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Forsyth Central STEM program lands state certification
Sixth high school in Georgia to reach goal
Assistant Principal Kim Head holds up the banner that State School Superintendent Richard Woods presented Tuesday to Forsyth Central High. - photo by Jim Dean

CUMMING — Each public high school in Forsyth County has its own program or set of accolades to set it apart, but one campus became just the sixth in Georgia to receive a certification for which the state superintendent made his first visit to Forsyth.

Forsyth Central’s STEM Academy was recognized Tuesday morning for earning the certification, with students in the program, its teachers, the school administration and Board of Education members on hand to commemorate the event.

“Man, I wish I had this opportunity,” said State School Superintendent Richard Woods, who took office in January. “It’s what an education should be.

“You used to see the core academic operate in isolation, the CTAE [career, technical and agricultural education] operated in isolation, the business sector operated in isolation and the administration even operated in isolation. But now you have everything coming together, which I think is wonderful for these kids and sets a great example for the state as well.”

STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — has been a focus at Central since discussions to start a program began in the 2010-11 school year, with the first classes in August 2012.

Though many schools have STEM-centered courses, certification is “a rarity in Georgia.”

Woods said of the more than 2,000 schools in the state, Central is the 14th to complete the requirements, including classes and projects, for certification.

“That comes from not only the administration but the teachers to make an impact on kids’ lives. It takes the support of parents and the community,” Woods said. “It’s a complete team effort, and that’s something we don’t have in every community. But it’s very obvious and prevalent here.”

That team effort revolves around seven teachers, a media specialist, an instructional technology specialist and Kim Head, an assistant principal and the STEM Academy leader.

“We really had all the teachers in place already when we started talking about the STEM Academy, so it was just a natural fit,” Head said.

The 21 seniors set to graduate in May are the first who will have completed all four years of the program. Last year’s pioneer group of nine was sophomores when it debuted.

“It’s because of the teachers,” she said. “If you have that core group, and they collaborate so well together, they have the same passions for kids. That was evident in [the kids’] reactions when I introduced those teachers. They have a relationship with them. It’s more than just a partnership.

Head, who is a Central graduate, said Forsyth County is the perfect community for such a program because of the business partners that surround the school.

“We want those kids to come back and invest in our community,” she said.

And they already have seen some returns from that investment.

Seniors Trent Callan and Rachel Fratt are both attending Georgia Tech in the fall.

Callan plans to study biotechnical engineering and is in the process of starting his own company. He wants to own an engineering firm.

He and another student in the program completed an internship over the summer at Panduit, a global manufacturing company.

“We went into the office from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. every day, like a regular office job. We went to meetings and led meetings,” Callan said. “We led a product launch at the end of the summer, and two of the products went on the market and are producing revenue for the company.”

In fiscal year 2014, those products — rubberized, printable label pieces for circuit breakers — garnered about $15,000 in revenue.

Fratt said the devices Central’s STEM program uses are usually not accessible even to “a lot of undergrad students.”

Fratt, who wants to become the CEO of a biotech company, intends to study business.

“Now I will only need the business aspects in college,” she said of her education to prepare her for reaching that goal. “That will put me ahead of a lot of other people in my field because I already understand the things they need to learn.”