Wiregrass Georgia Tech and Coffee County Schools Awarded Grant for Career Academy

December 6, 2013

Delegation presenting Career Adacemy Grant
Front Row (L-R): Lisa Tomberlin, Vice President of Operations, Wiregrass Technical College; Jenny Williams, Director of College & Career Transitions, TCSG; Lisa Hodge, Assistant Superintendent, Coffee County Schools; Lynn Cornett, TCSG Board Chair; Mona Moore, Coffee County Schools Board Member, District 2; Judi Worrell, Coffee County Schools Board Member, District 3; Morris Leis, Superintendent, Coffee County Schools; Irene Munn, General Counsel and Director of Policy, Lt. Governor Cagle’s Office; Ron Jackson, Commissioner, TCSG; Ben Copeland, TCSG Board Member, 8th Congressional District. Back Row (L-R): Scott Gillis, Coffee County Career Academy Principal; Gary Evans, Plant Manager, Douglas Southwire; Brandy Wilkes, Associate Vice President of Operations, Wiregrass Technical College; Shawn Utley, Executive Vice President, Wiregrass Technical College; Tina Anderson, President, Wiregrass Technical College; Adam Lott, Coffee County Schools Board Member, District 5; Bryan Preston, Coffee County Schools Board Member, District 4; Mark Peevy, Executive Director of Secondary Initiatives, TCSG

Valdosta, GA— The State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) awarded grants totaling $9.45 million to help establish three new college and career academies in Georgia on Thursday, December 5. Each received $3.15 million in funding that is to be matched with local funding to support the academies’ start-up costs, construction, and initial staffing.

The Coffee County College and Career Academy, a joint project between Wiregrass Georgia Tech and the Coffee County School System was one of the projects funded. Coffee County Schools began a Career Academy in August of this year located in a portion of the old high school campus. The grant will allow the school to partner with Wiregrass in the construction of a new state of the art building to be located on the Wiregrass Coffee Campus. The College and Career Academy will provide a student centered, seamless, and comprehensive educational experience that prepares students for college, career, and life.

Dr. Tina K. Anderson, president of Wiregrass Georgia Tech stated “the opportunities created by the Career Academy will provide students with unlimited access to college programs while still in high school. This type of partnership between Wiregrass and Coffee County Schools embodies the synergy that is created when we work together for the students.” TCSG State Board Chair Lynn Cornett expressed the board’s strong support for Georgia’s career academy initiative and the expanded possibilities that it provides for high school students. "Career academies are a unique collaboration between the school system, area TCSG colleges, and business and industry, all working together to develop programs that educate and prepare Georgia students for in-demand jobs. The result is an innovative learning environment where students earn high school and college credit while being challenged to reach their potential and, ultimately, excel in great careers," said Cornett.

Students find that the academies’ dual credit programs provide greater relevancy and value which leads to higher graduation rates. Students are also better-prepared for higher education because they take college-level courses and earn college credits. Businesses realize the benefit from students who can put their education to work as part of Georgia’s highly-trained and skilled workforce. Students at the 27 college and career academies across the state have graduation rates in the high ninetieth percentile, and most go on to attend college. The job placement rate for career academy graduates is also very high.

The Wiregrass Board of Directors, local business and industry representatives, the Coffee County School Board, and the Coffee County Chamber of Commerce all pledged their support and assistance in the making the Career Academy a success. A needs survey was completed during the grant application process to identify business and industry workforce needs. These needs will be addressed through the College and Career Academy by providing the opportunity for high school students to dually enroll in essentially all of the programs offered on the Wiregrass Coffee Campus.

Dr. Morris Leis, Coffee County Superintendent stated “we believe that this exciting opportunity for students in Coffee County will move us ever closer to our mission of destination graduation for college, career and life. We want every student to have a high school experience that prepares them for life after high school and the Coffee College and Career Academy will do just that. I would like to thank everyone who helped us obtain this grant and make this day a reality.”