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DCHS adds new audio/visual technology and film pathway for students
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Dawson County High School teacher Richard Hayes stands in his classroom at the College and Career Academy. Hayes is teaching the school’s new audio/visual technology and film pathway at the CCA. - photo by Erica Jones

This year, Dawson County High School’s Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) program has added an all-new pathway for students: an audio/visual technology and film course. 

According to CTAE Director Amy Smith, the new pathway has been a long time in the making and is the first one that the high school has added in several years. When the College and Career Academy (CCA) building was built several years ago, previous superintendent Damon Gibbs had an audio/visual lab put into the building to house a pathway like this one.

“We were able to get a capital equipment grant for the equipment because they did build that classroom to make it an audio visual classroom and it was already labeled that on the plan,” Smith said. “Mrs. Negley (DCHS principal) and I both were super excited; we knew this was the program that we wanted to open up next so we were super excited to make it happen.” 

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The pathway is being taught by Richard Hayes, who has 12 years of experience in the film industry and is excited to take on the new pathway. Hayes currently has about 100 students enrolled in his three classes in the pathway, and said that throughout the course he will be going over all aspects of filmmaking with them. 

“The pathway itself is going to focus primarily on film and production, so start to finish how to make a movie; everything from storyboarding, scriptwriting, lighting, filming, acting, stage design, working with drama, costumes and then the editing process and adding special effects on top of that,” Hayes said. 

While much of the needed equipment has yet to arrive at the CCA, that hasn’t stopped Hayes from jumping right into the new pathway with his students. 

“There’s been a lot of positivity about the class so far and what we have done with the equipment that we have right now has been great; the kids have been getting a lot out of it,” Hayes said. “We’ve been focusing on editing, scripting and storyboarding until we can get the equipment to do the actual filming process.” 

When the equipment does arrive, Hayes said that it will be based on recommendations from professionals he knows who work in the film industry, so the students will get to use the equipment they would use if they were really working in the field. 

“I took classes over the summer from the Georgia Film Academy; based off of my contacts there we got recommendations from professionals who are in the field using this industry-level equipment; so the kids are going to be getting essentially what they use in the field,” Hayes said. 

As with the other CTAE pathways, the new course is aimed at providing students with an opportunity to explore potential future careers and what they might like to do after high school. 

“Athena Studios are building locations in Athens and in Covington; it’s absolutely a booming industry,” Hayes said. “I tell the kids there’s a job for anyone who has an interest in almost anything with films.” 

What makes this new pathway unique, Smith said, is that it appeals to students in the school with a wide range of interests. 

“It’s a fun, creative pathway, so it not only reaches your career tech kids that are interested in pursuing a career but it reaches your art students and your theater kids; it’s really neat to see,” Smith said.

Since the pathway has begun, Hayes said that he has heard feedback from students and their friends about his class and is hopeful that it will continue to grow in future semesters. 

“I’ve had kids stop me in the halls saying ‘my friend is in your class and I’ve signed up for it next semester’,” Hayes said. 

As word about the new pathway spreads not just in the school but in the community too, different organizations in the community have reached out to Smith and Hayes about potential partnerships, which is also exciting, she said. 

“The middle school emailed about partnering with them to video their Little Tiger Theatre production and the sheriff’s office has reached out about doing a project over the holidays,” Smith said. “So the community is reaching out.” 

Many of Hayes’ current students are eighth and ninth graders, she added, so the hope is that they will take not only his intro classes but continue up through the levels in his pathway too. 

“He’s teaching a lot of intro classes to a lot of eighth and ninth graders, so hopefully we’ll retain those students for tenth and eleventh and they’ll take the second and third level and then eventually we hope we can find them placements in work based learning,” Smith said. “He’s doing a great job; he’s been a breath of fresh air to the kids and they’ve loved his class.”