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Career Academy opens doors
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Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, state Sen. Jack Hill, state Reps. Jon Burns and Ann Purcell, Effingham Superintendent Randy Shearouse and members of the Effingham County Board of Education cut the ceremonial ribbon Thursday afternoon. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Many prominent faces in Effingham County assembled as the first outsiders to step foot in the schools systems newest edition during the open house and ribbon cutting of the Effingham Career Academy on Thursday afternoon.

The most anticipated presence was Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who spearheaded the Career Academy Initiative across the state. The Effingham Career Academy marks the 21st in the state and was one of the first to receive a career academy grant from the Technical College System of Georgia.

“Today we do have 21, but I have a desire, a goal to bring a career academy to every student who wants it because I know how successful it is,” Cagle said. “That’s how passionate I am about this because I know the results.”

The career academies, Cagle pointed out, have a 98 percent graduation rate and a 100 percent placement rate for students after completion.

“Those communities that are investing in workforce development are the communities that are going to succeed for the future,” he said. “When you invest in a career academy, you are investing in economic development. What you are doing is you are partnering education with the workforce.”

Much of the purpose of education today is to prepare students to be productive parts of the workforces, Cagle continued.

After a hectic week of moving in, everything was finally in place at the Career Academy. The health care classroom has hospital beds and dummies; each bay in the transportation lab is set with a brightly-colored tool box filled with shiny, untouched tools.

Graphic communication director Kim Larson is excited for the students to be able to have more open space to work.

“The elbow room is going to allow the kids to be able to work and get their creativity going,” she said. “We’ve added a few technologies we didn’t have at either school before. I think it’s going to be fun. There was some stuff we had at one school and we didn’t have at the other school and to have both at the same school now, I think it’s going to be fun for all students.”

Christina Hillman, a senior at ECHS and the current president of Georgia’s SkillsUSA, will be one of the students enjoying Larson’s new lab.

“We’re thrilled,” she said. “At the old high school, you sit four to a table. If you look here, the computers are huge. They’re new and modern, and this will get us so much farther than we ever could have in our old classroom. The equipment’s amazing. It’s beautiful.”

Awarded a gold certification, the Career Academy is also the first building in the county to be LEED certified.

“While many people associate LEED with protection of the environment and energy efficiency, the true beneficiaries are the students, the teachers, the staff and the tax payers,” said Denise Grabowski, vice chair of the board of directors of the U.S. Green Building Council of Georgia.

She said the upgrades made at the Effingham Career Academy will save enough energy and money over three years to payback their cost. Grabowski said test scores improve and absenteeism and teacher and staff turnover are reduced.

“But it turns out saving money isn’t the only benefit of going green for our schools. Green buildings offer more pleasant, healthier and more comfortable environment,” she said.

Guests toured the entire building and marveled at all the opportunities that await its new students Monday.

“I’m excited, not only because of the beautiful building, but what is going to happen over the years to come for this community because of the investment and because of the vision,” Cagle said.