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K-12 career program coming to Hall schools in fall
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Hear Rhonda Samples, work-based learning coordinator for the Hall County school system, talk about planned summer camps for elementary-school students as part of the district’s new careers-based program, 21st Century Awareness Exploration Connections.
GAINESVILLE — Elementary school students often get their first exposure to an array of careers through adults visiting their class from the workplace.

The Hall County school system plans to introduce a program, 21st Century Awareness Exploration Connections, next school year to intensify that effort at early grades through other initiatives, including career days, field trips and skits.

The school system is looking at holding day camps for elementary students to explore certain career areas.

"They would do different activities and get to see different folks at work," said Rhonda Samples, work-based learning coordinator for the district.

"There really has been for a long time some discussion (in elementary school) about people ... who work in communities, but what we have never done a very good job doing is showing what kind of skills people have to have to be successful," said Cindy Blakley, the district’s director of secondary education.

"The career preparation may be a piece, but if they don’t have math and science, they’re not going to get to that point," she said.

The "awareness" part of the program focuses on elementary students, while the "exploration" part involves middle school students and "connections" involves high schoolers.

Middle schoolers could participate in "career-related research reports," job shadowing and career fairs, guidance and interviews.

Students in high school could be involved in seminars, internships, apprenticeships, clinicals, projects and competitions, employability-skills training and college dual-enrollment.

Much of that is being done now, but school officials said they could see efforts widening.

The purpose of the systemwide program is "to try to link what students are learning in the classroom to relevance to their future careers," Samples said.

"We are looking at all our career/technology programs starting to reinforce more academic ... and problem-solving skills in their classrooms," she added.

The district plans to look at current programs "and see how we could perhaps strengthen those and maybe add some new, innovative and creative" initiatives.

She cited "Habitat High," a program that began this school year involving construction students working on Habitat for Humanity homes.

Samples said the district is working with Lake Lanier Islands on a hospitality program and the possibility of a culinary arts academy.

"What we’re doing, (kindergarten through 12th grade), is getting our students ready for the work force and the future to make sure that all students are college and career ready and making sure that we’re serving the needs of our local community," she said.

The school system has set up a Web site,, that gives more information about the program.

The site also features information and resources about careers.

"We’re going to have success stories (on the site) of students who have made the connection and we’re going to probably be adding some (other) resources," Samples said.

Blakley said she sees the program meshing well with the planned World Languages Academy, which is set to start in the fall at Chestnut Mountain Elementary School off Winder Highway in South Hall.

Chestnut Mountain is moving to a new 900-student school off Union Church Road.

The World Languages Academy will feature an evolving dual-languages immersion program, with students learning regular academics in Spanish and English.

Students there could learn about careers in which "being bilingual is absolutely crucial," Blakley said.

"They could really understand the value of that not only in terms of just being bilingual ... but how that could make you extremely marketable," she said.

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