Athens Technical College Academy celebrates first high school graduates
Two students were recognized Friday, Aug. 11 for earning their high school diplomas and college certificates simultaneously through the Athens Technical College Academy.
Malachi Byrum of Madison County and Zachary Wood of Morgan County participated in the Dual Achievement Program (DAP) through the Academy. Wood took courses locally in Madison and the ATC Elbert campus, earning the diesel engine service technician and diesel electrical/electronic systems technician technical certificates of credit (TCC’s). He plans to continue his education at ATC to earn a diploma in diesel equipment technology. Byrum took courses at the main campus in Athens and received TCC’s in gas metal arc welding and gas tungsten arc welding.
“My uncle was a welder, and I always used to hang around him,” said Byrum. “My high school didn’t have a higher welding education – they told me about the [dual achievement] program, and it was a lot better than high school. It gave me a chance to do what I liked, rather than sit in a boring classroom all day. I’m very hands-on and mechanically inclined…I’ve been working on cars since I was like 12.”
Established by Georgia Senate Bill 204 in 2022, DAP offers high school coursework for students ages 16-21. This allows enrolled students to combine high school courses and college credit level coursework for an accredited high school diploma and college level credentials for quick entry into the workforce. ATC is one of five pilot institutions in the Technical College System of Georgia to offer the program, which is separate from the established dual enrollment program.
“I’m delighted to celebrate our first Dual Achievement Program graduates this year, and look forward to enrolling more students for the upcoming school year,” said Tia Benn, the executive director for secondary initiatives who leads the program at ATC. She joined the college to help launch the program less than a year ago. Nearly two dozen students enrolled over the last year, and Benn expects to have over 50 students for the next academic year.
The Athens Technical College Academy is accredited by Cognia to offer high school diplomas. There is no charge for high school-level coursework, and tuition and textbooks are covered through dual enrollment funding for college-level coursework. Depending on the program of study, there may be costs related to the program, such as tools or lab equipment, but the DAP students are allotted $900 each academic year to help assist with course supplies. All Academy students have access to the same support resources as other students, such as success and career advisors.
“The ATC Academy helps us meet the needs of students where they are, and truly benefits everyone from students and their families, to local school systems, our college, and ultimately the workforce that needs graduates with the skillsets,” said President Andrea Daniel.
The College’s Career Plus program in adult education also offers high school coursework for students over age 18. The first high school graduate for the program was in June — Cecilia Charles Casas earned her diploma as well as two TCC’s in early childhood care basics and CompTIA+.