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Albany Tech graduates 580

Fire Science graduate Eugene Anderson, left, and Culinary Arts graduate Emma Jackson were recognized as exceptional students during Albany Technical College’s Winter Commencement ceremonies at the Albany Civic Center Friday night.

Fire Science graduate Eugene Anderson, left, and Culinary Arts graduate Emma Jackson were recognized as exceptional students during Albany Technical College’s Winter Commencement ceremonies at the Albany Civic Center Friday night.

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Joe Bellacomo

Fire Science graduate Eugene Anderson, left, and Culinary Arts graduate Emma Jackson were recognized as exceptional students during Albany Technical College’s Winter Commencement ceremonies at the Albany Civic Center Friday night.

ALBANY, Ga.

— Two graduates at Albany Technical College may have been a bit more mature than usual, but they were just as proud and nervous as their younger counterparts.

Graduating at the Albany Civic Center Friday night, Emma Jackson and Eugene Anderson headed to the stage to receive their hard-earned diploma and associate's degree.

They joined 580 students scheduled to pick up their degrees, diplomas, certificates and GED diplomas. Not everyone made it to the graduation.

Jackson is the oldest ever to go through the culinary arts program and graduate, said Wendy Howell, the college's director of public relations. Anderson, a veteran of the Boston Fire Department, picked up his associate's in fire science technology.

"I have a 7- and a 10-year-old," Anderson said. "I told them I was going to my graduation so that you can have a vision for when you grow up."

Leading by example is the way for Anderson, who has served with the Albany Fire Department as a fire inspector. Because job requirements have changed over the years, Anderson had to return to first pick up his firefighter certification in Georgia after moving here from Boston.

Once certified, he earned his fire science diploma at Albany Tech. He became the fire department's training division captain. The associate's degree was next.

"I learned a lot. For this job, you are constantly tested and you have to know how to make presentations and PowerPoint presentations. Firefighting is always changing, you have to keep up," Anderson said. "I don't want to get all philosophical on you, but I really believe that if you stop learning, you stop living. I don't see myself putting aside learning at any time."

An experienced cook and sandwich shop owner, Jackson used to own Emma's Sandwich Shoppe in Cordele. She also planned to continue her education by earning an associates' degree in the culinary field at Albany Tech.

The skills and knowledge Jackson got from working toward her diploma will serve her well as she cooks for retirement home residents; her church, County Line Baptist, and her neighbors.

"I just love cooking. I've learned a lot more about different dishes and set ups," Jackson said. "I learned about Italian, Chinese cooking and more efficient ways to set up a kitchen."

The students graduating from Albany Tech were the first to graduate under the semester system that was recently initiated to replace a quarterly schedule at the college.

Notably absent from receiving his Industrial Systems Technology diploma was Phillip Phillips. He is a contestant on "American Idol." His Albany Tech study was his fallback plan.

Everyone spoken to at graduation said they hoped he wouldn't need it. Students and faculty wished him good luck.