Fayette schools pilot digital media career pathway

Toon Boom trainer Marie-Eve Chartrand flew in from the company’s headquarters in Montreal, Canada for two days of training on Storyboard Pro software. She is seen helping Dr. Tom Lewis of Whitewater High (R) as fellow teachers from Whitewater High, Dennis Bergeron and Renee Waters (L), work on their projects. Photo/Special.

The Fayette County School System is developing a pilot program designed to create a career pathway in digital media. The March 4 announcement was made at Sandy Creek High School as representatives from Canadian animation software company Toon Boom gave teachers from two of the county’s high schools and two middle schools a hands-on look at the technology.

“As Georgia’s film industry continues to boom with the opening of movie production companies, such as Pinewood Atlanta in Fayette, there is going to be a demand for a skilled workforce in digital media. That’s why the Fayette County School System is leading the way to prepare students for careers in the field, specifically in animation, by developing what is hoped will become the first Digital Media Career Pathway for the state,” said school system spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach.

Berry-Dreisbach said Fayette, in partnership with Clayton State University, the Atlanta Regional Commission, and Toon Boom, an animation software company out Montreal, Canada whose software is used to produce 70 percent of the world’s cartoons, is working to create a career pathway that will be piloted next school year at Sandy Creek and Whitewater high schools, as well as Rising Starr Middle School and Whitewater Middle School.

The announcement came on March 4 at Sandy Creek High, the same day that teachers from the pilot schools were receiving training on the Toon Boom software. Toon Boom CEO Joan Vogelesang was present for the announcement and commended the school system on taking the initiative to offer students the opportunity to develop skills and earn certifications that can land them jobs straight out of high school, Berry-Dreisbach said.

“We are honored to be here today and are delighted to be partners with you on this journey. Thank you for thinking outside of the box and thank you for taking this on,” said Vogelesang.

Berry-Dreisbach said students who successfully complete the pathway will earn certification from Toon Boom, enabling them to immediately seek employment with an animation production company, or if they choose to continue their education in the field, a portfolio for entrance into a college or university program and possible scholarship opportunities.

Commenting on the digital media pathway pilot program, school system CTAE (Career, Technical and Agricultural Education) Coordinator Lisa Collins said the Digital Media Pathway is more than art and creativity because it will also incorporate main subjects such as science and math.

“For example, in order to accurately animate a person, students will need to know human anatomy and how all the body parts work together so that the animation is realistic,” she explained.

Additionally, animation involves collaboration and problem solving, skills that are needed in all career fields. So whether or not students decide to pursue a digital media career after taking the courses, they will have gained skills that can be utilized in any job field, Berry-Dreisbach said.

Curriculum writing for the pathway will take place over the next several months and will be submitted to the Georgia Dept. of Education in October for state approval. If approved, high schools throughout Georgia could offer the pathway to their students.