Nearly 300 people — elected officials, business leaders, community members, students, and school employees — turned out for the ground-breaking for Catoosa County’s College and Career Academy on Friday, Oct. 22.
“It was a great day to celebrate this new opportunity for our students and our community,” School Superintendent Denia Reese said.
Ringgold High School’s JROTC Color Guard opened the event by presenting colors, followed by students from all three high school bands playing the National Anthem. The compilation of the high school bands and choruses were featured on the program for several performances. Students from Career Technical classes were also present dressed to represent their vocational club.
“This day was about celebrating students,” Reese said. “The new Academy will serve students from all high schools, so it was great to have students present to perform. I really appreciate the hard work of the students, and the band and chorus directors, to coordinate and perform together.
“In addition to local business and community leaders,” she said, “it was an honor to have representatives from the state of Georgia, including Senator Jeff Mullis, state School Superintendent Richard Woods, state CTAE Director Barbara Wall, and Technical College System of Georgia Assistant Commissioner Mark Peevy.”
In her speech, Reese explained the journey to beginning construction on The From HERE to CAREER Academy.
She said the system began the journey to open an Academy with a community “listening luncheon” on Nov. 16, 2017. With overwhelming support from the community, the Board of Education moved forward. In partnership with Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC), the system launched the first Mechatronics cohort on their Catoosa campus in 2019. After two years developing a grant application, the system was awarded a $3 million grant from the Technical College System of Georgia in December 2019 to support construction of the new school.
Georgia College and Career are unique schools because they are established through partnerships between business and industry leaders, post-secondary institutions, and the local school district. Catoosa students will have an “amazing opportunity to attend this school because of the Board of Education’s vision, and years of planning by the Academy Board of Directors and advisory committees,” school officials said.
The From HERE to CAREER College and Career Academy will serve juniors and seniors from the county’s three high schools: Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Heritage and Ringgold. Students who attend this school will graduate with college credit and technical college certificates to be prepared for good-paying high-demand careers in our region. This school will benefit students and local businesses by providing a talent pipeline for their continued economic prosperity.
“The opportunity to dual enroll with GNTC or Dalton State College to earn 30 hours of college credit free while students are in high school is an important feature of this school,” Reese said. “I had to work two jobs to pay for my education at UTC. So many students borrow money to go to college and begin life with college loan debt. I am thrilled that we can provide an opportunity for high school students to earn college credit and technical college certificates at no cost to them or their families.”
The From HERE to CAREER Academy will be an 80,000-square-foot building on two floors. The Academy will have the following high demand career pathways to prepare students for jobs in the region: The School of Law Enforcement and Emergency Management; The School of Nursing and Therapeutic Services; The School of Architecture and Construction; The School of Welding and Machine Tool Technology; The School of Information Technology and Cybersecurity; The School of Teaching and Learning; The School of Logistics, Distribution, and Supply Chain Management; and The School of Industrial Systems Technology, Robotics, and Mechatronics (located at GNTC’s Catoosa County Campus). The school will open in August 2023.