“Twenty years ago, the economic landscapes of Bartow County and all of northwest Georgia was dramatically different than they are today,” U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta, said to the crowd Monday, citing the decline in the textile industry. “Fortunately, we do still have some strong companies ... who have made a commitment to this community and these communities that they call home ... and what has changed is the skillset to compete for the jobs.”
He continued, “These companies offer great jobs, but the youngsters have to have those skills and that’s what they’re going to get right here at this academy. To secure a job in a 21st century plant, you have to come equipped with technical skills in addition to that high school diploma.
“The manufacturers of the 21st century require so much more, and thanks to the Bartow County College and Career Academy our students will be equipped with the skills needed to be ‘job ready.’”
Janet Queen, of Georgia Power, also serves as chair of the BCCCA’s board of directors. She has said an integral element in developing the academy is partnering with industry and post-secondary education opportunities, such as Chattahoochee Technical College and Georgia Highlands College.
“Being the community of choice doesn’t just happen, we’ve heard today from people about business and industry locating to Bartow County and that’s because they’ve heard about the great things we’re doing here, and we have to continue to make our school systems a crucial part of our everyday life in Bartow County,” Queen said. “Education has to be No. 1, we have to make that each and every one of our priorities.”
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who supported the BCCCA in its efforts to acquire a $3.3 million grant, also was present at the event. He spoke about how he has seen college and career academies across the state help produce educated graduates ready to engage in the workforce while also extending their academic opportunities.
“One of the things I love the most is telling the success stories out of college and career academies,” Cagle said. “The success stories bring tears to my eyes because I can tell you we’re going to have 98 percent graduation rates, but what is more important is that you’re now going to have the ability for kids to have [an] industry-certified certificate, which is going to enable them to earn twice what they would with a normal high school diploma.”
He continued, “It’s going to focus them, they’re going to have the ability now and opportunity to experience different pathways to get them focused and motivated to see the things that really are going to challenge them. All of a sudden, the light bulbs come on and that’s what we want out of our young people, we want to see them get excited about a career field, and when they’re excited, their educational level and ability goes through the roof and that’s going to translate to better workers as well.
“[Career academies] also have the ability to not only see students that have industry-certified certificates, but I did a graduation [previously] where we literally had eight students graduate from high school on a Friday, but on Saturday they graduated with a two-year degree.”
Superintendent John Harper thanked those involved in making the academy, located at the former Cass High School, a reality. The facility continues to undergo its three phases of renovation to facilitate its half-dozen career pathways of Engineering and Technology; Marketing/Hospitality and Tourism; Health Science/Nursing; Marketing/Sports Entertainment; Public Safety/Law Enforcement; and Health Science/Physical Medicine.
The Bartow County Board of Education previously approved the fields of study to be offered at the academy based on local business and industry surveys developed and reviewed by the BCCCA’S Needs Assessment committee.
“The community had the vision and we ended up with the facility, and what do you do with the facility that’s about 30 years old, that can continue to serve children well — you put a plan together,” Harper said.
Harper has said the intent of the academy is to provide a non-traditional route to graduation while preparing students to enter the workforce or go to college with existing credit and idea of a future career. He said while some students are more comfortable in a traditional high school setting, the academy provides an alternative.
BCCCA CEO Paul Sabin also thanked the community, citing the school’s nine instructors who will be teaching at the facility, which offers dual enrollment through CTC and GHC.
“If you’ve had children in school and you’ve been around schools, it’s not the equipment that makes the different, it’s not the building that makes the difference, it’s the teachers that are in the classroom every day that make the difference,” Sabin said.
Beyond its initial start-up grant, Sabin previously said the academy will receive state funding as any other local school based on full-time equivalent students.