Fast track to the future
Located at 440 Dearing Extension, Athens Community Career Academy offers Clarke County School District high school students college courses.
It is a weekday morning at the Athens Community Career Academy and the campus is buzzing. Students unload from school buses and file into the newly-renovated H.T. Edwards building.
Since it’s beginning, the H.T. Edwards building has undergone several renovations to ready it to be the Athens Community Career Academy. Graphic by Austin DeFoor.
Some students settle in the atrium area and finish their breakfast, while others head to the media center where they work arduously on their assigned tasks and study for upcoming exams. Some stragglers hurry to their classrooms where Athens Technical College professors are waiting to begin the day.
For the 2012-13 school year, the Athens Community Career Academy partnered with Athens Technical College to provide new opportunities with an improved environment for students who attend the ACCA.
“(The partnership between ATC and the ACCA) provides students with the opportunities to start college early,” ACCA Director Dr. Lynn Johns said. “I think this gives students the opportunity to see (that) college is not this untouchable thing.”
The new affiliation between ATC and the ACCA allows Clarke County School District juniors and seniors to take college courses through ATC.
“There are so many new opportunities available to the students because of this,” ACCA Vice Principal Robert Williams said. “It is now possible for students to knock out some of those classes so that once they get to college, they don’t have to take them. That saves them money and time.”
The college credits earned through the ACCA are transferrable to any of the 35 institutions in the University System of Georgia, an organizational body that includes the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University.
The ACCA was initially limited as to what courses it could offer to the students because it had not yet coordinated with ATC.
“In the first year, we didn’t have as wide a variety for students but this year, the academy has really broadened what it has to offer,” Johns said.
The ability to take college courses at the ACCA not only allows students to use their HOPE scholarship money longer in college, but also creates possibilities for students to earn a two-year degree by high school graduation.
“(The opporunties at the ACCA are) really amazing and I’m hoping to earn my associate’s degree by the time I graduate high school,” Cedar Shoals High School junior Dalia Flores said. “I’m shooting for that goal because then I won’t have to pay for the first two years of college at all.”
According to athenstech.edu, in order to earn an associate’s degree in two years at ATC, it would cost a student $5,820. To attend UGA for the same reason and same time, it would cost $21,380, not including residence, meal plans and living expenses, according to UGA’s website.
For ACCA students, there is no cost.
“How many people get to say they had the opportunity to have college in high school for free with books and everything paid for?” Clarke Central High School junior Lindsey Langston said.
The ACCA has seen an increase in enrollment this term with a total of 323 students from both CCHS and CSHS, compared to last year’s 207 students.
This fall, the ACCA is offering 10 college courses through ATC in the subject areas of algebra, biology, chemistry, English, psychology and U.S. history.
Of the 323 students enrolled at the ACCA, 122 are taking college core classes through ATC.
The other 201 students are taking high school level courses. Students can take courses online through programs such as Georgia Virtual in order to attain credit for courses that are not offered at the ACCA or at their respective school.
In addition to the new partnership with ATC, the ACCA is also under new leadership this year. Katy Arrowwood, employed by ATC, is the CEO and has authority over the college aspect of the ACCA. Johns is the director of the ACCA and coordinates the high school aspect of the academy.
“Dr. Johns is doing amazing. She really doesn’t get enough credit for what she does, because she’s done a great job developing the environment that we have here,” Flores said.
The environment at the ACCA has enrolled students feeling that they have more freedom than students at the regular high schools.
“(The ACCA) gives you a lot of liberty,” CCHS junior Victor Perez said. “(The partnership with ATC) has given a lot more people opportunities to learn something different other than the classes offered at Clarke Central or Cedar Shoals.”
Along with the freedom given to the students, comes the atmosphere of college. For example, students who are taking college courses may not have class every day, resulting in the students studying quietly and efficiently in the main lobby of the ACCA.
“I think what is really surprising a lot of kids is (they) are treated like a college student,” CCHS Principal Dr. Robbie P. Hooker said. “The freedoms are there. When I walked in just yesterday, (the students) were sitting in the atrium area. All of them had their laptops and different groups were working on a project as opposed to being in a classroom.”
ACCA students feel very passionately about the opportunities available to them and hope to encourage more students to take advantage of the ACCA.
“It is such an amazing opportunity,” CCHS senior Nathan Welch said. “You can go over there and get a head start on your college education for free. People need to realize the potential at the career academy and take advantage of all it has to offer.”
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View the letter to students, the ACCA admission application, the dual enrollment application and COMPASS placement scores at these links.