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How the Alliance Academy is transforming 'the high school experience'
Alliance Academy
Alliance Academy juniors Andrew Priego, left, and Maurice Wodtke give Chamber members a tour of the mechatronics program Wednesday. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

A quarterly breakfast typically reserved for leaders of international businesses to meet and talk about the benefits and challenges of their industries had some much younger speakers this week.

On Wednesday morning, the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce hosted its quarterly international engagement breakfast at Alliance Academy for Innovation, where Principal Brandi Cannizzaro, faculty and students gave a breakdown of what the school is about.

Now in its second year, Alliance Academy has only freshman, sophomore and junior students and offers six pathways — aerospace and logistics, criminal justice and law, hospitality and design, cybersecurity and digital intelligence, healthcare and first responders and mechatronics and energy.

“The purpose of our school is to really transform the high school experience and provide innovative, unique and exciting opportunities for students, and that’s exactly what we’ve had a chance to do,” Cannizzaro said. 

The school focuses on carrier readiness and Cannizzaro said graduates will have industry certifications.

“For instance, in health care, they will be certified in CPR. In flight operations, they will take a pilot’s exam with the FAA. In graphic design, they will be certified in Adobe, so all of them have a chance at industry certification when they leave Alliance,” she said.

In addition to the pathways, the school also promotes “the Avenger Way,” a push to teach students soft skills needed in their career paths. 

“We do a lot with ‘dress with success,’ where they get to wear industry dress once a month, and then they wear professional dress once a month,” Cannizzaro said. “So when they go for those first interviews and go for that first job, they know how to look and act the part. The soft skills piece is huge, it’s the people skills, team building, collaboration. That is how people are successful in whatever their career is.”

After students gave presentations on their pathways, students took questions from chamber members, such as how they felt the school’s offerings impacted their career plans.

“It’s great to come here and try something new that you might have wanted to do when you were younger, but if you really don’t like that, you can try it out before you go to college and start spending all of your money on tuition and decide to change out and waste your time and money there,” said Cole Dillinder, a sophomore in the energy pathway. 

Students also led tours of different pathways showing off what they’ve been working on, such as a FIRST robotics competition robot, welding machines and other tools used by the mechatronics pathway.

During their presentation, students in the mechatronics pathway shared their experiences competing in the FIRST competition, a hands-on use of what they’re learning in the classroom.

“When we program the robots, it helps us learn how coding works and we can use that experience and the interaction with the game to accomplish different goals,” said Luke Reynolds. “We can use that later in an industrial setting to program a manufacturing arm, to build a car or to make an improved forklift or something.”

Alliance Academy for Innovation
Students in Alliance Academy for Innovation’s mechatronics pathway show off some of the tools used in the program Wednesday during a recent visit from Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce members. - photo by Kelly Whitmire