HOSCHTON - Mill Creek is already one of the largest high schools in the state, but principal Jim Markham has aspirations of making it the best public high school in the nation.
Recently, he has transformed the main entrance to the school, giving visitors the feeling they are entering an institutional environment focused on teaching and learning.
The centerpiece of the lobby is a hawk statue, crafted by Vic McCallum, who also created the eagle displayed at the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial in Lawrenceville.
"I wanted something that was representative of the school as a symbol," Markham said.
The statue, which sits atop an octagonal block of granite that weighs more than 8 tons, shows a hawk perched on a tree branch.
The casual observer might see a bird of prey - or the school's mascot - but Markham said the sculpture is full of symbolism. Those who look closely will see the tree represents the double helix, and its leaves are actually chemical elements. The tree is growing out of a book, with pages that are inscribed with binary numbers linked to the human genome.
Markham said he wanted to create something students would think about and talk about.
"I want it to be a learning experience," Markham said. "I wanted something that would touch everyone differently and something that was art."
The statue didn't come cheap - it cost $70,000 - but it was paid for by money raised in the community. Markham said the community response to the sculpture has been great.
"Going forward, this will be the symbol for our school," he said.