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How Cherokee Bluff High plans to instill character in its students
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Cherokee Bluff High School Principal Wes McGee speaks Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in front of the Hall County Board of Education. The board unanimously approved a service-based program of choice at the new school in South Hall County. - photo by Joshua Silavent

The new Cherokee Bluff High School in South Hall is preparing to launch a service-based program after the Hall County Board of Education unanimously approved a proposal Monday, Sept. 24.

Students at the school can apply to join the Legacy program, which will become one of more than 30 programs of choice throughout the school district, where tailored curriculum, such as a focus on science, technology, math, art and work-study, helps emphasize students’ individual strengths and interests, according to school officials.

The program name for Cherokee Bluff High, which opened this fall, is an acronym for what Principal Wes McGee wants to instill in students.

Leadership. Experience. Grit. Achievement. Character. Youth-led acts of service.

“Leadership is not about one person,” McGee said.

And it’s that idea that connects the Legacy program with the school’s mission, defined in an acronym of the mascot bears.

Be innovative. Everyone’s story matters. Act with integrity. Respect and responsibility. Serve your community.

“That’s what we want for every kid that comes through our school,” McGee said. “When it’s who you are, it’s not something you have to fake.”

Board member Bill Thompson said the challenge is “convincing (students) that their story is important and they can achieve no matter what their story is.”

“I think it sounds like a great opportunity to help a lot of kids,” he added.

Curriculum for the four-year service-based leadership program starts with a study of local issues for freshman, current affairs for sophomores, world affairs for juniors and peer leadership training, service projects and mentoring for seniors.

Criteria for enrollment will be based on a student essay, teacher recommendation, qualifying grades, behavior and attendance reports and a “strengths assessment.”  

“We want to make sure we’re getting a variety of students,” said teacher Lauren Howell, who has helped design the program.

Students will have opportunities to connect with local nonprofits, companies like Turner Broadcasting and other partnership groups throughout the program.

Board member Brian Sloan said he is familiar with some of the nonprofits that the program seeks to connect with through his work in ministry.

“It is such a unique and wonderful thing,” he said of the program.

Howell said Cherokee Bluff plans to partner with ADDO, a leadership consultancy firm, to implement some of the training, as the company has done with Auburn University, as well as the Atlanta Braves, Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A.

Cherokee Bluff will mark ADDO’s first foray into a public high school.

Howell said each class will have about 30 students enrolled in Legacy, and school officials plan to broaden the team of teachers for the program.

Superintendent Will Schofield, in summarizing the program’s aim and message, proposed a question: “Why would a school district be interested in service?”

Schofield said the answer is that it fits the school district’s mission to teach students to be good stewards of their communities and active in the civics of America, through things like Constitution Week coursework each September and the Legacy program of choice at Cherokee Bluff High.