Walker County High School Students Prepare for College Life

June 5, 2018
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Walker County Schools and Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) hosted dozens of Northwest Georgia families for a Launch Academy Open House on GNTC’s Walker County Campus Tuesday. Launch Academy is a partnership between GNTC, Walker County Schools, and area business partners to develop a local career academy.

“I was really struck by the excitement of the students participating and their families,” said Walker County Schools Coordinator of Innovation Matt Harris in regards to the open house. “The parents were obviously extremely proud and the kids were excited to get started.” GNTC and the school system will hold a ribbon-cutting for the Launch Academy on GNTC’s Walker County Campus in August.

Approximately 50 juniors from LaFayette and Ridgeland High Schools will help open the doors on the Launch Academy when the Fall 2018 semester begins at GNTC. Students will be able to take technical courses at Georgia Northwestern four days a week while enrolled in the Launch Academy. Then, on Fridays, special speakers will meet with academy students and instruct them on various soft skills and employability topics. GNTC classrooms in Building 500 on the Walker County Campus are being donated to use for the academy.

Related Video: Walker Launch @ GNTC

“We are just excited about this partnership,” said GNTC Vice President of Student Affairs Stuart Phillips. “It’s not only the schools and the companies that are thrilled about the project, it’s the first students and their families. They had a lot of great questions at the open house and really appear to be looking forward to the fall.” Students and their families in attendance at the Launch Academy Open House got to tour different program facilities, as well as speak with the advisors who would be teaching most of the college courses available to them.

By graduation, students who complete their education at the Launch Academy will have earned not only a high school diploma, but a collegiate technical certificate, diploma, and/or associate’s degree. After the pilot year of the program, Walker County Schools are estimating they will be able to enroll 200 students each year after this from the student body population of Ridgeland and LaFayette High Schools.

A main goal of the Launch Academy is to raise the employment rate of students graduating from the Walker County School System. Corporate partners such as CHI Memorial Hospital, Roper Corporation, and Shaw Industries are investing into the program in hopes of this kind of success. "This, we think, is going to create that one piece we need to connect our kids and move them into jobs, into business and industry," said Walker County Schools Superintendent Damon Raines to the Walker County Chamber of Commerce at their membership luncheon in April.

Beyond the high school curriculum they will be taking while enrolled in the Launch Academy, students who qualify may choose from a GNTC collegiate program, as well. Welding and Joining Technology, Machine Tool Technology, Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Computer Networking, Automotive Technology, Health Care, and Air Conditioning Technology are the main programs students will be considering. However, Launch Academy students may take part in any program at GNTC in which they are eligible to enroll.

While GNTC instructors will be instructing the collegiate programs to the Launch Academy students, school system employees will provide instruction on GNTC’s Walker County Campus towards such courses as Economics, Civics, and English. The Georgia Department of Education will cover the expense of tuition towards dual enrollment courses. Walker County Schools are anticipating covering the costs for supplies. Some of the supplies will also be covered, in part, by the Launch Academy’s business partners.

GNTC offers more than 200 other programs online and on-campus. Campuses are located in Ringgold (Catoosa County Campus), Rome (Floyd County Campus), Calhoun (Gordon County Campus), Rockmart (Polk County Campus), Rock Spring (Walker County Campus), and Dalton (Whitfield Murray Campus).

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, 16,402 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,750 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 8,652 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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