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Lanier Academy takes next step in vocational education
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Opening of
The Oaks
What: Ribbon-cutting and opening of The Oaks at Lanier Charter Career Academy. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle will attend. The event is open to the public, and business leaders, parents and community members are invited.
When: Sept. 15 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: At the school, 2723 Tumbling Creek Road,
For information: Principal Cindy Blakley at 770-532-3161 ext. 5171 or Cindy.

The Oaks, located just off of Atlanta Highway in Gainesville, will soon be home to a number of new businesses, including a fine-dining restaurant, design company and a gift shop.

However, these aren’t your typical stores. Each business will be operated, managed and serviced entirely by Hall County high schoolers.

“The Oaks” is the name of the business area at Lanier Charter Career Academy, a charter school which opened earlier this year. It’s where students will receive hands-on skills in the hospitality industry at five new business ventures established by the academy. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house is scheduled for Sept. 15.

Academy principal Cindy Blakely said the school is the “next step” to traditional vocational programs. Rather than simulate an experience in the workforce, the teens will polish their skills in real settings.

“There’s a point at which students are simulated to death and they need to get their hands involved in actual work. We think students are capable of embarking on that with the support of partners and community leaders, to establish the types of skills and knowledge they need in those workplaces,”

The campus businesses, three of which will open Sept. 15, include Corner Cafe, Get Gifted, Design 360, Bistro at the Oaks, as well as a meeting and events company.

Blakely said school officials began planning for the career academy four years ago. The goal was to find a better way to ready students for jobs in the local industry.

“We wanted to see what Hall County provides that is predominant across the county and that we do well,” Blakley said.

That industry, she said, was hospitality.

The school earned a grant from the Georgia Career Academies Project and used additional grant money to pay for campus technology and cooking equipment for the culinary classes.

The students are dually-enrolled at traditional high schools, and the county provides busing to and from the Lanier campus.

Courses at the school include culinary arts, advertising and promotions, hospitality management and travel and tourism. The programs are industry-certified, Blakely said.

“It’s our desire to place student in work-based internships or paid employment in the community because of the job skills and work ethic they’ve developed onsite in our building. So that training time for managers in other businesses will be significantly reduced,” Blakley said.

For now, the academy will operate the businesses on the school calendar, because they are student-run, said Blakley.

“Over time, we hope as we raise funds through the business enterprise, we will hire those same students to work in evenings and the weekend so we can extend our hours,” Blakley said.

Design 360, where students are work on personalized promotions with items such as T-shirts and vinyl signage, is currently open to the public. The coffee shop, gift shop and events company will open Sept. 15 and Bistro at the Oaks, the fine dining eatery, will open this November.

Blakley said the facility is a unique way that the system is trying to meet student needs and make the link between the academic world and the world of work. The school also places an emphasis on college preparation, to give students a competitive edge in the marketplace.

“We have a big vision for students and know that whether they are employed locally or across the world, we believe our students will be extremely prepared for real work,” said Blakley.