Students at the Lanier College & Career Academy, one of eight public high schools in the Hall County system, have the opportunity to explore their passions as they ready for the workplace.
This includes studies in the culinary arts, agricultural mechanics, cosmetology, construction, and heating and air conditioning specializations.
The school gives students whose career paths do not include attending traditional liberal arts colleges a chance to learn trade skills and take dual-enrollment courses through Lanier Technical College, for example.
But along with earning a diploma, taking apprenticeships and internships — and even paid jobs through the school’s many partnerships with local businesses — competition is a big part of of the experience and allows students to set themselves apart.
For example, seniors studying cosmetology and construction at LCCA competed in the SkillsUSA challenge in late March at the International Convention Center in Atlanta.
According to its website, SkillsUSA serves more than 360,000 students and instructors annually “through the development of personal, workplace and technical skills grounded in academics.”
Jacqueline Itzel Velazquez, a senior, won first place at the competition for her work, which included a basic facial, makeup application and an optical illusion face-painting challenge.
Stories of seniors from each Gainesville and Hall school are collected in this class of 2019 section.
“I practiced a lot and studied a lot, like every night and day,” Itzel Velazquez said, adding that she wasn’t nervous during the competition. “For me, it was fun.”
Ingrid Yesenia Santos, a friend and fellow student, offered to be Itzel Velazquez’s model.
“She had a lot of fun, and so did I,” she said. “You get to show off your talent to other people.”
Yesenia Santos said she plans to find work at a salon after graduation this year before later returning to school.
“But my goal, what I’ve always wanted to do, is (crime scene investigation),” she said.
Itzel Velazquez said she plans to attend college and hopes to own her own salon one day where she can teach others the trade she’s learned at LCCA.
For Daniel Lamas, who will also soon graduate, construction is the family business.
It’s in the blood.
“My dad works in construction,” he said. “He’s been a big example for me.”
So, Lamas has been gaining experience all his life.
But studying at LCCA has helped hone his craft, which he showed off at the SkillsUSA challenge.
Lamas won first place in the masonry challenge, which required him to build a wall with certain materials meeting certain measurements and specifications.
“It was hard,” Lamas said. “Everything has to be just right.”
Lamas said studying at LCCA has helped him appreciate how to use materials and resources efficiently and safely.
Upon graduation, Lamas said he plans to enter the construction industry, working with his father in both residential and commercial development.
He admits that his father, a first-generation immigrant, has encouraged him to continue his studies at a liberal arts college, but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“I’m ready to work,” Lamas said.