individuals can apply on online at