By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
Students who worked on the SMILEY Project with one of the business partners.  The students were involved in a Project Based Learning opportunity in which they  helped a local business market and sell a product which sanitizes sports equipment and other objects that are difficult to clean.  The students learned valuable lessons about business, web design, pricing, sales, marketing, and working as a team.

Academy model comes to South Gwinnett HS
By Beth Volpert 

Change is inevitable. In education, like business, it only makes good sense to keep up with the times.

For South Gwinnett High School, being one of the oldest schools in the county means you are well-established enough so that when you want to make changes, having a solid background of quality education gives the school a head start on moving in a positive direction. For Principal Eric Thigpen, being at the helm of such change is an honor. An honor and a responsibility he does not take lightly. 

“Our desire is to see that our students are prepared for college, career and citizenship,” says Principal Thigpen. “We want these students to return to the city prepared to take on a vision of what Snellville can be in the future.” To prepare students for the challenges ahead, Principal Thigpen and his staff are committed to providing the educational opportunities that fit the needs and interests of each student using the Academy model. “Our goal is to make sure our students see the relevance of what they are learning in school,” says academy lead teacher Andie McDaniel. “They will see how it applies to their daily lives and futures.” 

According to the GCPS, The Academy model uses “innovative practices to ensure students receive the highest level of education and exposure to postsecondary education, career opportunities, and real-life experiences.” Principal Thigpen echoes those defining words by going further to describe the five academies at SGHS as a source of pride for the Snellville community. “We want to build lasting relationships with parents, partners and government officials,” says Thigpen. “By doing this, we will ensure a strong future for the community.” 

City of Snellville Economic Development Manager, Eric G. Van Otteren agrees with Thigpen that SGHS is a vital part of the Snellville community. “My role with South Gwinnett has been to support the entrepreneurship program which is part of the Business and Entrepreneurship Academy,” says Van Otteren. “I have facilitated entrepreneurs and business owners' engagement with the students and am a firm believer that we must be preparing our students to solve problems in a relevant manner, coupled with building relationships with business owners (mentors, coaches, and advisors).” Van Otteren believes that the academy model is the heart of entrepreneurship which translates to modeling for the students problem solving skills. “As a city, our key focus is two-fold: partner with the school to create, not just an educated workforce, but a relevant workforce; and to encourage the growth of local business.” In order to ensure that the community is preparing future leaders, the City of Snellville is highly involved in  preparing students with skills to solve the problems of tomorrow, many of which, according to Van Otteren, do not exist today.

Serving the learning styles of the entire school can be a challenge for any administration and staff, but for the SGHS teachers, the five academies will actually make it more conducive to providing a tailored approach to differences in learning. “This is very exciting for us,” says Andie McDaniel. “Each academy has roughly one-fifth of the school population which gives us an opportunity to really get to know each of the approximately 500 students better.” McDaniel goes on to explain that each academy will have a team dedicated to many levels of support which will allow for the staff and students to build a good working relationship. “Our entire school cluster is excited to see this common vision for leading our students through college and career academies.” 

Mr. Thigpen and Dr. McDaniel also cite the input and assistance of the GCPS. “We have a great deal of latitude with the academies from Mr. Wilbanks,” says Thigpen. “The instructional staff has offered us a great deal of support for our rigorous and real world applications.” 

Andie McDaniel points out that the mission of the planning group who brought the Academies at South Gwinnett to fruition is based on the idea of having a script. “Each letter was carefully considered and our mission was made clear in the planning stages.” SCRIPT stands for:

Serving the Community of SGHS through Reflective practices and Innovative applications by Planning effectively as measured by Truth.

Mr. Thigpen and his entire staff are looking forward to building a seamless relationship with the local community. “We are excited to serve the Community of Snellville,” says Thigpen. “South Gwinnett High School stands ready to be a major source of pride for the community.”

The Academics are:

Business Administration and Enterpreneurship 
Health and Human Service
Media, Arts and Communications
Public Serivce, Law and Leadership
Science, Technology, Enginnering and Math (STEM) smiley 440