A new pathway at the Floyd County College and Career Academy will offer students a huge step into the world of animation and digital illustration.

The program will be part of the graphic arts department, headed by Mandy Loorham.

“We’ve been playing with it a bit already,” said Loorham. “Next year will be a full class. My juniors this year are getting a taste of what the real class will be like.”

The pathway is relevant for Georgia students because of Georgia’s growing film industry.

“Several state-of-the-art studios, cutting-edge technology and various animation and gaming companies are starting to call the Peach State their home,” Loorham said. “There is a strong demand for skilled, talented employees.”

Fayette County Schools started the same pathway this year, in partnership with a Canadian animation software company called Toon Boom. The company’s software is used to produce more than 70 percent of the world’s cartoons and animated features.

Through a collaboration with Fayette, Toon Boom and Clayton State College, a curriculum has been created for Georgia high school students that will open doors.

“By the time they finish the course at Floyd College and Career Academy, they will have the opportunity to become certified in both storyboard and animation software programs,” Loorham explained. “This will be a gateway to many more opportunities for a career — or for them to develop a portfolio before continuing on at college.”

Loorham has visited Fayette County to observe and train.

She plans to spend more time training this summer.

“They are so excited to have another school system participating, they were completely welcoming,” she said. “We will be the only two school systems in Georgia offering this next year.”

Loorham said she is looking forward to seeing the graphics arts program at CCA expand.

“This is a much better fit for these students than just learning to print T-shirts or keychains,” said Loorham. “This moves this pathway into the digital age.”

The students who will be the first to experience this pathway are looking forward to the step into the future as well.

“I am thrilled,” said junior Maddie Culberson. “It makes me so happy to say that we are given new opportunities each and every year as the world and technology evolve. I absolutely cannot wait.”

Junior Anslei West said she’s eagerly anticipating the behind-the-scenes experience with the shows and short videos they will make.

“The new animation program will be an amazing opportunity for creative students to nurture their talents,” said senior Faerie Schock.

“I think that it’s great for students to be exposed to software as popular as Toon Boom, while preparing themselves for a future in graphic design and animation.”