Liberty College and Career Academy CEO Tom Alexander pitches the charter school as “not your daddy’s trade school,” and about 70 middle-school students can say they participated last week in something that’s “not your mama’s summer camp.”
Each middle school was offered up to six slots per pathway at the four-day camps. Students received an overview of career pathways available at the career academy, such as graphic arts, teaching and health occupations.
“The schools set their criteria for who they sent. Our only expectation was that they send us kids who would be reasonably serious and had good discipline…,” Alexander said. “Part of the big idea is to keep the momentum going. If you have young people who are excited about coming out here in the seventh-grade, then they’re going to remember it... By the time they get to 10th grade, they’ve gotten three doses of the cool things you can do out here.”
The camp was a first for the academy. Alexander said they began with a small operation and hope to expand it in the future. This year, the 8-11:30 a.m. instruction coincided with summer remediation, so school buses transported students to the Airport Road campus.
After introductions to their disciplines and overviews on Monday, when students learned what skills, training and employment opportunities come with each field, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work Tuesday.
For culinary-arts students, that meant preparing snacks for their peers on subsequent days. For construction students, it meant using nail guns on plywood. And for graphic-arts students, it meant working with prototypes of Bradwell Institute’s letterhead.
In the structural aircraft support classroom, Savannah Technical College instructor Joseph DeLong taught students how to rivet.
Both rising seventh-graders at Midway Middle School Terrence Gordon and Destiny Black concentrated while riveting on a practice sheet of metal, and they said they were enjoying the camp.
Nearby, Snelson-Golden Middle School seventh-grader Clayton Oliver said the experience was different from his expectations.
“I didn’t expect hands on,” Clayton said. “I figured we would do worksheets. It’s pretty cool.”
He wants to attend the academy as an associate once he becomes eligible.
“I’m up for anything, especially having to do with aircraft,” he added, explaining that his grandfather’s work both as a pilot and an engineer inspired him to pursue work in aviation.
Like Oliver, Lewis Frasier Middle School eighth-grader Randy Johnson also knew prior to attending the career camp which field he was interested in because his older sister and brother both attended the academy.
Johnson and several other students oohed and aahed in the welding room as instructor Barry Kennedy fused together two pieces of metal with a blue-flamed blow torch.
“I think it’s exciting being able to work safely with fire, and the ability to find a job that suits my characteristics,” Johnson said. “Me, personally, I like to play with fire and my mother told me not to, but since we found a safe way to do it and it will get me a job, I think it’s, like, perfect.”