Campus News

CGTC Graduate Takes His Journey to the Stage, Finishes What He Started

Warner Robins, Ga. - Graduates from Central Georgia Technical College (CGTC) will walk Friday evening wearing layers of regalia and balancing a cap they spent hours showering with glitter, but if they experienced a journey to the stage like Terrence Packey, they will also walk across it with strength, humility and a lot less pressure. 
“CGTC has been an amazing learning environment; a humbling journey,” Packey said. 
Packey, a soon-to-be graduate with honors in the Radiologic Technology program, retired with 20 years of service in the Air Force to pursue the degree he will officially earn Friday. Over three years ago, when it came time to have a conversation with himself, his wife, and family about leaving the Air Force, he asked the questions necessary of any adult preparing for a significant change. Is retiring the right move? Would he be able to earn a new degree? Would this degree lead him to a viable career? 
“Mom was ecstatic,” he said of his original thoughts to pursue a degree in healthcare. His mother worked 25 years as an emergency room and pediatrics nurse at the Houston Medical Center. She helped in his search for a reputable program and welcomed him and his wife home from Shaw Air Force Base upon his retirement. 
Packey’s wife Elizabeth was also concerned with the unknown, but ultimately supported his decision. 
The unknown for many service members is how the transition from military to civilian life will play out. Packey agreed with being somewhat of an anomaly for the ease with which he was able retire and move forward in a new career and educational goals.
“You are always worried if something is going to work out, but one of the things the Air Force did was put a value on maintaining certification, career progression and continuing education. There was a lot of pressure in the transition, but not so much fear, more so stress, that maybe could have been born of some fear.”
Packey’s military job experience is in aviation maintenance. He said if he had stayed in that field there were offers to work in Dubai, become an instructor, or go into human resources and management.  But he found none of that to be interesting. 
He made the decision to pursue a healthcare degree after having seen his mother work in the field, and because of his wife’s diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease. 
“As far as in the classroom and in clinic, her condition did not affect me. Studying is like anything else, if you have kids or any kind of outside influence; it is just a balancing act,” he said. “Her going through what she has gone through combined with my mom being in healthcare, you look at it and say, ‘I think being in this field is where I need to be, where I will be happy.’”
Elizabeth is not working and goes through treatments in Washington D.C. about every three months. She routinely has cognitive issues and suffers joint pain. As a husband, Packey is there for his wife, and as a student, his wife supports his commitment.
The commitment became even harder on the day before Thanksgiving in 2016 when his mother passed away.
Forty days prior to the date of her passing, Packey’s mother went in for a planned open-heart surgery, something his family had prepared for. She made it through the surgery okay, but acquired a post-operation infection, caught pneumonia, and later passed.
During that time, and even after his mother’s death, Packey endured three days of clinicals and two days in a classroom every week, which he remembers being some of the most rigorous moments of the program.
“Emotionally you have to try to separate it. In clinical, you are working with patients and you cannot let the emotion slip through, that’s when the instructors and the support structure of my classmates came through.”
The support of what he called the “amazing” radiologic technology staff, including Connie Young, the program chair for Radiologic Technology, and clinical instructors were key in his ability to push through the difficult times.
“The students in my class closed in around me and provided so much support,” he said.
While in clinical learning to handle his future profession and then in classrooms where he received lectures, he asked himself if he should step away.
“I battled with the priority,” he said. “I realized there was not much I could do. She had doctors and professionals there that I trusted whom were helping her. I took as many opportunities to be with her and comfort her as I could, but I needed to let them do their jobs, and I knew I could be there for her emotionally.”  His wife spent the afternoons of almost every day with his mom at the hospital, and he would spend the evenings and weekends there. 
Leaving a competitive program like Radiologic Technology would have meant sitting out a year and re-applying without a guarantee of acceptance. So, Packey decided to stay. 
“She would have been devastated if I left the program,” he said.  “Either way I still needed to finish what I started.”
With over 600 of his peers, Packey will finish what he started at CGTC’s commencement ceremony at the Macon Centreplex Coliseum, Friday, May 5 at 7 p.m. The ceremony is free and open to the public. Additionally, CGTC’s ceremony will be live streamed and may be viewed at special link will be available the day of the event.
CGTC’s summer semester begins May 16. Students should apply now for admission and financial aid to be ready to enroll in classes of choice. CGTC will also offer an eight-week summer mini-mester session beginning May 30. Students can take fully transferrable general core classes at an affordable price, no matter their choice of college in the fall. Additionally, Move on When Ready dual enrollment courses will be available for current high school students during the summer semester. Call 478-988-6800 or log on to for more information. 
Terrence Packey prepares for graduation for CGTC and the College’s Radiologic Technology program. 

Submitted by JoBen Rivera-Thompson
May 3, 2017


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