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Discovery Center coming to Forsyth County
Officials with UNG announced Friday the institution is partnering with Junior Achievement of Georgia to sponsor the Career Exploration Center

A Career Exploration Center for children, scheduled to open August 2018 in Cumming, aims to serve 15,000-plus middle school students from Forsyth County and surrounding areas by providing a place to give young people the chance to explore different career options and education programs.

Officials with the University of North Georgia announced Friday the institution is partnering with Junior Achievement of Georgia to sponsor the Career Exploration Center in the Mike and Lynn Cottrell Junior Achievement Discover Center at North Georgia near UNG’s Cumming campus.

The Discovery Center is the third of its kind in Georgia and the first to have a Career Exploration Center sponsored by a university.

Sponsored by Mike and Lynn Cottrell, the new center will open on the grounds of Alliance Academy for Innovation in Cumming and serve children in Forsyth, Hall, Lumpkin and Dawson County Schools as well as Gainesville City and Calhoun City Schools, according to Lee Highsmith, executive director of the North Georgia District of Junior Achievement Georgia.

“Based on the successful experience UNG has had with Junior Achievement over the years, we knew we wanted to partner with the organization when we learned the location of its next Discovery Center was in Cumming,” said Dr. Richard Oates, vice president of UNG’s Gainesville campus. 

Added Oates: “We felt that we could have the biggest impact on middle school students by sponsoring the career center to give the students the opportunity to explore different career options and the education programs available at UNG to help them to reach that career goal.”

Sixth grade students in the center can participate in Junior Achievement Biz Town, in which they will learn about the roles of running a business. Eighth grade students will participate in Finance Park, in which they can learn about financial literacy.

Before visiting the Discovery Center, students participate in 20 in-class lessons and have a 4.5 hour simulation experience.

According to the news release from University of North Georgia, the plan for Discovery Center is to feature UNG alumni, students and faculty members to highlight career and educational opportunities in the Career Exploration Center.

“The vision is to have 17 career pathways that eighth-grade students choose from represented by someone from UNG in that field,” Highsmith said. “For example, if a student explores the medical pathway, he or she will hear from a UNG graduate through augmented reality talk about that pathway and how he or she progressed through it at UNG.”

UNG students also may volunteer at the Discovery Center and teach middle school students and showcase UNG.

“We remember five percent of what we hear, 70 percent of what we experience and 90 percent of what we teach,” Highsmith said.

UNG students can also use the facility, including its personal finance simulation, in the evening hours.

Eighth-grade students learn about personal finances during the Junior Achievement classes and then go through a simulation at the Discovery Center, according to Highsmith.

“It is like playing a giant version of the board game, ‘Life,’” Highsmith said.

A similar two-hour version will also be available for adults.

Oates said the personal finance simulation falls in line with UNG’s Student Money Management Center, which aims to improve financial literacy, empower students to make good financial decisions, and help students exercise their new financial muscles.

Oates said it is just one example of how Junior Achievement’s teaching concept aligns with UNG’s vision. He said Junior Achievement focuses on interacting and engaging with students and teaches them about ethics, integrity and community service.

“All of those things are UNG’s core values,” he said. “So, this partnership was a natural fit.”

Another Discovery Center is located inside the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta and sponsored by the Chick-fil-A Foundation, while another is in Lawrenceville, with its main sponsor being Gwinnett County Public Schools.