High School Freshmen Facing College Choices at Younger Age

January 31, 2019
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College recruits don’t always drive their cars to campuses they want to visit. In Catoosa County, Georgia, one group of future talent, not old enough drive, traveled by school bus to tour Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) as part of the Catoosa County School System’s Career Exploration program.

The brand new program, geared towards high school freshman, is in its pilot year at Ringgold High School. More than two dozen ninth-graders from the program took a first-hand look at GNTC January 23. In addition, if the school system’s plan continues to grow, these underclassmen won’t be the last looking so far into the future, so early in their high school careers.

“In Catoosa County Public Schools, we believe we have a responsibility to help students prepare for college and career,” said Catoosa County Schools Communications Specialist Marissa Brower. “It’s more than just walking across a stage to receive a high school diploma these days. It’s about what happens tomorrow. So, we need to do our part today to make sure students are prepared to continue their post-secondary education or credentialed to enter a career.”

Georgia Northwestern Technical College Electronics Technology Instructor Cody Brewer speaks with students from Ringgold High Schools’ Career Exploration program touring GNTC’s Catoosa County Campus in Ringgold, Georgia.
Georgia Northwestern Technical College Electronics Technology Instructor Cody Brewer speaks with students from Ringgold High Schools’ Career Exploration program touring GNTC’s Catoosa County Campus in Ringgold, Georgia.

GNTC specialists spoke with the students about their collegiate future during their visit with the region’s largest college. Students learned about recruitment, dual enrollment, and future career possibilities available through a GNTC education. The students also took a tour of some of the GNTC Catoosa County Campus facilities during their visit.

“This will be the cornerstone for how we market our College and Career Academy to students,” added Brower. “Students in the From HERE to CAREER exploration class take the YouScience aptitude and interest assessment to identify careers that are a good fit. The pilot will be refined, and this will be a required class for all 9th graders in the fall.” The Catoosa County School system currently works with GNTC through Dual Enrollment. Also, the system will open a College and Career Academy in August 2022. It would be built upon nearly five acres of land donated by the county to the school system in 2018.

“Young people need to begin thinking about professional options earlier in their academic careers,” said GNTC Associate Vice President of Special Projects Dr. Ginger Mathis. “Every student has special skills and abilities that would serve them well in specific fields. This Career Exploration program is a valuable tool that will allow Catoosa County students, at a younger age than usual, to begin considering their strengths and matching them to a potential path in the future. It will also help parents and families to look at things such as dual enrollment which would allow students to get college credit at no cost.”

Local entrepreneur Jonathan Connell spoke with the students and administrators before their tours to share his story about coming from Northwest Georgia and finding a career path that not only suited him, but also made him very successful along the way. “I learned to live on half of my paycheck at a very young age,” Connell told the students. “Doing that, I was able to save enough money to begin my own business and begin my own future.” Connell is a Dade County, Georgia native and United States Marine Corps veteran who has owned multiple businesses throughout the past two decades. After selling most of them, he is currently the owner of MedSTAT Medical Supply Company; Xenon Group, LLC, Real Estate; and JTalks LLC which provides training, education, and motivational speaking services.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of Northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma, or a certificate in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 12,785 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,499 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 5,286 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.

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