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Gwinnett Tech students start classes

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Students at Gwinnett Technical College wait in line to get into the bookstore on Wednesday, the first day of classes.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Students at Gwinnett Technical College wait in line to get into the bookstore on Wednesday, the first day of classes.

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Jennifer Medina listens during a lecture Wednesday afternoon in an anatomy and physiology class at Gwinnett Technical College. Yesterday was the first day of classes.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- The best thing about the first day of the school year is watching students "begin their dreams."

That's how Gwinnett Technical College President Sharon Bartels felt Wednesday as more than 7,100 students walked the grounds for the first day of fall semester 2011.

"I can see it so clearly on their faces," Bartels said. "Many of them on the first day, they're actually getting to get started in their program area."

Students pursuing a wide range of academic programs got a glimpse at their classes Wednesday.

Tara Waller said she was having a good first day.

Waller, 22, is pursuing a degree in portraiture, which focuses on framing photos of families and children inside a studio.

"This program is good," Waller said. "I really can brag about this program in particular."

Student Curtis Hayden of Lawrenceville also took the opportunity to brag on his academic program.

The 19-year-old student is studying to become a pastry chef.

"The versatility of the program is my favorite thing about it," Hayden said. "There are so many different options for people who want to be involved in the culinary field."

Hayden said he had already had the opportunity to try his craft in a workplace environment and hoped to land a job soon after he finished his studies.

Bartels said putting students on the path to their career is key, even on the first day of classes.

"Job placement is a huge part of what we do," Bartels said. "We start talking about job placement from the start."

Added Bartels: "They get to learn in a great environment on the best equipment and many know they'll have a job at the end."

Much equipment is ready for students to use in the newly-built Life Sciences Center: a three-story classroom and laboratory learning facility for future healthcare providers and professionals to train.

Victoria Seals, vice president of academic affairs, said students seemed pleased with the new building.

"Even students who don't have classes here are coming by to see the classrooms and the building," Seals said. "They all seem to like it."

The space allowed the college to expand its nine existing science and allied health programs as well as introduce some new ones such as cardiovascular technology and diagnostic sonography.

The 78,000 square-foot learning space will serve more than 3,000 students annually.

Total students at the school on the first day of fall semester were about 7,100, a small increase from last year's numbers, said Vice President of Economic Development David McCulloch.