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DCHS kicks off inaugural economic development and workforce program for students
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On Aug. 26, 17 students from the Dawson County High School CTAE department attended the kick-off breakfast for the school’s inaugural “Dawson CTAE Lead” program. - photo by Erica Jones

On Friday Aug. 26, 17 students from the Dawson County High School CTAE (Career, Technical and Agriculture Education) department gathered at the school’s College and Career Academy for the first day of the school’s inaugural economic development and workforce program, Dawson CTAE Lead. 

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Alexandria Williams with Modern Woodmen talks to students about the importance of professional networking during the Aug. 26 kickoff of Dawson County High School’s “Dawson CTAE Lead” program. - photo by Erica Jones

According to CTAE Director Amy Smith, the new program is funded through a partnership with the University of North Georgia’s WORC (Workforce Opportunities for Rural Communities) grant. Throughout the school year, the students in the program will participate in activities related to workforce and employability skills, such as touring facilities of potential employers and learning more about what kinds of careers Dawson County has to offer. 

“Our focus is to really hone in on economic development and workforce; we’ll embed leadership into that but that’s really going to be our focus,” Smith said. “We’re doing something almost every month except December; we’re doing team building and then we have industry tours. I really want to focus on how they get to their goals and how do you get from point A to point B when you graduate high school.”

The story continues below. 

The 17 students in the program were nominated by their CTAE teachers and selected to participate in the program. Because almost all of these students are juniors, the goal is to let them experience the program this year and to have them come back again next year as senior leaders to the next class of juniors selected to participate. 

“It’s a very eclectic group from each pathway that we offer; you have information technology and culinary, just a wide variety of students,” Smith said. “This group will stay with us this year, and then they will come back next year as senior leaders and we’ll add another group of juniors next year so they’ll help us plan next year and we’ll have a larger group then.” 

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Dawson County’s Director of Economic Development Kevin Herrittalks to students at Dawson County High School during the Aug. 26 kickoff of the school’s “Dawson CTAE Lead” program. - photo by Erica Jones

During the kickoff breakfast, the students who will participate in the program throughout the year introduced themselves to one another, heard a presentation about professional networking from local financial advisor Alexandria Williams, and got to know some of the UNG representatives who will be partnering with the high school through several activities, including writing down what their goals are in the program and what they hope to learn during it. According to Smith, she was encouraged to see the participation from students during the kickoff. 

“I was so thrilled that they opened up and started talking; it’s exciting,” Smith said. 

Also present at the kickoff breakfast was Dawson County Schools Superintendent Nicole LeCave, who congratulated the students on being selected to participate in the program and encouraged them to take advantage of every opportunity provided to them in the next several months. 

“One of our goals in this school district is to make sure that we’re providing you all with the opportunities that you all need to discover what you want to do beyond high school and also to give you the skills that you need to be successful,” LeCave said. “This is an opportunity that is provided to a small group of our students… we hope that you’ll take advantage of everything that’s presented as part of this program, and we’re just super proud of you for making this commitment to it.” 

In the end, Smith said, the goal is to give DCHS students opportunities to learn more about the opportunities they’ll have after graduation while they’re still in high school, and to potentially get some of the future graduates to come back to work in the county as adults. 

“When Dr. Gibbs hired me that was the big thing was how do we get kids to graduate from Dawson County High School, figure out what they want to do but then come back to Dawson County; we want them to come back and invest in their community so we need to get them a path there,” Smith said.