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Forsyth County Schools holds inaugural gala to recognize students in career pathways
Lambert High School student Sriya Sirigireddy was chosen as the 2022 District High School CTAE Student of the Year at Forsyth County Schools' inaugural CTAE Excellence Awards Gala on Wednesday, April 27. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Sriya Sirigireddy was timid and shy when she first joined HOSA, a student organization for future health care professionals, in the sixth grade.

She said public speaking terrified her. Even going to the front of the classroom to ask the teacher a question felt like a daunting task. But her passion for health care kept her going in HOSA through middle school.

Now a health sciences pathway student at Lambert High School, Sirigireddy said she feels like a completely different person thanks to Forsyth County Schools’ Career, Technical and Agricultural Education, or CTAE, program, which offers these career pathways to students.

“Sixth-grade Sriya would have never believed you if you told her she would be able to represent Georgia HOSA as a state officer and work alongside students that I’ve had the opportunity to meet today,” she said.

But it is because of this strong personal, academic and professional growth that the district named Sirigireddy as the 2022 District High School CTAE Student of the Year at its inaugural CTAE Excellence Awards Gala on Wednesday, April 27.

Held at the Forsyth County Arts and Learning Center, Sirigireddy said she was honored to be recognized for her work in HOSA and her career pathway.

“I will never adequately be able to put into words everything that the CTAE program has given me, but if I were to try it would be that my CTSO has given me the opportunity to have a taste of the life that I have always dreamed of,” she said.

She said she never could have gotten to where she is in the program without her teachers, parents, advisors and community, which is why she dedicated her award to everyone in the audience that night.

Alongside Sirigireddy’s overall district award, the gala honored more than 100 CTAE students who have excelled in career pathways or Career and Technical Student Organizations such as HOSA.

“These students are leaders in their schools, involved in the community and are skilled in academics as well,” said Wendy Corona, a WSB-TV news anchor who hosted the night’s gala. “They each participate in Career and Technical Education pathways that connect their academic and technical skills to future educational and career opportunities, and many will actually graduate high school with industry credentials, making them already work-ready.”
Lambert High School student Sriya Sirigireddy was chosen as the 2022 District High School CTAE Student of the Year at Forsyth County Schools' inaugural CTAE Excellence Awards Gala on Wednesday, April 27. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Each career pathway and student organization was grouped into career clusters, and several students from each cluster were recognized before Corona announced school-level Students of the Year in each category.

Corona said the students recognized were nominated by each school to represent each career cluster, and the nominated students then completed an application process that was then reviewed by a district committee.

Before announcing the winners, Julie Brennan, executive director of Corner Farms, took a moment to recognize CTAE students in the district who have been able to serve as state officers in CTAE student organizations. Maxwell Bentley, founder of Bentley Media Group, recognized FCS’ CTAE Student Advisory Council.

Corona announced the following 2022 CTAE school-level Student of the Year winners:

  • Middle school — Cassandra Labossiere from Liberty Middle School;
  • Agricultural cluster — Jonathan Harper from Denmark High School;
  • Architecture and construction/arts, A/V technology and communications/human services/law, public safety, corrections and security/transportation clusters — Bianca Jayaraman from South Forsyth High School;
  • Business/finance/information technology clusters — Yugeshwar Muralidhar from Forsyth Central High School;
  • Education/human services clusters — Alexandria Beatty from North Forsyth High School;
  • Energy/manufacturing/STEM clusters — Zoe Coffey from Alliance Academy for Innovation;
  • Health science cluster — Sriya Sirigireddy from Lambert High School;
  • Marketing/hospitality and tourism clusters — Grace Cheon from Alliance Academy for Innovation;
  • Internship Forsyth — Sri Gogulamudi from Denmark High School;
  • MCJROTC — Cheyenne Hencely from North Forsyth High School.

Deputy Superintendent Mitch Young speaks to the crowd at the inaugural CTAE Excellence Awards Gala. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Mitch Young, the district’s deputy superintendent, spoke to the crowd, congratulating students on their awards and hard work through the career pathways.

“You made and kept a commitment [to your pathway], and that’s no small thing in this day and age,” Young said.

He also recognized the CTAE teachers and families in the audience who he said make the program what it is for the district’s students.

“School systems are most successful when parents, schools and the business community are all connected and working together,” Young said. “In my 25 years as an educator, I have never been a part of a community where that collaboration is more authentic than in Forsyth County. We are truly so blessed here.”

To show their appreciation for this support and outstanding community partners, Forsyth County Schools also presented the Michael Gravitt CTAE Partnership Award to two local partners who have put time, money and effort into improving the district’s CTAE program and pathways.

To present this award, Tim Perry, a member of Rotary Club of Forsyth County, introduced the Gravitt family up to the stage. Perry said Michael Gravitt, who died last year, was one of his good friends.

“The motto for Rotary is ‘service above self,’ and that clearly defines the kind of life that Mike Gravitt lived,” Perry said. “It seems anytime we needed a volunteer, or we had a community service project, Mike was the first one there, and it always seemed he was the last to leave.”

A graduate of Forsyth County High School, Michael Gravitt dedicated his life to volunteerism within the community. Not only did he serve in the Rotary Club of Forsyth County, but he served as a board member for many local charitable organizations. He also volunteered with the district’s CTAE program and offered support for the Alliance Academy for Innovation.

Michael’s oldest son, Colin Gravitt, said he was honored to give the award in honor of his dad and the amazing work he did in the Forsyth County community.

“He made an indelible imprint on all those that he knew,” Colin said. “He loved this community, and we are so pleased to know that his efforts and his dedication didn’t go unnoticed.”

The first partnership award was given to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and Dr. Nick Cardella, who runs the agency’s volunteer division.

Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman, left, accepts the Michael Gravitt CTAE Partnership Award alongside Dr. Nick Cardella for the Sheriff's Office's involvement in the criminal justice and public safety pathways in FCS. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Colin said the FCSO has worked closely with students in the law enforcement and public safety pathways at Alliance since the program’s inception, providing equipment and training simulators and spending countless hours with students in the classroom and within internships.

Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman accepted the award alongside Cardella.

“Our involvement in the criminal justice program in Forsyth County Schools would not be successful without acknowledging Dr. Nick Cardella,” Freeman said. “His heart in sharing our profession with students and leading our internship program is second to none. On behalf of the nearly 500 employees with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, to the Gravitt family, my sincere thank you for this recognition.”

The second recipient of the award was Dr. Randy Esbeck, a veterinarian and owner of Sawnee Animal Clinic. Colin said Esbeck has been a constant supporter of FCS’ veterinary science pathways and their Future Farmers of America student chapters.

Esbeck said he has been “very fortunate” to work closely with Denmark and Forsyth Central high schools, both of which received state recognition for the veterinary programs within the first two years of inception.

“Every ounce of inspiration I try to give to them, I get two ounces back,” Esbeck said. “These kids, these young men and women, are intelligent, talented and enthusiastic, and it will be a great pleasure to keep working with them.”

Dr. Randy Esbeck, a veterinarian and owner of Sawnee Animal Clinic, accepts the second Michael Gravitt CTAE Partnership Award. - photo by Sabrina Kerns
The middle school CTAE student of the year winners. - photo by Sabrina Kerns
The education and human services student of the year winners. - photo by Sabrina Kerns
A student receives their CTAE student of the year award. - photo by Sabrina Kerns