The Liberty College and Career Academy is “not your daddy’s trade school.”
That’s what Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Ronald Jackson told the crowd Thursday at a dedication luncheon and ribbon cutting for the $10.3 million institute where students are known as “associates.”
“This building that you’re in to train and teach students in the technical program is not my old high-school shop …,” Jackson said. “Today’s world has changed, but perception sometimes doesn’t change.”
While trade-based classes were once for low-performing students, today’s technical jobs call for dedicated, savvy learners with an understanding of digital systems, he said.
That experience is what the LCCA, one of 26 academies statewide, aims to provide, and Jackson challenged that the multifaceted partnership is on the front end of a shift in educational philosophy.
The school, which opened its doors Aug. 6 and has 352 students enrolled, operates under the Liberty County School System in conjunction with Savannah Technical College, the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and the Liberty County Development Authority.
To keep with the community collaboration aspect, the event was dubbed “Thanksgiving in August,” and LCCA CEO Tom Alexander thanked each of the community partners who laid the foundation for the academy.
Alexander credited Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer for bringing the idea to Liberty County from her former post in Coweta County, which operates a charter college and career academy called the Central Education Center.
Scherer said the academy gives meaning to students who may not want to pursue an academic track.
“It gives them a chance to explore, it gives me a chance to develop skills … even the skill to help them earn that college degree or to earn that professional degree,” Scherer said.
The TSCG provided a $3.3 million start-up grant for the institution, and the Liberty County Board of Education authorized another $7 million to realize the project.
BoE Chairwoman Lily Baker also thanked Scherer for her visions and thanked citizens for passing the E-SPLOST.
Director of High School Programs Karisa Young led guests on a tour through classrooms, but attendees also got to see — and taste and smell — student creations before the tour began.
At least three of the 15 pathways contributed to the luncheon: Culinary arts students in the third pathway class prepared the three-course luncheon, graphic arts students created and printed signs and programs and interior design students set the ambiance.
Project architects BRPH Architects+Engineers and Parrish Construction Group provided funding for the luncheon.