When senior Seth Banks registered for Lanier Technical College's dual enrollment program, he hoped to gain a broader knowledge of welding beyond what he could learn at Dawson County High School.
"Now that I'm in the program, it's something I want to do for life," he said. "I wanted to explore welding before I got out of high school and just went into a college on something that I didn't know for sure if that was what I wanted to do. The dual enrollment program gave me the option to do that."
One of 38 students receiving both high school and college credit at Lanier Tech's Dawson campus, Banks is reaping the rewards of a technical education.
"I've had the benefit of getting a job at Atlanta Motorsports Park," he said. "They were starting me out just doing simple maintenance on go-karts and stuff like that.
"But once they found out I was enrolled at Lanier Tech, they're wanting to prospect me as a welding student for the racetrack to weld aluminum gas tanks and some cars up there."
Junior Ashley Carr said dual enrollment has jump-started her cosmetology career.
"Dual enrollment has been a great option for me," she said. "I am getting high school and college credits at the same time. If I can do this through high school, I could get licensed early when I graduate and then I can go on and get a business degree."
Dawson County School Superintendent Keith Porter said the students' stories are testament to the program's success.
"We see this as a wonderful opportunity for our students," he said. "It's all about our students and to hear the success stories that we have and to realize that we have many more is just something that I'm very grateful for and look forward to seeing through many, many years."
On Monday, Porter joined Lumpkin County School Superintendent Dewey Moye and Lanier Tech President Russell Vandiver at the new Dawson campus to sign an annual partnership required for students to participate in dual enrollment.
In the last year, the program has grown by 40 percent across Lanier Tech's seven-county service delivery area.
Vandiver credits the program's success to leadership at the high school levels.
"All of those counselors and all of those superintendents help us to have a tremendous opportunity to provide the service that can be a lifetime learning situation but also [the ability] to make some money pretty quickly right out of high school," he said.
"A lot of folks don't understand why it's important to get young folks involved in skill training. For us to stay strong in manufacturing and some of the areas that we've been losing those folks, we've got to start at an early age."
Students interested in dual enrollment at Lanier Tech are encouraged to speak with their high school counselors. A college entrance test is required.
The Dawson campus offers dual enrollment options in welding, certified nursing assistant and cosmetology.