Week one is now in the books for the 31 students taking part in the pilot year of “Walker Launch” at Georgia Northwestern Technical College. Students from LaFayette High School and Ridgeland High School have kicked off the 2018-19 academic year on GNTC’s Walker County Campus.
The first two weeks of the brand new program located on the college campus will only focus on the high school curriculum the students must complete. Beginning Monday, when GNTC’s fall semester launches, the students will be enrolled in both high school and college classes. They will be on their way to graduating from high school and college at the same time.
Classes needed to complete state requirements for their high school diploma will be taught by Walker County School teachers at GNTC. As for their collegiate instructor, GNTC instructors will handle those instructional responsibilities.
“We have had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the program during week one,” said Matt Harris, Walker County Schools coordinator of Innovation. “Students, staff, and parents have been very pleased with the start of school. We already have more interest in the program, and we expect higher than anticipated growth.” Administrators hope to expand the student body size of the program to 200 students in the near future.
Walker Launch will work a little differently than your traditional high school. Monday through Thursday, students will attend their usual high school and collegiate courses. However, on Fridays, a program is in place to teach students on how to develop soft skills. Critical thinking, customer service, financial literacy, communication with employees and customers, and many other professional skill sets will be taught extensively during those end-of-the-week sessions.
“This program required a leap of faith from a lot of people in our community and our schools,” said Mr. Harris. “We have had 11 months to plan the program. Everyone had to be committed and involved to make it a success. GNTC staff have been integral throughout the process, and our counselors at LaFayette and Ridgeland deserve a lot of the credit for getting Walker Launch off the ground.”
Transportation to the Walker Launch facility will be provided to and from the home high schools of each student. Walker Launch students are also eligible to take part in all extra-curricular activities at their home high schools.
The Walker County Schools provides laptop computers for every Walker Launch student so they can complete some of their high school and collegiate coursework online. Cost of dual enrollment tuition is paid by the Georgia Department of Education. This aid does not impact the funding available to the students once they graduate from Walker Launch.
Walker County Schools Superintendent Damon Raines stresses the importance he hopes this program will have on breaking a cycle. “Our hope is to help students get into high-demand jobs,” said Mr. Raines. “We are training these young men and women for careers in everything from healthcare to logistics. But, it’s not only about that. It’s about teaching the future of Walker County to live smarter; to avoid a lifestyle which forces so many families to live paycheck-to-paycheck.”
For more information about the program, students and families can speak with the guidance counselor’s office at their high school. Students interested in joining the program will be required to apply to enroll in Walker Launch, as well as meet certain program guidelines.