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Project Purpose students sign full-time commitments with 5 employers

Jun. 16, 2023

Project Purpose students touring the GEDIA facility

On June 15, 2023, we celebrated with seven graduates from Whitfield County and Dalton Public Schools who accepted their first full time job opportunities after completing a program called Project Purpose. Project Purpose, coordinated by the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, Believe Greater Dalton (BGD), and the Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority (JDA), is a two-week workforce training course for freshly graduated high school students interested in careers with Whitfield County’s leading manufacturers.

The program was designed for students that do not have immediate plans to attend post-secondary school. 2023 is the first year this program has taken place in our community.

Project Purpose was sponsored by 13 different companies and industries in our community. Sponsors were required to educate students about their company, host students for industry tours, interview students with the goal of hiring them for full-time employment, or lead educational sessions highly requested by industry in the areas of their expertise.

Day one, students were given an overview of the Chamber of Commerce by Jason Mock, and Allyson Coker made proud Believers of students through a presentation on Believe Greater Dalton. Carl Campbell gave an overview of economic development efforts led by the JDA, and presented on all the diverse companies and well-paying jobs we have in Dalton-Whitfield County.

Students also received personal development training through personality assessments, leadership development, and group dynamics activities led by Ali Harp (JDA) and engaged in group activities to utilize the lessons they had learned. Linda McEntire and Patty Hart at Georgia Northwestern Technical College volunteered their time with students to teach them professionalism, work ethics, communication in the workplace and how to manage conflict. Group exercises were highly effective as they better understood these important lessons for professional development. They began their resume workshop with a presentation by Medina Safic (GNTC) and began creating the resume they would present to employers the following week.

Day two, Earl Nichols with our newest industry to town, Essentia Protein Solutions, gave an overview of their company, plans for their new facility, and employment opportunities once they begin hiring. The day was concentrated on quality control training led by Wayne Lock (Qcells), and Josh Henson (GEDIA). Students toured the campus of Georgia Northwestern Technical College to explore labs and programs offered. We rounded out the day with a session on essential skills and communication exercises led by Ali Harp (JDA) and Dr. Stephani Womack (BGD).

Day three was focused on safety in the workplace. Bryan Griffin, area manager for Georgia Power, gave an overview of the importance of safety and OSHA requirements. Students were quick to pick up on identifying hazards in the workplace. Tamara Brock, and Jamal Jessie gave an overview of Georgia Power and educated students on career path options within the utility field.

Day four was a special day. To be successful in your career, you also need to be prepared for the important things that come with a paycheck and how to manage your money. Mitch Sanford from Builtwell Bank began the day with an overview of the importance of banking, how to budget, why credit is important and dissected what makes up a credit score. Chris Ramsay and his team at Health One Alliance explained the complexities of how health insurance works in a way that students could understand. Reliable transportation is necessary for work and thanks to Victor Yoshida at Ford of Dalton, students are now experts on things to think about as they buy a car. Victor’s presentation also covered credit checks, payment and purchase options and how dealers support their customers.

To close out the first week, Ali Harp (JDA) and Dr. Stephani Womack (BGD) took the students to America’s Thrift Shop to shop for an interview outfit! Each student was able to select a dress, blouse, pants, shoes, and accessories to best meet their needs. It was a fun day for all involved and we especially appreciate Ben House at America’s Thrift Store for providing the clothing free of charge.

To begin week two, the cohort loaded up on a 12-passenger van, provided by Kasey Carpenter of Walnut Hill Farm, and toured five different manufacturing facilities in Whitfield County. We began at Q Cells facility where they gave us an overview of the company and an in-depth tour of the plant. We then went to GEDIA to learn about their process and see what types of jobs students might be interviewing for. Next up was Phenix Flooring, for a tour of the facility and available jobs. Shaw Industries hosted the students for lunch where we learned more about the company and the benefits available to employees. Students were given a tour of Plant 4 to better understand positions available. The tours ended with a trip to the Mohawk Training facility to see how Mohawk trains their new hires before putting them on the plant floor. We rounded out the day with finalizing resumes.

When interview day finally came, students were excited and anxious. Mallory Safley with Dalton State College spent the morning with students doing final prep, focusing on the handshake, interview dos and don’ts, nonverbal communication, and the elevator pitch. The cohort left that session feeling prepared and ready for a full morning and afternoon of interviews. All seven students interviewed with 6 different companies. Three of the 7 students interviewed with a 7th company.

Employers were required to provide any potential job offers by 11:00am the following day. Ali and Stephani hosted the students for lunch to talk through their offers and help decide what might be best for the student and their family. We are proud to share that all students received more than one job offer!

Finally, on Thursday, June 15th, members of the community, the Chamber board, the local school systems, and families of the students gathered at GNTC to celebrate the announcement of where the students were going to accept employment. After heartfelt remarks from Ali and Stephani, Juan Triana and Damien Perez provided their unique perspective of going through the program and what it meant to them. After hearing them speak about their experience there was barely a dry eye in the room, and then it was then time to celebrate each student and their individual offers.

Damien Perez (Southeast High School) accepted a client services representative position with HealthOne Alliance
Gael Solis (Southeast High School) accepted a utility position with Engineered Floors.
Betzy Ramos (The Dalton Academy) accepted the role of operator in the laser department at GEDIA.
Juan Triana (Dalton High School) accepted the role of EL technician at Q Cells.
Dianna Gomez (Southeast High School) accepted a role at Shaw Industries Plant 4.
Roselyn Marquez (Southeast High School) accepted a role at Shaw Industries Plant 4, after receiving multiple job offers from the company.

Through the program, Oscar Landaverde (Southeast High School), realized his passion and next steps for his life. After a tour of GNTC and learning more about opportunities at Georgia Power, Oscar determined that he would be applying for school this fall. 

“In the Project Purpose program, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people, fellow graduates, human resource workers, and people in high places. I thought Dalton was only carpet and flooring but our amazing community has a ton to offer. You don’t necessarily need to come into the program to find a job right out of high school but you can use this program to find your passion and get one step closer to it. I am very glad I took the last two weeks of my summer to pursue this opportunity.” Juan Triana

“I loved this program because I have been job searching for a long time and Project Purpose helped me get interviews and be blessed with great job offers. I am beyond blessed to have met the people I met and to have learned the things they taught us every day.” Betzy Ramos

We are immensely proud of the students that completed the Project Purpose program. We started the program with nine students and are proud of the seven students that saw it through to completion. Ali Harp (JDA) and Stephani Womack (BGD) plan to follow along with these graduates as they begin their new positions to see out the great success and growth in their future careers.

If your company is interested, or if you have graduating students that will qualify for the 2024 program, please contact Stephani Womack ( and Ali Harp ( to learn more.



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