What’s Next? Georgia’s Career Pathways May/June 2017 Issue 2017-12-01T22:33:30+00:00

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What’s Next? Georgia’s Career Pathways

 May/June 2017 Issue

The May/June 2017 Issue of Freedom & Opportunity, What’s Next? Georgia’s Career Pathways is filled with even more incredible content focusing on education and workforce readiness in Georgia.

One of our features concentrates on Skylar Hugget, a welder from the coastal Georgia area who is excelling in life and is happy with her choice to follow a vocational career path. This issue also contains a great feature column about Mrs. Gretchen Corbin, Governor Deal’s pick to run the Technical College System of Georgia. We are very excited about a column from Google and their thoughts on the jobs of the future and their ideas on how to prepare the next level of “Googlers!”

We have a great feature column on the Graduate Marietta! Student Success Center and how they have implemented a program that includes state and local agencies on campus and have received private funding to help struggling students find answers to a-typical needs, giving them hope for the future.

Cindy Morley provides an in depth look at Communities In Schools and how for over 40 years they have been making a difference in schools large and small across the state.

We are honored to have Congressman Barry Loudermilk lend us his thoughts and experiences while in D.C. and serving on the Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Also Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle shares his vision about education. Lt. Gov. Cagle has long been an outspoken advocate for all levels and ideas about education in Georgia and we are appreciative that he would take the time to express his ideas.

In a new and permanent feature called Unsung Heroes we shine the light on an organization called Rising Seniors that works with talented young football players and advises them about the game of life both during their football career and afterwards. This all-volunteer organization has flown under the radar long enough, and we are proud to bring their story to our 7,000 readers!

Click on the link to the right to turn the pages of this exciting May/June 2017 Issue of Freedom & Opportunity!

Features from this Issue

Hall County Pilot Technical College Readiness Course Brings New Hope for Students

By: Cindy Morley

Hall County School Superintendent Will Schofield knew he had a problem, and wanted to do something about it.

He recognized that each year, approximately 140,000 children leave the Georgia school system. Some leave with a degree, some without. Of those 140,000 children, 70,000 of them are not prepared to successfully participate in college level math and English. In Hall County, Schofield says 35 percent of the seniors in the district were struggling to find success in college level Math and. English – that’s about 600 students each year.

Schofield recently told members of the Hall County Board of Education “the fact that we can have that many kids put 13 years into our system, get to the end of it and have no options beyond an hourly job,” had caused him sleepness nights for more than 20 years.

So Schofield went looking for an answer. And, a quick glance at the numbers indicates that he has found one. That answer: Technical College Readiness English and Math — which provides post-secondary math and English classes for core high school credit to those struggling with the traditional courses. In fact, these two classes take direct aim at the nearly 600 students each year that Schofield is concerned with, and provides them with additional opportunities.

According to the Georgia Department of Education, Technical College Readiness Mathematics (TCRM) is designed to meet the needs of students who have passed Algebra I/Coordinate Algebra, have passed or are concurrently enrolled in Geometry/Analytic Geometry while taking this course, and intend to enroll in a technical college program. The course is aimed at students who have experienced difficulty in passing middle school mathematics End of Grade assessments, have struggled significantly in the first two high school core mathematics courses, and have scored less than 34 on the ACCUPLACER Placement Assessment (qualifying tests for Technical College admission in Georgia). The ACCUPLACER Placement Assessment will serve as the course post-test. TCRM will examine numeracy, algebra, and geometry in a variety of contexts, including number sense, linear and non-linear relationships, functions and their graphs, and measurement and geometry. The course will prove an opportunity for students to review mathematics skills needed for success in Technical College and will extend students’ understandings of mathematical concepts and skills by emphasizing topics from Foundations of Algebra, Coordinate Algebra/Algebra I, Analytic Geometry/Geometry, and Advanced Algebra/Algebra II.

The English portion of this technical college readiness course is designed to meet the needs of students who have passed Ninth Grade Literature and Composition, have passed American Literature and Composition or are concurrently enrolled in American Literature and Composition while taking this course. Note: Eligible students must score lower than 55 on the Reading Comprehension portion of the ACCUPLACER Placement Assessment prior to enrolling in this course. The ACCUPLACER Placement Assessment will serve as the course post-test. The English review will emphasize reading comprehension, identifying main ideas, making inferences, and distinguishing between direct statements and supporting ideas. The course will also emphasize sentence structure skills. This course will provide an opportunity for students to review reading and writing skills needed for success in Technical College.

“We are changing lives with the classes,” said Kevin Bales, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning in Hall County.

“We are appreciative of the opportunity the Hall County BOE has provided to these students,” Bales recently told members of the Hall County Board of Education. “We continue to push forward with the TCR students to make sure that they not only have the ability to enroll in our technical colleges, but they also possess the skills and resources to be successful in the classrooms.”

Hall’s TCR program, the first of its kind in the state, was unanimously approved by the Georgia State Board of Education, and these classes began in January with the opening day of the second semester. A total of 54 students enrolled in the courses at three schools in the county — East Hall, Johnson High and Lanier Charter Career Academy. To be eligible for either of the two courses, students could not qualify for Lanier Tech before the courses began.

“The State Board of Education is always looking for innovation to find ways to improve preparedness for career development among our students,” said State Board Vice-Chairman Scott Johnson. “We saw great potential in this proposal.”

Hall County school officials are already seeing results. According to Bales, when the semester began, not one of the 54 students qualified for enrollment at Lanier Technical College.

At just over mid-point in the blocked semester, Bales said two of the 54 students had already qualified for degree level entry. Ten had met the degree level requirement for reading. Twelve had met the degree level requirement for Elementary Algebra.

Fifteen of the 54 students already qualify for diploma/certificate level entry, according to Bales, and over 81% of the math students have met the minimal mathematics requirement, and over 36% of the Reading students have met the minimal reading requirement.

Class assessments are based on a pre-and post-test with the post-test being the actual ACCUPLACER test that a student takes before being accepted into technical college.

Bales recently broke down the academic histories of the 54 students involved in the TCR pilot.

  • The average Lexile for students in the TCR Reading course is a 1038.
  • The average Lexile for students in the TCR Math course is a 1074.
  • Students in the TCR Reading course averaged a 467 on the 9th Grade Lit End of Course Tests.
  • Students in the TCR Reading course averaged a 438 on the American Lit End of Course tests.
  • Students in the TCR Math course averaged a 441 on the Coordinate Algebra End of Course Tests.
  • Students in the TCR Math course averaged a 479 on the Analytic Geometry End of Course Tests.

The two courses will be offered in all seven Hall County high schools next year, and Schofield and Bales said other districts have called about the courses. According to officials, by the end of July 2017, Hall County will provide school districts across the state with course lesson plans that use resources readily available to all schools. As of March, information about the courses had already been sent to almost 70 school districts.

Students who enroll in this course and earn the required ACCUPLACER scores can be eligible for Move On When Ready (MOWR). In fact, some of the students recommended for the mathematics course, scored higher than the set eligibility score for the ACCUPLACER. These students are currently enrolled in a mathematics course through MOWR at Lanier Technical College.

“The bottom line is that some of these students may have gotten diplomas, some of them may not have gotten diplomas,” Bales said. “But many of these students were going to have very limited opportunities because they failed to make a certain score for one of the qualifying tests. These students were absolutely stuck in no-man’s land.”

That’s how the officials feel about TCR. But how about the students? Here is a sampling of some of their comments:

  • “I think this is a great opportunity to help me for my future.”
  • “The courses help me work on my weak points in high school.”
  • “I think that it’s a good thing that my classmates and I have an opportunity to take this course in order to help us for the real world.”
  • “This course is awesome.”
  • I feel lucky because I will be able to do something after high school.”

One student added: For me, this class has honestly changed my life,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to graduate, and now I’m thinking about my future plans and it’s awesome to think about that. At the beginning of the semester, it was all fading away from me. I felt like I had no control of my life. I feel I can control it now.”

How Do You Spell Success? GMSSC

By:  Michelle Brown

Poverty. Teen pregnancy. Eating disorders. Drug addiction. Broken homes. Hunger. Parent job-loss. Homelessness. Abusive relationships. Abandonment. Immigration.

These are not some of the typical causes first thought of when considering low grade point averages and the failure to graduate high school.

Yet, when asked, students of Marietta High School pinpoint these very tragedies and circumstances as some of the deterrents they face to making the grade and successfully graduating.

And that’s what Leigh Colburn discovered. Approached by then Marietta City School Superintendent in 2015, Emily Lembeck and the Board of Education, Colburn was challenged – What could we do to increase the graduation rate from 75% to 100%? As Principal of Marietta High School, Colburn was on a mission – to find answers.

Many teachers, administrators, and educators have set out to remedy failing test scores, low grade point averages and dwindling graduation rates by tackling the issues with traditional data driven approaches – remediation, tutoring, practice testing, and even the focus on improving teacher/administrator performance. All well-meaning and good, and these approaches may work for some struggling students and schools systems, but what Marietta High School found is while some data-driven solutions work to some degree, not all barriers to graduation stem from in-school academically focused issues.

For some of these Marietta High School students, all the tutoring in the world could not take away the anxiety, fear, and emotional weight carried by these young men and women caused by the stressful issues they face on a daily basis. How can a homeless student focus on passing a test if they are worried where they will sleep that night? How can a student do homework successfully if they have to take on an after school job to make ends meet and put food on the table, because a parent has lost a job or does not make enough alone to financially care for the family?

With a simple questionnaire, Colburn and her colleagues asked the question of their student body – “What has been your greatest barrier to your graduation?”

What Colburn and her team found was the truth – the voice of students. “Our students were willing to share what was going on in their lives, and they had real ideas about how we could help or do things differently,” Colburn said.

We can all agree education is the opportunity of a lifetime – affording us the freedom to make positive choices and the ability to guide us down paths of success. But what happens when a student’s family and home life conditions are seemingly impossible to overcome? When students face trauma and begin to emotionally and physically spiral downward, how is academic success and even graduation possible?

Some of today’s students face many challenges in life that most adults never have to experience. Too often these young people also face these challenges without the support of a parent, or the resources to push through these road-blocks and get on track to finish high school helping to launch them into college and good career choices.

The answers that came from the student questionnaires fueled Leigh Colburn’s desire to help. Colburn and her staff learned that students who graduated and those that didn’t were often facing individual versions of the same barriers, but two differences between those who graduated and those who dropped out of high school was an access to services and resources and one powerful internal asset – resilience, defined as one’s sense of hope, worth, belonging, and purpose. Colburn then asked what could Marietta High School do to boost access to services and resilience in their students? So much more, was their answer!

Colburn recognized, “The solution to what ails public schools is in our communities – our citizens, our non-profits, our service based community groups, and our faith based organizations.”

Seeing student needs and reaching beyond the mainstream solutions for academic growth, Colburn resigned as Principal in June of 2015. Colburn, with support from her staff, the Marietta School Superintendent, local businesses and community organizations gave birth to Graduate Marietta Student Success Center (GMSSC) which opened in October, 2015.

Many local communities have resources available, but Colburn notes students and their families do not necessarily know how to reach out and receive the help they desperately need. Colburn and the GMSSC bolstered the initiative started by Communities in Schools, and decided to reach out to local businesses, charities, and government agencies already engaged in meeting the community’s needs. These organizations were all too eager to listen and provide the on-site expertise, staff, and resources needed by the GMSSC.

“GMSSC provides a place for kids to process their experiences and then with the help of trained professionals and caring adults, work through issues and learn there are people they can trust to help them” Colburn shared.

Current Marietta Schools Superintendent, Dr. Grant Rivera offers his full backing and gratitude of those in the Marietta community, “The Marietta Success Center is an example of what happens when an entire community unifies behind one common purpose: supporting every need of every child. Through the vision cast by our Board and support of our partners, the Center is addressing the many real-world barriers to academic success so every student is successful in both college and their careers.”

Three distinctive arms of the GMSSC are the Center for Academic Support, the Center for Behavioral Support, and the Center for Community Partnerships – Counseling and Family Support. Each provides the necessary support to meet specific needs of students.

The Center for Academic Support engages in college and career readiness with technologically advanced programs like YouScience, an innovative personalized testing tool providing comprehensive insights of students’ abilities and how they impact their potential for career planning, helping them communicate effectively for job readiness. Other supports provided in this academically focused center include writing labs, tutoring services, computer labs, mentoring programs and test prep, and many more. Organizations that provide support are Rotary, Marietta Mentoring for Leadership, neighboring colleges and universities, AT&T, Communities in Schools, and the center utilizes retired teachers as tutors.

Seeing the need to assist students with social and developmental challenges, the Center for Behavioral Support provides a wide spectrum of intervention services including anger management, peer and teacher/student mediation and conflict resolution, as well as wellness and nutrition counseling, job skills assistance and social media management. Organizations include NorthStar Psychological Services, BOSS United, Inc., Cobb/Douglas Community Services Board, and the Juvenile Court of Cobb County.

With the startling transiency, addiction, and abuse rates that plague our society, so much more can be done for our youth. The GMSSC Center for Community Partnerships – Counseling and Family Support provides much needed solutions for the deeper issues kids face. The center offers counseling for many issues: eating disorders, grief, depression, sexual abuse, self-harm and suicide prevention, mental health, gang resistance, substance abuse, divorce and family changes, and the list goes on. The center also houses a clothing closet, as well as, a food pantry stocked by MUST Ministries and partially funded by Marietta Kiwanis Club. YoungLife leads a teen pregnancy support group, along with daily onsite social workers, as well as, staff members from liveSAFE Resources, the Department of Human Services, and more who all take part in this effort to bring aid to Marietta High School students and families.

LaAmistad provides English as a Second Language for parents, and there is a café to feed students. Marietta High School’s “Chill Room” is a place students know they can go for peer and adult support and counseling. It provides a safe atmosphere for teens to meet and find solutions.

“It’s amazing to watch kids transition – failing grades and hopeless outlooks can improve, environments can stabilize, and struggling students can envision a positive future,” shares Colburn. The impact of GMSSC is being heard around Georgia and the nation as other schools and communities have been admiring the work done here. Colburn has been invited to share the GMSSC story, and the work of the center is sparking interest and the desire to change communities outside Marietta.

Many Georgia schools work with the successful organization Communities In Schools, and others are researching the possibilities of forming their own relationships while partnering with local organizations to meet the needs of their students like that of GMSSC.

Through the brilliant approach of partnering with community agencies and organizations, as well as, faith-based organizations and private citizens, GMSSC has grown from an original investment of $50k in charter funding to $1.6 million in services rendered, and only about 20% of this total comes from the local school budget. Only the Academic Services are supported through local, state, and federal dollars, the rest of the services are provided at no cost to the state,” says Colburn. Colburn’s salary was the only new salary and four other current positions were absorbed into the creation of the center. Ten other staff members are provided by other organizations and agencies.

Inspired by the GMSSC program, Georgia State Representative Sam Teasley, a member of the House Education Committee states, “I simply could not be more excited about the work of the Marietta Student Success Center, or more proud of Leigh Colburn and the whole team that makes it possible. This program is making a difference in our community by being responsive to the needs of students, and engaging businesses, citizens and community leaders in that work. This is a truly innovative effort that could be a model for communities all over Georgia!”

One Marietta High School student sums up her appreciation, saying that her school represents not only academic education, but also “a place of hope and safety in times of need or crisis.”

Bringing the community into the school to meet academic solutions may seem unconventional to some, but seeing how well students are responding to the help, is a clear indication of its successful impact.

Although Marietta High School’s graduation rates have not yet risen to 100%, Leigh Colburn along with the entire Marietta community are hopeful these numbers will continue to rise as students find ease in knowing they are not alone in life.

The Graduate Marietta! Student Success Center is providing its students with the promised reward of the freedom to follow your dreams and the opportunity that America promises for all!

Editor’s note…

As we were putting the final touches on this column Director Colburn made the decision to retire from her position at the center to focus on fundraising for the GMSCC and expanding the program on a statewide and national basis. She will be working on a volunteer basis with the Marietta Schools Foundation to continue program development, community partner engagement, and fundraising. Additionally and privately, Colburn will be spearheading The Centergy Project–a Student Wraparound Initiative to guide other school districts in the creation of their own centers.

Her retirement letter to the board read in part as follows…
“Working in close partnership with Marietta City Schools and the Marietta Schools Foundation, I’ve decided to focus on the fundraising, partner engagement, and external consultancy roles and retire as Director of the Center on June 30th.  Marietta City Schools will hire a new director to manage the day-to-day operations of the Center and exclusively focus on serving our students and families. I am excited for this opportunity to showcase the great work of this community to other schools and districts, support the Foundation in its mission, and simultaneously raise funds for the Center.”

With this move, Marietta will keep its champion for student voice while Georgia gains a new leader in innovation—that’s what we call a Win-Win!

For information on the GMSCC, go to www.mariettasuccess.center or contact Colburn at leighcolburn@mariettaschoolsfoundation.com.

 If you’re interested in starting a student center in your school district, contact Colburn at leigh@thecentergyproject.com.

Hope Career Grant: Job-Ready Skills, Tuition Free

By: Mark D’Alessio

Upon graduating high school, Skylar Huggett embarked on the path she was always told to take—go to college, get a job, save for retirement, and live happily ever after. Wanting a career that would always be in demand, Skylar began a nursing program with the hope that this could be her calling. It wasn’t long before she realized nursing wasn’t for her and found herself waiting tables full time, seeking her passion in life.

One day, Skylar was immersed in a documentary about metal sculpting artist, Lois Teicher who was using her welding skills to create large, outdoor sculptures. It was then that Skylar realized this is what she wanted to be doing. Upon researching the trade, Skylar found the Welding and Joining Technology program at Savannah Technical College and quickly registered. There was also an added bonus—this program wasn’t going to cost her a dime.

Welding and Joining Technology is one of 12 programs that qualify for free tuition under Georgia’s HOPE Career Grant. Formerly known as the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant, the HOPE Career Grant is available to students who enroll in select majors specifically aligned with one of 12 industries in which there are more jobs available in Georgia than there are skilled workers to fill them. These industries were identified by Governor Deal’s High-Demand Career Initiative and the General Assembly as strategically important to the state’s economic growth.

The grant, which was implemented in 2013 for three key industries, now benefits qualified students who enroll in the following 12 program areas: certified engineer assistant, commercial truck driving, computer programming, computer technology, diesel equipment technology, early childhood care and education, health science, industrial maintenance, movie production/set design, practical nursing, precision manufacturing, and welding and joining technology.

Nursing wasn’t where Skylar found her passion, but Russell County resident, Jaclyn Ross had dreams of becoming a nurse since she was a little girl. However, Jaclyn’s husband is a U.S. soldier, which requires them to move from base to base frequently, hindering her ability to attend a college for a long period of time.

Once they received transfer orders to Fort Benning, Georgia for an extended period of time, Jaclyn realized she could enroll in Columbus Technical College’s Practical Nursing program. As a mother of two small children, her main concern was the childcare needed and the financial expense for the tuition. The HOPE Career Grant provided the assistance for her to successfully achieve her childhood nursing dream. Jaclyn graduated from Columbus Technical College in 2016.

To receive the HOPE Career Grant like Jaclyn and Skylar, students must first qualify for the HOPE Grant, which applies to diplomas and certificates only rather than the HOPE Scholarship, which applies to Associate and Bachelor degrees. The HOPE Grant is available for students of any age. A student can attend college part-time and does not have to have a specific high school GPA, but must maintain a cumulative 2.0 GPA after enrolling in college.

The HOPE Career Grant is also available to recipients of the Zell Miller Grant, which, in addition to HOPE Grant requirements, stipulates that students must maintain at least a cumulative 3.5 GPA at the end of each college term.

While the HOPE Career Grant opportunities are open for any qualified student pursuing a certificate or diploma at a public college in Georgia, students at the 22 colleges of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) have been the main beneficiaries. The number of certificates or diplomas in these 12 areas awarded to technical college students in the 2016 academic year was 16,514, up from 11,289 in 2013.

This spring, Skylar Huggett graduated from Savannah Technical College with a 4.0 GPA and was named TCSG’s Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership “GOAL” Student of the Year. Within weeks of completing the Welding and Joining Technology program, she received a job offer as a welder from Thunderbolt Marina in Savannah.

“After years of searching for a purpose,” Skylar said, “I found welding, and I love what I do … My future is on fire.”

For more information about the HOPE Career Grant, visit TCSG.edu.

Technical College System of Georgia: Developing Georgia’s Economy by Qualifying Georgia’s Workforce

By: Cindy Morley

The Technical College System of Georgia is widely respected among educators, workforce professional, heads of major companies and industries, and economic development specialists across the state as “Georgia’s secret weapon in economic development.”

For years, TCSG has been heavily involved in economic development through Quick Start and through the contract training the colleges provide local industries. In fact, Quick Start has been helping Georgia win new companies and support existing industry with its customized workforce training provided free of charge to qualified companies for more than 40 years. It has been ranked the number one workforce training program in the country for seven consecutive years by Area Development magazine.

“Since Quick Start’s inception, we’ve trained more than 1.2 million Georgians in 6,871 projects, including Kia and its suppliers, Caterpillar, Gulfstream, Pratt & Whitney, Kubota, Baxter (now Shire) and hundreds more,” said Gretchen Corbin, Commissioner of TCSG since 2015.

“The top priority of the technical college system is to connect our students with Georgia’s companies to maximize opportunities for both,” said Corbin. “This means ensuring the state’s workforce needs are being met through world-class educational programs and economic development efforts that serve business. This continues to be our goal.”

The state’s technical college vice presidents of economic development connect companies in their communities with the colleges’ resources for contract training. They also work with local industry councils to ensure the colleges provide the curricula and training facilities needed by those companies.

The TCSG’s dual enrollment program, Move on When Ready (MOWR), could be the “newest secret weapon” in their role in economic development.

“It is a tremendous opportunity for qualified high school students to maximize their education and career training by taking courses that earn college and high school credit at the same time,” Corbin said.

MOWR provides the opportunity for students to progress in their educational careers when they are ready, and “helps the state meet students where they are in their lives.”

Under MOWR, students may take academic core courses that can transfer to TCSG colleges or USG colleges and universities. Students may also take occupational and career courses that can help jump-start a career.

MOWR also provides Georgia students with college-level courses in a small class environment, tuition-free. This early college experience provided to high school students helps them get an early start to their postsecondary education while preparing for the future.

Information shows that MOWR enrollment continues to increase year after year. More than 19,000 students are enrolled this academic year so far.

No doubt, TCSG plays an important role in economic development across the state.

“Technical skills are in high-demand,” said Corbin. “The technical colleges can train a worker through Quick Start or at a technical college and connect them with job opportunities.”

The education is affordable at $89/credit hour; they have an 88% placement in field; and a 99% placement in field, out of field or in further education.

Many students are also taking advantage of another “educational value” through TCSG. More than 50 percent of TCSG students go to one of the colleges tuition-free through the HOPE Career Grant (formerly known as the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant).

The HOPE Career Grant is different from HOPE Scholarship for a number of reasons:

  • It applies to diplomas and certificates only.
  • Full-time enrollment is not required.
  • There is no age restriction.
  • Students are not required to have a specific high school GPA.
  • It requires maintaining a cumulative 2.0 GPA.

TCSG also provides a guaranteed education. If an employer finds a student deficient in the competencies for which that student was trained, TCSG will re-educate that student at no cost to the student or the employer.

“As the state’s top resource for talent, TCSG will continue to play a vital role in economic development in Georgia,” said Corbin. “The number one need of companies looking to relocate or expand in Georgia is a qualified workforce. It’s our job to help ensure Georgia’s business community has access to that workforce.”

F&O Report Card

Freedom & Opportunity Magazine’s Report Card is proud to feature individuals, school systems and organizations in the state of Georgia who are making an impact in the lives of our students and communities… Or maybe focus on areas that “Need Improvement!” Either way, we’d love to tell the story and highlight these important people from the most rural Georgia school systems or the largest universities. Contact us at Louie@freedomandopportunitymagazine.com today and tell us about them!

Freedom & Opportunity joins the citizens of Sylvester in celebrating that one of their teachers has been named Georgia’s 2018 Teacher of the Year. John R. Tibbetts, an economics teacher at Worth County High School, was selected to represent his fellow teachers and serve as a public education advocate over the next year. State School Superintendent Richard Woods said, he is “both an exemplary teacher and an individual who is concerned, first and foremost about the success and potential of every student who enters his classroom.” We look forward to getting to know him and introducing him to our readers over the next several months. What’s better than an A+?

Dr. Melissa Frank-Alston, Sr. VP of Institutional Effectiveness & Research at Augusta Technical College and Dr. Kimberly Lee, VP for Institutional Effectiveness at Albany Technical College have been awarded the prestigious “Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence,” a highly selective leadership program aimed at developing a new cadre of outstanding leaders capable of transforming student success at community colleges. Congratulations! A+

Three of Georgia’s public schools have been named national “Green Ribbon Schools” for 2017 by the U.S. Department of Education. Gilbert Elementary in Walker County, Kinchafoonee Primary in Lee County and Morningside Elementary in Atlanta/Fulton County were all honored with this designation, which recognizes schools that exercise a comprehensive approach to creating “green” environments. Schools of every size can make a difference! A+

Two Coweta County teachers have been named “Veterans of Foreign Wars 2017 Teachers of the Year.” John Garner of Newnan High School and Samantha Clark of Arnall Middle School, both history teachers, were nominated for the VFW’s National Citizenship Education Teacher Award by fellow teachers. Thanks for serving your country and your community! A+

The GaDOE has awarded STEAM certification to Henderson Mill Elementary School in DeKalb County. Henderson Mill is Georgia’s first STEAM-certified school! STEAM is the integration of science, technology and math with an infusion of meaningful arts projects that help students see the importance of applying what they learn in math and science with a touch of focus on the arts! Congratulations on leading the way! A++

Columbia County’s Lakeside Middle School faculty, sta and students are now among just 13 schools across Georgia to be Science, Technology, Engineering and Math certified. Principal Felicia Turner guided Lakeside through four years of pulling together to get this certification. The students did their part by designing homes that can withstand high winds, creating small-motorized boats and cars then using data from those creations to maximize the speed and direction of both. We have some budding engineers on our hands! A

Sadly Georgia students who are under foster care graduate at a rate of between 8 and 10 percent. This isn’t because good people aren’t trying their best to help. It’s the burdens that follow each child as they move through the legal system, schools and other organizations tasked with helping them reach a place of productivity and inclusion. We are all failing these kids in some way and definitely need to focus on them starting today! F

Two East Cobb County music teachers are in the running to win a Grammy Music Educator Award. Gary Gribble of Pope High School and Scott Brown of Dickerson Middle School are among 197 quarterfinalists from all over the country up for the prize. The nominees were selected because of their contributions to the field of music education and their commitment to teaching music in schools. Raise those young voices! A

F&O Beating the Odds

Communities In Schools: Four Decades of Making a Difference!

By Cindy Morley

Today in Georgia, nearly two-thirds of the 1.6 million students in K-12 public schools are low-income students. These students bring burdens to school with them every day, burdens that become obstacles to learning, and cause many of them to fall behind in their classwork, become frustrated and eventually drop out of school.

Statistics show that these low-income children are 50 percent more likely to be chronically absent from school, 3 times more likely to be held back a grade and 7 times more likely to drop out. Some are hungry, some need medical attention, some have no caring adult in their lives, and some have no place to call home.

For 40 years, Communities In Schools (CIS) has been working with high-needs children at risk of dropping out of school across the nation, including Georgia, through a unique model of placing a site coordinator inside the schools. Through 31 affiliates across the state, this model, allows students to build a trusting one-on-one relationship with an adult who cares about them — being in the schools to keep kids in school. The site coordinator also brings in available resources and matches them with the student’s needs to help them overcome academic and non-academic barriers to achievement.

With the increase of “high-poverty schools” and “needs improvement schools” across Georgia, these integrated student support services are critical, and will allow Communities In Schools of Georgia to play a key role in leveling the playing field for all children in schools across the state.

Schools with high concentrations of poverty don’t simply need teachers with deeper pockets. They need programs proven to improve the academic achievement of low-income children. In fact, a study by Communities In Schools’ national office showed that teachers will be the first to tell you how devastating poverty can be for a student’s ability to learn, pay attention in school or just make it to class. The nationwide survey showed that nearly nine in 10 teachers say poverty is a barrier to learning.

Communities In Schools works directly inside schools, building relationships that empower students to succeed inside and outside the classroom. CIS Georgia also helps these children break the cycle of poverty and academic failure.

“At CIS of Georgia, we are committed to digging deeper, and identifying and addressing the obstacles and barriers these children face every day,” said Carol Lewis, President and CEO of CIS of Georgia. “We know that providing early intervention for children at risk of school failure is critical, as well as concentrating on the whole child. We understand the importance of bringing as many resources as we can to the children because we believe that each child, in each school, in each community, deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged and challenged while reaching their full potential.”

Chronic absenteeism is a critical issue with many of the children Communities In Schools serves.

Reports indicate that children who are not in the classroom can’t learn. In fact, studies have shown that missing school can mean lower standardized tests scores, can hinder a child from reading on grade level by third grade, and can cause the child to fall behind academically. And, unfortunately, these often lead the child to give up on his or her dream of graduating, and they drop out of school.

“There are so many reasons for chronic absenteeism. And it’s important to look beyond the attendance rate of a school, district or even the state. We need to identify the children who are missing large numbers of days each year, and try to uncover the reason behind their absences,” said Lewis.

“We aren’t just talking about playing “hooky” from school. The reasons for missing school are as different as the children themselves. Some are forced to stay home to take care of a sick parent or other family members. Others miss the bus, and have no way to school. Some have no one in the house to wake them up and help get them ready for school, while others must work to support the family and help pay the bills. Some fall behind in their academics and are embarrassed to go to school. And unfortunately, chronic absenteeism can also be the result of homelessness.”

Studies have shown that being chronically late or absent from school is the No. 1 hidden sign of a homeless student.

The Georgia Department of Education reports there are 39,695 homeless students enrolled in state public K-12 schools last year, and 19,466 children came through the Georgia foster care system during the last year.

Too many times, these children are afraid or embarrassed to discuss their situation with their teachers, according to Lewis. Communities In Schools’ site coordinators are trained to look for the signs of homelessness, and work to build trusting relationships with these children.

“We understand that one caring adult can make the difference in a child’s life,” said Lewis. “Every missed day of school is a missed opportunity for learning. It’s time we look beyond the number of students who attend school every day. We need to dig deeper, find the reasons why the children who aren’t in class are missing school, and help guide them on the path of achievement.”

During the most recent Legislative session, Georgia lawmakers in both the House and Senate adopted Resolutions honoring Communities In Schools for their work with Georgia’s most under-served students. Last year along, CIS Georgia served 124,000 students and had a graduation rate of 89 percent, well about the state’s 79 percent rate. CIS Georgia also had a promotion rate of 90 percent, and 61 percent of students who were chronically absent improved their attendance rate. A performance audit ordered by the State House Education Appropriations committee also showed an $18 to $1 return on state funds invested in CIS Georgia.

The Department of Education recently released a list of 1,000 Georgia schools that “Beat the Odds” in 2016 — performing better than statistically expected on the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). Communities In Schools of Georgia is serving 108 of the 1,000 schools that “Beat The Odds,” — which is almost half of the 223 schools that CIS Georgia currently serves across the state.

Through a partnership with the Yaarab Shriners and the Georgia Department of Education, Communities In Schools launched the Red Fez Reading Club this year. The primary purpose of the club is to improve early reading skills by encouraging literacy for children, families, and communities. As an incentive, children can earn up to 10 tickets to the annual Shriners Circus for every 10 books they read.

Last month, nearly 600 students from three pilot programs in Douglas County, Marietta, Cobb County and Atlanta earned tickets to the circus.

“Anything we can do to help children read, and help put the fun back in reading, is extremely important to us,” Lewis said. “We know that a child who is not reading on grade level by third grade will struggle throughout their academic career, and may even become frustrated and drop out of school. We are extremely excited that three of our affiliates – CIS of Douglas County, CIS of Marietta/Cobb and CIS of Atlanta – along with our AmeriCorps programs – will be participating in the launch of the Red Fez Reading Club.”

CIS of Georgia is also working on new pilot programs with the Division of Family and Children Services, the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, and the Technical College System of Georgia to offer more support and opportunities to Georgia’s students.

“We understand there is more work to be done to close a still significant graduation gap in Georgia. Low-income students, students with disabilities, English language learners all continue to have lower graduation rates and higher drop-out rates.” said Lewis. “Many of these students face barriers both inside and outside the classroom that make it impossible for them to focus in the classroom. That’s why Communities In Schools is committed to working directly inside schools, building relationships that empower students to succeed inside and outside the classroom.”

F&O Unsung Heroes

Rising Seniors: Educating Georgia’s Athletes Beyond the Game

By Michelle Brown

Have you heard about the work being done in Georgia by several well-known corporate brands and some truly dedicated individuals? Rising Seniors is a Foundation serving a purpose for young men from all walks of life that possibly are not aware of their options in life past high school athletics. We sat down to talk with Rising Seniors Foundation Board Chairman and Media Director Ken Elsberry and learned more about the foundation and its goal of educating young men about how the world actually works and the freedom and opportunity that comes with the understanding of what is happening around them while listening to real world testimonials from former Rising Seniors attendees and those who want to inspire the current crop to greater things than just sports.

Every year, since 2010, the Rising Seniors Foundation staff spends five days during holiday break between Christmas and New Year’s with 90 of Georgia’s top performing rising senior football student-athletes gathered in Atlanta for life skills and college preparedness learning, culminating in a grand game of all-star football broadcast by ESPN called the Chick Fil A Georgia Junior Bowl. This program is offered to the student athletes at no cost to their families due to the financial support from its loyal corporate donors. It is debatable whether the game or the five days leading up to it is more impactful on these young men because the week is filled with lessons about the game of life.

The week’s activities begin with a prayer breakfast and character guidelines, then leads into breakout sessions with players from the NFL and Georgia business leaders to educate these young men in the life skills of financial literacy, preparing for college, the recruiting process, how to interview and handle the media, run a household, leadership skills within their families and communities, and the important role of faith – helping them understand that there’s life after high school and what to do with it. “We’re preparing you for the 5th quarter of life,” the Rising Senior staff tells the young athletes. Elsberry’s pastor at Burnt Hickory Baptist Church Mike Stephens, took a personal interest in Rising Seniors and today the church is a sponsor along with the likes of the Chick-Fil-A Foundation, Georgia Pacific and the NFL Players Association! Stephens has been a constant source of encouragement and strength to the Foundation understanding that most folks get the week off between Christmas and New Year’s but the Rising Seniors Advance Team led by Jim Pete and Brandi Jenkins move into the same hotel as the athletes and give of their time to help usher these young men into the next phase of their lives. Stephens said “I see the impact of this program on these young men and they are our future! If we don’t show them the hope of life after high school we could be losing many great leaders of the future.”

That 5th quarter of life began for the Foundation’s Founder and Director, Joe Burns when he realized with the help of other leaders he had an opportunity to see beyond his small town of Thomasville, Georgia – to go to college, earn a degree and play football. After a Hall of Fame career at Georgia Tech and going on to play in the NFL, Joe’s heart burned with compassion for young athletes like himself, and the desire to see rising seniors educated about the opportunity post-secondary education affords them. Through his success Burns truly believes that college was the difference-maker and feels that more of his high school teammates would have had the same opportunity if they had more information about what they were about to face in the recruitment process and life after high-school.

Burns along with his wife Tiffany Burns, and a committed team of unpaid volunteers and their families, give of their time and talents each year to bring vision, hope and life-instruction to rising senior athletes. Their remarkable determination and dedication bring out the best in these students teaching them to become better role models in their communities. But their leadership doesn’t stop there. Rising Seniors leaders stay in touch with students throughout college and even into their careers.

Most young athletes will not it make it into professional football, but out of a typical Rising Seniors class of 90, 14 were drafted and 21 signed by NFL teams. What happened to the rest? Some are still in college, making plans to use the lessons learned to be leaders of this next generation.

Elsberry recounts the time that one mother called the Rising Seniors staff to thank them “for investing into her son.” She shared that her son came home from the weeklong event and told her that he didn’t realize how much it costs to run a household and how much he appreciates what she does for their family. Valuable lessons in the game of life.

Coming from a lifestyle of need, some kids have arrived at the Rising Seniors event with plastic bags as luggage. When asked if he had a suitcase, one young man replied, “No, but one I day I’m going to and I’ll take care of my momma!” That young man is now a senior in college with hopes of the NFL on the horizon, hoping one day to do just that!

By challenging students to strive for academic excellence and commit to contributing to their communities, Rising Seniors is more than just a game, its providing hope, education and inspiration to young men to rise and be leaders and role models for their generation. 

For more information you may visit their website at http://risingseniors.org.

Magazine Details

May/June 2017 Issue

Click HERE to view our May/June 2017 Issue


May/June 2017



Michelle Brown
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle
Vicki Davis
Mark D’Alessio
Glenn Delk
Matthew Gambill
Joy Hawkins
Lilyn Hester
Arthur Levine
Congressman Barry Loudermilk
Bill Maddox
Dr. Garry McGiboney
Cindy Morley
Mike Raymer
Mike Royal