There was standing room only at Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s (GNTC) Catoosa County Campus as Catoosa County Public Schools recognized its “From HERE to CAREER! Academy” students and received a check for $3 million from the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG).

The grant from TCSG was half of a $6 million grant awarded to Muscogee County Schools and Catoosa County Public Schools to establish their respective career academies. The announcement came at the end of 2019 but Catoosa’s public school system had been working towards the From HERE to CAREER! Academy since 2017.

According to Superintendent Denia Reese, the funds will pay for 20% of building costs.

“With the growing technology economy and a new workforce there is a need for high school students to graduate with technical education,” she said.

Reese said that while the system moves forward on construction, the 16 students currently in the pilot program have been taking their career academy courses on the GNTC Catoosa County Campus. The From HERE to CAREER! Academy will offer other career pathways once its brick and mortar building is complete and will include Mechatronics program whose students were recognized during Tuesday morning’s ceremony.

“We’re here to celebrate multiple successes,” said Dr. Heidi Popham, president of GNTC and member of the From HERE to CAREER! Academy Board of Directors. “Two of our goals at GNTC are student success and workforce achievement. This event today is a reflection on how we have met those goals.”

Students from three Catoosa high schools earned a green cord to wear at graduation as well as an Industrial Electrician Certificate, which they earned during the fall semester at GNTC. Jenny Williams, director of the Office of College and Career Transitions at TCSG, praised the students for their hard work and dedication which helped their system receive the grant.

“This community comes together like no other in the state,” Williams added.

Mark Peevy, the assistant commissioner of Secondary Education Initiatives at TCSG, said he was impressed at the partnerships cultivated by GNTC and the school system.

“You have been one of the models for how communities can come together,” he said. “To see the relationship between the community and post-secondary education is impactful.”

According to Reese, Catoosa County Public Schools will continue to work with GNTC and its industry partners to develop programs for the system’s career academy. Due to its close proximity to Tennessee, the school system takes into consideration the job needs of the Chattanooga area as well as that of northwest Georgia.