Construction on the Greene College and Career Academy’s (GCCA) new classrooms and labs is drawing to a close as the new school year quickly approaches.
Kevin Price Construction has gutted and renovated an entire wing of Greene County High School. It includes modern classrooms, labs and a career center.
All of the new classrooms will be finished by August 2, and the labs are not far behind. GCCA CEO John Ellenberg explained that when the academy’s board of directors found out that not all the construction, which began in May the day after students finished school, could be completed in time for the start of the new year, they placed a priority on finishing the classrooms so teachers could begin instruction that students will apply when the labs are ready a few weeks later.
“ You remember the old days where you learned one thing in school but you did something completely different in the private sector? We’re not doing that."
– CEO John Ellenberg
The classrooms will contain 3-D, touch-screen projectors and sound amplification systems.
The labs will be furnished with modern, state-of-the art equipment and technology that will parallel what companies in the industry are currently using. The culinary lab is already stocked with ovens and other professional kitchen equipment.
The automotive students will use wheel-alignment machines that are the current industry standard. The students following the customer service pathway will learn the same tourism and hospitality software used by the Ritz-Carlton right down the road.
“Youremember the old days where you learned one thing in school but you did something completely different in the private sector? We’re not doing that,” Ellenberg said. “They’re going to be learning on the materials that they’re using currently in the field.”
All this is designed with the goal that students who graduate from GCCA will be workforce-ready, regardless of whether they are headed on to college or not.
“We are giving these students certificates and training that are applicable to the business that they’regoing to serve,”Ellenbergsaid.“We’re really trying to make sure we’re preparing students for the real world.”
Students entering Greene County High School as freshman this year will start all of this by taking a YouScience assessment that will test their aptitudes and interests to assess what career pathway they might be most successful in. They will then work with one of 27 volunteer career coaches to develop a career plan that extends beyond their high school graduation.
“In the past, I think many high schools have thought that their job ended with graduation,” said GCCA Board of Directors Chairman Larry Kludt. “But our job doesn’t end at graduation, it continues, and we are going to be measured on the post-high school career development of the students that we start with.”
Ellenberg said he hopes the students’ YouScience assessment results will open the students’ minds to a wide range of careers they might not have previously considered.
“A lot of the students know the careers they’re familiar with,” Ellenberg said. “A lot of them don’t realize that there’sothercareersoutthere that their aptitude and their interest battery says they might be a good fit for.”
GCCA will offer 12 pathways, including careers like welding, marketing and agribusiness.
A unique featureofGreene County’s college and career academy is that students’ career plans will be available to them 24/7 through an app ontheirphones.Andbecause this career plan and app were developed by Greene County community member Dave Thillen, GCCA is an anomaly among college and career academies across the state.
“No one else has this,” Ellenberg said proudly.
Although GCCA students will be following a professional career pathway in high school, they will still take traditional core classes like math, English and history. But because the high school is partnering with Athens Technical College to offer dual enrollment classes in these subjects as well as the career pathway classes, a Greene County High School student who took the right combination of dual enrollment and career classes during their high school career could graduate with a GCCA diploma and an associate’s degree at the same time.
Part of the mission of colleges in the Technical College System of Georgia is to work with local high schools in their area to enhance those students’ opportunities to take dual enrollment classes.
“Right now, we have more of our teachers, Green County High School teachers, certified to teach college-level courses for dual enrollment, which means they’re a professor for the college and a teacher here, than any other county in the service area of Athens Tech,” Ellenberg said.
Mariana Mansfield, Greene County High School’s assistant principal of curriculum and instruction and 9th grade academy coordinator, saidthat becauseofthequality of Greene County High School’s teachers, it was easy to get them certified to teach college classes. This means that the high school’s students won’t have to travel to Athens Tech to take their dual enrollment classes.
“Most of the teachers at Greene County have specialist’s degrees, which is one step below a doctorate,” Mansfield said. “When you have all that coursework in a particular area, it’s really easy to be an adjunct professor.”
But in addition to college-level courses, GCCA students will have real-life work experience on their resumes. Because the GCCA curriculum was developed with input from local industries about what skills they look for in job candidates, students will be able to directly apply the skills they are learning in the labs at school to internships, shadowing and other work-based learning experiences.
GCCA students will also be able to start their own businesses and sell products throughtheschoolstore.The school’s renovation includes a full-service store that will market and sell the goods created by students in their classes.
“Most CTAE pathways are encouraged tohaveanenterprise that makes business for the pathway,” Mansfield said. “So you’re actually doing what it is you’re learning about every day.”
Similarly, the culinary lab will facilitate a full-service restaurant inside the school that will be open to teachers and the student body.
All of this is intended to give Greene County High School students an intensely practical high school education that will prepare them to start their own businesses or move straight into jobs waiting for them at industries in Greene County. Or, if they go on to college, they will have saved money on tuition and board payments because they have a head start on their college education.
“They’ll feel better about knowing what their future is,” Mansfield said, “because they already know what their plan is and how to get there.”
“This is Greene County Schools at its best,” he said. “You can have confidence and rest assured that your child in Greene County Schools is receiving the best education that’s around.”