Greater Atlanta Christian School is in the works of building a sister school, but it won't be anywhere in Georgia or the U.S.: It'll be in Rwanda.
Since 2007, a team from GAC has been working with the president and government of the African country to create the Central Africa School of Excellence, which will be open to students on the seventh grade level and above.
Aside from the simple offer of higher education, one of the goals for the Rwanda school is to build global connections, said Dr. David Fincher, the president of GAC. Since the mid-90s, GAC has completed as many as 25 mission trips to various continents a year, but the school wanted to do something more long term.
Fincher explained that they realized it's important to have relationships with foreign leaders more than ever before, and since the Norcross-area school is filled with leadership students, starting a sister school in another country would be beneficial.
"Our view is that students today need a deep, binding global connection, not just two weeks in a mission trip and a learning experience here and there, but sustained interaction with leaders around the world," said Fincher.
GAC wanted to have the school in another section of the world that is rapidly developing and will grow a generation of leaders and Kigali, Rwanda, was the answer. Since the country's genocide in the early '90s, Fincher said, Rwanda has risen as a strong and growing economy with thoughtful businesses and nonprofit and government leadership that all have global outlooks.
Since they will be sister schools, GAC aims to have the same goals and types of leadership students at the Central Africa School of Excellence.
"It's designed for leaders of Rwanda, students who will emerge as the business leaders, the professionals, the parliament members in Central Africa, and the policy shapers there who will get to know our students and partner with them through projects when they are [teens]," said Fincher.
Students from the two schools would be doing much more than just collaborating, though. Fincher said they aim to use the sister school for long-term exchanges, where GAC and Rwanda students will spend six-week studies in the other country.
"We think it's a part of what schools need to be doing for their kids for the next 20 years," he said. "This is the kind of world they're going to work in: across borders, partnering and working together with leaders around the world. Our vision is to prepare our students for that today, and not wait for a future day and hope they have those skills. They need those skills now, so that when they're 22, 25 and 30, they're ready to be full partners in helping shape a better world."
Over the years, a number of "Higher Ed" or universities, such as Carnegie Mellon University, have established themselves in Rwanda, but the country is missing secondary education institutions that would fulfill seventh to 12th grade education. Although the GAC school would initially be open to students only on the seventh and eighth grade levels, they aim to fill this gap of missing education as the school grows.
This week, GAC's team is in Rwanda with the president and his government as they put the final touches on the construction plans for materials, square footage and more. The project is being led by Dr. Mike O'Neal, who's the former president of Oklahoma Christian University and also the senior vice president of the GAC project. Senior High Principal and Rwanda Executive Director Scott Harsh is there, too, along with GAC board members, Atlanta architects and engineers.
Construction is planned to be underway in 2013 and 2014, and the school will officially open its doors in either late 2014 or early 2015.
- Norcross Elementary Celebrates 100th Day of School
- Former Summerour Teacher Recognized as Ga.’s Top Social Studies Educator