The Hutchings College and Career Academy is morphing from a conventional school, and in the process Bibb high school students will have dozens of options to get real-world career experience and earn college credit.
The partnership program -- between Central Georgia Technical College and the Bibb County school district -- is part dual enrollment, part technical certification training and all opportunity. A highly motivated student could even earn an associate degree, while still in high school, for free.
Last year, the state awarded the district a $3.11 million grant to help fund Hutchings’ partnership with CGTC and create a satellite program at the Anthony Road center. The grant will be used to renovate the Promise Center and expand the new vocational program.
Jason Daniel, executive director of capital programs, said the architect is now working on the design, and the district has a bid out for construction. The center should be open for students by August, he said, but there may still be some work in some areas of the building then.
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To participate in the Hutchings program, high school students must be classified as a sophomore, junior or senior, be on track for graduation, have three consecutive class periods available and pass a college entrance exam.
Depending on which pathway students choose, they will receive transportation to either CGTC or the Anthony Road center to take part in one of many learning programs.
The different pathways and dual enrollment opportunities are audio/video technology and film, banking, construction, culinary arts, aircraft structural engineering, graphic communications, nursing/health care, hospitality, cosmetology, welding, biotechnology and automotive repair.
Kaycee Powell, who graduated Rutland High School last year, participated in the dual enrollment program to learn about welding. She’s now on track to finish her associate degree by next semester.
“I loved (the program),” she said. “It has helped me a lot in getting where I need to go. And it gave me the opportunity to be finishing high school while getting real world experience.”
Barry Curtis, one of the welding instructors at CGTC, said he sets the bar high for students.
“Everything we do, we do real world,” he said. By the time students take the test to get their first welding certification, he added, it should be easy for them.
Cosmetology instructor Shalah Gale echoed the same application of high standards in her program, which she said will help students readily pass their state cosmetology board test.
Students have hands-on tests and book work each week, she said.
“Our program is the best in Middle Georgia,” she said.
Students get to work in a “fully functioning cosmetology lab” that serves real clients. Gale is teaching five or six students this year, but she hopes that number will increase as awareness of the program builds.
The culinary arts program at the center will include a working cafe where students can sell their baked goods for public consumption.
“All of the programs will have a work component to them so we can work with the community,” said Cassandra Washington, Bibb’s career, technical and agriculture education director.
In recent years, there has been a push to remove barriers of different kinds -- particularly between the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia -- to help students transfer class credits more easily, Washington said.
Senate Bill 2, which was passed and signed into law this past legislative session, sets the requirements for students to obtain college credits or certifications. SB2 also lets students’ college-level classes go toward fulfilling their 11th- and 12th-grade requirements to receive a diploma.
“If students want to continue on, they can come take those classes and apply them toward a diploma,” said Amy Holloway, CGTC’s vice president for academic affairs. Students who start in high school can “stack those credentials into an associate degree with us” or could use CGTC’s transfer agreements to move those credits to a four-year school.
Additionally, the credits students earn won’t count against their HOPE scholarship funding (for students who are eligible). And transportation, for Bibb students, will be provided to and from their respective schools.
The district’s new program is a “win-win” for students, Washington said.