David Turner, left, director of the Georgia Department of Education’s Center for Career, Technical and Agriculture Education, stands on Friday morning with Lanier student Alli McKnight, teacher Mike Reilly, Principal Reuben Gresham and Lanier student Garrett Eddy. Lanier was recognized as the first traditional public high school to earn STEM certification. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
SUGAR HILL — Four years later, the picture is much larger.
When the Lanier High Center for Design and Technology program was launched four years ago, the picture of all the students in the program featured about 25 to 30 students, who teacher Mike Reilly calls the “originals.” During a ceremony on Friday morning at the school, the picture was not only larger, there were several sub-groups organized for their own pictures.
The program has grown to more than 200 students and next year expects 322 students to join.
The pictures were all taken to record Lanier’s recognition by the Georgia Department of Education’s Center for Career, Technical and Agriculture Education as the first traditional public high school to earn STEM certification. It’s the ninth school overall to gain certification. The school met 17 criteria, including developing strong business industry partnerships, student internships, an integrated curriculum, project-based learning and participation in competitions.
“They do all those to an extreme level,” said Gilda Lyon, the DOE’s CTAE STEM coordinator.
The CDAT program allows students to work on project-based learning and in groups to develop projects using music and video software, but they also include other subjects such as language arts and science.
Lanier Principal Reuben Gresham said he’s proud that every student is welcome to participate in the CDAT program, and they aren’t restricted by a prerequisite requirement or grade point average.
“We don’t have a ceiling for you guys, and we don’t have walls,” Gresham said. “This world is round, so why live in a box? … If you think you can do it, we’re going to motivate you to do it, and that’s what our program is all about.”
Reilly said having dialogue with students is most important.
“Are we perfect?,” he said. “No, but we’re trying, and that’s the best part.”
David Turner, the DOE’s director of CTAE, told the students that what they’re doing is the model for other schools.
“What you’re doing is incredible,” he said. “You have opportunities available to you that most other kids will never have.”
Ninth-grader Teresa Enriquez said she has aspirations to go into the architectural field, and she expects CDAT to help her get there.
“With this, I think it’s going to enhance all the elements I use, so when I leave and go off to college, I know I’m going to be better prepared and have more experience in it,” she said.