Rockdale Career Academy is celebrating.
The academy hosts ribbon-cutting and tours today of a two-story addition to include new digs for public safety, career tech, work based learning, science labs, classrooms for dual enrollment, space for evening classes and more.
A look back reveals four years of community planning before RCA opened its doors July 31, 2006, with a student enrollment of 1,250. A decade after the original vision, the Parker Road academy boasts explosive 52 percent growth to 1,900 students today.
While RCA students earn impressive state accolades, school leaders will tell you it is shared success -- the coming together of students from all of Rockdale's schools to a central site of college and career preparation -- that tells the back story of a remarkable place where relevance garners center stage.
At a May 2012 Workforce Development Summit, CEO and Principal Miki Edwards shared a story of light bulbs sparking for the accomplished educator, compliments of a student in automotive training.
Observing automotive class years ago, Edwards describes a young man fully engaged in a math lesson on place value. Place value in automotive class?
"What are you doing?" Edwards asked. "Didn't you learn this in fourth grade?" "Shhh ... " the youngster replied, fully engaged, "It didn't matter until now."
Now, as ribbons break and tours begin, RCA teaches the community it serves what that automotive student taught Edwards long ago: learning matters when relevant.
So does the popular academy make good on its lofty mission statement, claiming to be a training ground for "premiere career and workforce development?"
In fiscal year 2012, RCA produced 417 pathway completers, grew from 81 percent to 88 percent in percentage of students gaining Georgia Work Ready Certification, and enjoyed partnerships with more than 75 local businesses through Work Based Learning.
Five manufacturing students competed at state level. In graphic design, RCA students placed first, second, and third in both graphic design and digital photography, with two students taking first-place district awards.
An RCA student took first place at State SkillsUSA for pen design, and 100 percent of CISCO Networking graduates attend four-year colleges in STEM-based majors today.
An AP Honor School, RCA's Broadcast Video program is the first in the state to receive industry certification.
An RCA student earned the American FFA Degree and another grabbed a state award for forage production.
RCA boasts the second-largest DECA chapter in Georgia, is a gold medal winner for its Early Childhood Education program, and touts multiple gold medals for its renowned culinary arts program, with many RCA students earning National ServSafe Certification.
RCA's mission statement freely applies the word "community." For it is a community coming together in an office park in the shadow of towering horse park signage, reminding all of us of the international appeal RCA graduates boast -- work-ready, industry-certified, employable.
Through choice, learning, relevance and success, these students have taught us all the value of learning that matters, and we believe them.
Jeff Meadors is the District 1 representative on the Newton County Board of Education. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.