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These students get an early jump on a career at Lanier College & Career Academy
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Prospective students along with their parents take a tour of the kitchen available to culinary students during a program selection meeting at Lanier College Career and Academy on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. The school give students the opportunity for students to select a variety of work-study disciplines as an alternative route to high school graduation and job placement. - photo by Austin Steele

The Lanier College & Career Academy has given students like Mason Douglas, a 15-year-old high school freshman, the opportunity to begin exploring their passions as they ready for the workforce.

Douglas, who is studying the culinary arts in addition to his core classes, credits his teachers for his burgeoning success.

Now, he’s considering enrolling at LCCA full time, where he can earn a high school diploma while engaging in apprenticeships, internships and even paid jobs through the school’s many partnerships.

And it’s something that his father, Matt, wishes had been available to him at that age, if only because of how much he’s seen his son excel.

“I’d have been all over it,” he said with a chuckle.

Matt said his son wasn’t the type of student interested in traditional academics or team sports, which other high schools value with great esteem.

Mason’s mother, Amanda, said had she known about LCCA, she might have encouraged their older daughter, who is now in college, to attend.

On Tuesday, Nov. 27, LCCA officials held an open house and tour for eighth graders in the Hall County School District to explore the programs of choice, including culinary arts, agricultural mechanics, cosmetology, and heating and air conditioning specializations.

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Mackenzie Walker, right, a dual enrollment student at Lanier College Career Academy, leads a tour of the kitchen available to culinary students during a program selection meeting at Lanier College and Career Academy on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. The school give students the opportunity for students to select a variety of work-study disciplines as an alternative route to high school graduation and job placement. - photo by Austin Steele

LCCA partners with about 20 local businesses, as well as Lanier Technical College for dual-enrollment courses.

The school gives students whose career paths do not include attending traditional liberal arts colleges a chance to learn trade skills.  

LCCA Principal David Moody said the event was designed to introduce prospective students to these programs that help “our kids to become work-ready.”

“We’re excited about the opportunity to work with your young men and women,” Moody told parents.

Manufacturing is a field where demand for middle-skilled labor is high.

And LCCA officials said these are the kinds of jobs they are readying students for – jobs that require more than a high school diploma but, perhaps, less than a bachelor’s degree.

Several parents asked about the logistics of how the school works. 

For instance, the scheduling allows students to complete their core requirements for a diploma while working toward certificates in one of the program specialties.

Class sizes are also small, and transportation is provided from the student’s zoned or “home school,” where they are welcome to return if they decide LCCA isn’t a good fit in the long run.

Amy Cruz was in attendance with her two daughters, one in seventh and the other eighth grade, who are interested in studying culinary arts and cosmetology, respectively.

“I think if this would be a better experience, and easier, then it’s good for them,” Cruz said.

Cruz’s biggest challenge going forward may not be trying to inspire her children, which can be a challenge with students in this age group, but making sure her daughter, Kionna, for example, can explore all her passions.

“I want to go to space,” Kionna said.

Nate Lamp, an eighth-grader at C.W. Davis Middle who is also interested in joining the culinary arts program, said he’s been inspired by his father’s cooking.

“He’s a foodie,” Cheryl Lamp, his mother, said.

So much so, in fact, that during a taste test Tuesday in the kitchen where students learn the ins and outs of cooking, Nate was already picking out which flavors he wasn’t fond of, such as the ginger.

The deadline for eighth-grade students to apply for placement at LCCA is Dec. 7. 

The process includes a written essay about why students want to attend LCCA, with interviews and decisions on acceptance made in January.

“It looks very interesting,” Lamp said.

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Colored dots are available to prospective students to show their interests during a program selection meeting at Lanier College and Career Academy on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. The school give students the opportunity for students to select a variety of work-study disciplines as an alternative route to high school graduation and job placement. - photo by Austin Steele
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