Success Story: From an Eastern European Orphanage to Southern Regional Technical College

From Eastern Europe…to the Welding Booth?

The welding classroom on the Thomasville campus of Southern Regional Technical College is abuzz with activity.  There is a continual sharp clanking of metal tools against metal objects.  Bright blue sparks fly behind translucent plastic curtains, silhouetting helmeted students in vivid detail. The wide utility doors are open to the crisp autumn breeze, and dual-enrollment kids from various high schools in Thomas County circulate from station to station.  One boy, Matthew, finishes fusing two slabs of metal and lifts his welding helmet to look to his teacher, Cliff Taylor, for further instruction.  Mr. Taylor nods his approval, and Matthew snaps his helmet down and gets right back to work. Matthew Goodwin is a tall, good-looking kid with a playful smirk and a southern boy’s charming habit of punctuating his conversations with “yes ma’am, no ma’am.”

But Matthew has not always been a southern boy. Three years ago, Matthew was a 16-year-old orphan in Ukraine.  He spoke no English when he met the Americans that would soon become his mom and dad. Mary Beth and Andy Goodwin came into his life with perfect timing, but he couldn’t understand a word of what they said to him.  Determined, Matthew watched American movies and videos on the internet to teach himself English in just three months. He now speaks five languages: Ukrainian, Russian, Italian, English and Spanish.  He says that he doesn’t have a particular knack for learning languages, just a drive to learn them as a part of his plan to accomplish all of his exciting dreams. “I want my life to be as entertaining as it can be. So, I have a bunch of plans.” His goals include firefighting, completing college, becoming a Marine, and becoming a language specialist for the FBI or the CIA, in that order. In fact, one of his aims is to master nine languages. “Well, I’m already five in, so really… not so hard.”

Matthew is now a dual-enrollment student, splitting his high school days between Scholars Academy in Thomasville and SRTC.  When he was deciding which classes to try out at SRTC, he said he had to google the term “welding.”   But once he got into the class, he found an exciting new interest that is pure enjoyment for him. While he has a very full slate of traditional high school classes so that he can graduate in the Spring of 2018, he says that welding is the one class that he can attend and just have a great time. Welding also happens to be a very handy skill to have in his life’s tool belt. Careers in welding can be highly lucrative, and skilled welders are continually in demand. Welding is used in a surprising number of industries, including engineering, robotics, energy, motorsports, and even space exploration.

For Matthew, everything in his field of view is about the exciting path ahead of him. He is uncommonly appreciative of his life in America, his supportive family, his group of friends, and his bright future. As for what he left behind in Ukraine, has no intention of dwelling in the past.  “I’m not looking back, because I’m not going that way. I’m looking forward. That is where I’m heading.”

Dual enrollment is a chance for young people to get a head start in life by taking college courses while they earn their high school diploma, all at no charge.  Students can graduate from high school years ahead of their peers by taking advantage of dual enrollment.  For more information about high school dual enrollment at Southern Regional Technical College, visit us online:

SRTC offers over 148 degree, diploma, and certificate programs that are designed to get you quickly into your desired career, and 27 general education courses that transfer to the University System of Georgia institutions and 19 private colleges and universities in Georgia. SRTC has instructional sites located in Ashburn, Cairo, Camilla, Moultrie, Thomasville, Tifton, and Sylvester for the convenience of our students. The College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). SACSCOC is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. For the most up-to-date information on registration, class dates, and program offerings, log on to or call (888) 205 – 3449.

Spring Semester 2018 Begins January 8th. Don’t wait, enroll today!


A Unit of the Technical College System of Georgia

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