ALBANY, Ga. -- Ricardo Roberts is ready to mark a milestone for the student body at Albany Technical College.
In May, Roberts will become the first student from the institution to receive a telecommunications engineering technology degree from the school.
A native of Albany who graduated from Albany High School in 2000, Roberts completed his course requirements in December of last year. Immediately after high school, Roberts, now 28, went into the Air Force, where he served as a sheet metal mechanic. He was on active duty until 2004, after which he was in the reserves until he was discharged in 2010.
"I worked on airplanes," Roberts said of his work while in the service. "I got out when they were cutting back."
After his military career ended, he opted to expand his horizons. In October 2009, Roberts became an Albany Tech alumnus for the first time when he graduated with a degree in biomedical electronics technology. He decided to continue his education and pursue an associate's degree in telecommunications engineering technology to gain more knowledge of the computer networking field.
"When I finished the first (degree program), it was hard for me to find a job," Roberts said. "I had a couple of interviews, but that's it."
Now, Roberts is continuing to advance his education by taking DeVry University online courses in order to obtain a bachelor's degree in electronics engineering technology. DeVry has accepted more than 40 credit hours from Albany Tech's telecommunications engineering technology program.
There are a number of people from Albany Tech who are proud of him, including Anthony Parker, the institution's president.
"All engineering technology programs carry a degree of difficulty; this one has a telecommunications (component)," Parker said. "We have other students that will be following this student.
"We think this (new degree program) is important to the community. (Employers) won't have to go outside (the Southwest Georgia region) to recruit. It means people filling high-tech positions will be from Southwest Georgia."
Albany Tech's president says the telecommunications engineering technology program paints a pretty picture for the school.
"As the industry evolves, it gives us the ability to provide well-trained (engineering technology recruits)," Parker said.
Albany Tech is currently in the process of adding a civil engineering program and is working to establish an extension of Southern Polytechnic State University, Parker added.
Kaven Williams, Roberts' former instructor, said that he has real potential to make an impact.
"Ricardo is one of the most brilliant students I've ever met," he said. "He sets an example of what other students need to do. I think he will do well.
"He has set very high standards for other students that will follow. He's a good kid; he's dedicated. I hope he gets a chance to show what he can do."
The new program Roberts has taken advantage of helps students build a skill set that will allow them to take a business process and build a communications element around that process.
Having a program like this says a lot about Albany Tech, Williams said.
"This shows we have students at Albany Tech with competence to go through a program of rigor," he said. "That somewhat brings some legitimacy to the program itself."
Roberts said that as challenging as it was to advance his education, he was determined to make it through.
"Before I started going to school, I was working from job to job," he recalled. "Now I feel I'm more qualified. I've got a better chance to be more successful.
"I didn't realize the importance of education (until pursuing it)."
His advice for those looking to shake up their lives is relatively simple.
"Just do something," he said. "It's easy to sit around and waste time. I could have sat around and done nothing. You can always do something."
Roberts' ultimate goal is to start his own business, possibly in the Tallahassee area.
"Hopefully I can move to another city where I can have more opportunity," Roberts said. "The bigger the city, the more opportunity. Hopefully in 10 years I can start my own business and be my own boss."
He and his wife, who is currently pursuing an early childhood education degree from Albany State University, live in Sylvester. His wife is also set to graduate in May.