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‘Developing leaders for our future’ — West Forsyth High School opens up 3DE Leadership Academy to students
3DE Leadership Academy
A team of students brainstorm ideas for a case project that they are working on to present to company and industry leaders as part of the 3DE Leadership Academy program at West Forsyth High School. — Photo courtesy of West Forsyth High School

West Forsyth High School recently took on one of the Forsyth County Schools’ newest programs, 3DE by Junior Achievement, which aims to prepare students for success in a 21st century, global economy. 

Lisa Marie Scalese, who serves as 3DE’s schools director at both West Forsyth and at Northview High School in Fulton County, said that 3DE is a little different than many of the district’s programs in that it is run by Junior Achievement, a now global nonprofit organization founded in metro Atlanta more than 100 years ago. 

Junior Achievement always works to partner with those in public education to combine resources and open up further opportunities to teach K-12 students more about financial literacy and business. 

In Georgia specifically, the organization has opened Junior Achievement Discovery Centers throughout the state, which help to serve middle school students in the area. The centers provide teachers with material which helps them to teach financial literacy and simulate with middle school students what it is like to spend money as an adult. 

Junior Achievement just recently opened one of the discovery centers in Cumming, near Alliance Academy for Innovation, which is part of the reason why the school district and organization both felt Forsyth County would be a perfect spot to host its next endeavor. 

The organization created 3DE six years ago, and starting this school year, expanded to Forsyth County and even to districts in other states. While the program is a product of Junior Achievement, Scalese said that it is not focused on financial literacy or business, but rather on skills that students need to be successful in any career path. 

3DE Leadership Academy
A group of students works together on their case challenge.
“3DE really is this education for every aspect of life,” Scalese said. 

Within the program, Junior Achievement uses its connections and networks within different industries to connect students with different companies and industry leaders. Whether the companies are big or small, the goal of 3DE is to teach students to collaborate, gather and analyze data and solve real-world problems that these companies may be facing. 

Some of 3DE’s partners include the Arby’s Foundation, Delta, The Home Depot, The Marcus Foundation Inc., Suntrust, the Coca-Cola Foundation and many others. 

“They come to us with an existing problem or challenge that they’re having in their industry right now,” Scalese said. “And so they give us all of the background, data and resources and then talk about their current challenges that they’re facing in their industry.” 

With this information, the students work in teams on six different cases throughout the year with six different companies to come up with solutions to some of the problems these companies are facing. For example, one group of students worked earlier this year as if they were on Arby’s marketing team to come up with a marketing campaign that may appeal to 13- to 17-year-olds. 

Not only do the students collaborate and work together on the case projects, but they also work on

3DE Leadership Academy
A team of students work together on their case challenge, each of them bringing their own strengths to collaborate on one project. — Photo courtesy of West Forsyth High School
them in their core classes as teachers connect the curriculum to a real-world project. Scalese said that 3DE makes sure to work with each company beforehand to write the case challenges so that they align with the students academically. 

In an ELA class, teachers may usually teach a concept such as rhetorical devices through a book or prompt, but through 3DE, they can teach the same concept through the students’ marketing campaign that they are also working on in other classes. In a math class, instead of working on problems out of a textbook, they are working on analyzing data that will inform their decisions and project. 

“They’re seeing why and how you actually use data,” Scalese said. “Not just to get the right answer on the test.” 

Throughout the process a professional from the industry comes out to the school to coach students while they are working on a project. After the project is finished, students come up with a presentation, and each team presents an idea to a company and industry leaders. Scalese compared the final presentation to the TV show “Shark Tank” as each company ultimately chooses a winner or an idea that they like best. 

Overall, Scalese said the case projects and presentations can give students a focus for what they may want to do in the future. Working with different companies in different industries provides them with opportunities to get an inside look into what working in that industry would entail. 

In a normal year, students would travel to the companies, meet with leaders and present ideas in an actual board room. This year, due to the pandemic, students are able to have that opportunity to look into an industry virtually through Microsoft Teams and Zoom. 

Scalese said that not only is the program helpful for students in finding their focus and in building lifelong skills such as communication, collaboration and problem-solving, but it also helps to build up confidence as students and as leaders. 

“Our students love it,” Scalese said. “Just the fact that, by the time they graduate, they’ll have worked on 24 different teams and presented to 24 different industry leaders and champions. Just to stand up there and speak to 24 different people that aren’t teachers.” 

Collaborating and working in a team of other familiar students has also helped with many students’ confidence and abilities in the classroom as they help each other find valuable skills in a comfortable environment. While one student might be naturally charismatic and skillful at presenting information, another might be better at analyzing or correcting data. Scalese said 3DE helps students to identify and value those different skill sets in themselves and others. 

“To know that others can find and see your value, even when it’s different than theirs, it’s just awesome, especially for those students who are not the most outgoing,” Scalese said. 

Karl Mercer, principal at West Forsyth High School, is excited to offer the 3DE program to not only students at West, but to high school students from throughout the district who may be interested. 

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While the program is a school-within-a-school model, similar to the STEM Academy and Humanities Institute, Scalese said students can take separate classes outside of 3DE. Although the program is connected to the students’ core classes, they still have the option to take on-level, honors or AP courses. 

“At West Forsyth High School, we are always looking for ways to enhance our curriculum,” Mercer said. “3DE aligns with our school’s vision, Inspiring Innovative Leaders, and our beliefs in the importance of relationships, rigor, and relevance. The 3DE Leadership Academy is developing leaders for our future.” 

For more information on 3DE or how to apply, visit West Forsyth High School’s website at www.forsyth.k12.ga.us/wfhs.