Career Magnet supports students in life choices

Sandra ClarkFeature, Northeast Knox

There’s power in choice.

Students at Career Magnet Academy were everywhere at last week’s open house for parents and prospective students. And it was hard to get them to quit talking about their program.


This public high school, tucked into the basement of Pellissippi State’s campus at Strawberry Plains Pike, has the fewest enrollees but arguably the most excited students and staff of any of Knox County Schools’ 16 high schools.

Over in the advanced manufacturing section, Axel Ruiz, a junior zoned for Hardin Valley Academy, and Adam Atwood, a junior zoned for Bearden, were operating a 3-D printer.

“We fix problems,” said Axel, showing how the printer feeds a spool of plastic filament into the device which melts it at 200 degrees. Students calculate and design specifications for their products, which are formed as the plastic cools. Last Thursday, they demonstrated red and white covers for the classroom alarms.

Axel said students can also make repairs to the printers if necessary. Their teacher is Tim Epling, who also works with student welders.

Keegan Toomey, a senior, will be one of the first graduates of CMA. He showed metal paper weights and supply holders made for teachers. He also demonstrated a frame to fit over the vertical glass portion of each classroom door. It allows light, but makes it impossible, he said, for an intruder to break the glass and unlock the door.

Interesting that two of the three projects dealt with security in a school with no known safety problems.

Down the hall, Riley Rines displayed his project, “Trout in the Classroom.” He used his interest in fishing to springboard into the study of water quality, as reflected by the types and health of wildlife found in area creeks and lakes. He supported his research with information from Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “I want to get kids involved … to think critically,” said Riley.

Kids hustled like vendors at a flea market.

Shelby Stallings incorporated a personal video into her presentation at Career Magnet Academy. She’s part of the teacher preparation program doing an internship with Kids Place.

“Come see my project,” said Shelby Stallings. A senior who took dual credit classes at CMA and Pellissippi State, Shelby is in the teaching as a profession track.

As part of her high school program, she volunteered at East Knox Elementary with her former fourth grade teacher, enabling her to relate differently with a favorite mentor. As a result of that work, she was offered a job at East Knox’s after-school program, Kids Place. “My first adult job,” she said.

She was required to complete four hours of CPR and four hours of first aid. Her video report was titled: “Love, Inspire, Teach.”

CMA is at risk for budget cuts as the school board grapples with finding almost $5 million to open two new middle schools (Gibbs and Hardin Valley) this fall.

Principal Leanne Hawn spoke at last week’s school board meeting.

“When students have the opportunity to choose their school based on talent, interest or ability,” she said, “amazing things happen. Engagement increases, grades go up and kids interact within a culturally diverse school.

“The impact cannot be measured by an assessment or rated on any scale.

“My scholars bravely choose to leave everything that is familiar to them to come to Career Magnet Academy.”

CMA juniors and seniors can take college classes upstairs at Pellissippi State, earning up to 50 credit hours toward an associate’s degree at no charge while in high school.

“We use magnet money for ACT tutoring,” said Hawn. “We are training kids for high skill, high demand, high wage jobs.”

The summer transfer period for magnet schools with available spaces will open May 1. The school board will vote later this month on the system’s budget.

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