• Cody Chambers (third from left) Lumpkin County High School Class of 2004, shares some sage advice on what seniors can expect after graduation during the 2nd Annual Senior Capstone Day event.

Seniors cram for real-world challenges


Nearly 300 Lumpkin County High School seniors took one more step forward in “preparing for life after May 18,” during the second annual Senior Capstone Day, said Vice-Principal Jason Lemley.

Along with being the vice-principal Lemley is also the CTAE (Career, Technical and Agricultural Education) Director and Capstone Day Coordinator. The state of Georgia requires each charter school to have a capstone project for graduating seniors. Last year he spent about four months preparing for the first event.

“Last year, we only had three members on our committee and we almost didn’t pull it off.  This year, we started in early fall, added four additional committee members and met regularly to plan this day for our seniors,” Lemley said.

Mary Smith, guidance counselor; Amy Lincoln, CTAE teacher; Cynthia Williamson, social studies teacher; Ashley Winsor, mathematics teacher; Becky Ramsey, science teacher; and Hollie Eudy, English teacher made up this year’s committee. 

The day kicked off with an informational session by renowned keynote speaker Anthony ONeal of the Dave Ramsey Group. It ignited a spark of energy with some real-life applicable advice, Lemley said.

“You never know what kind of presentation you’re going to hear when the school brings in a guest speaker. More often than not, we are bored and hearing the same message over and over again. But, Anthony ONeal was different,” senior Scarlett Sullens said. “He was funny, he was engaging, and we hung on his every word.”

Second on the agenda seniors visited The Reality Store or had a 10-15 minute mock interview with a local business person. Thirty professionals interviewed seven students each during the course of the two-hour morning session.

“Our students walked away from their interviews feeling empowered and prepared for real job interviews in their near future,” said Winsor, who kept this part of the day on schedule. 

The Reality Store was revamped from last year, Lemley said.

“This year saw the addition of technology integration,” Lemley said. “Rather than students using paper and pencil to figure their monthly budget and expenses, an app was developed and written specifically for Lumpkin County High School’s Reality Store experience.  Each student submitted their intended career field ahead of time and then had to work with an estimated starting monthly salary as they made decisions on how to live on that income.”

Also new this year, Chestatee Ford brought four different vehicles to campus for students to look at when making their decision about transportation, and WalMart showed up with four grocery carts full of real food for students to browse through while working on their food budget. 

“It was quite an eye opener for many of our students. They might think that bringing home $2,500 after taxes is a lot of money but then when they have to pay for childcare, groceries, housing, entertainment, insurance, etc.—that $2,500 quickly goes to zero, or for many of our students, they ended up in the red. The Reality Store is a fun, engaging experience for all our students, but, most importantly, it is a lesson that is better learned with fake money and simulated circumstances now rather than with your actual pay check in the real world later,” he said.

The afternoon session was a chance for the seniors to hear from alumni, answering questions and sharing advice on what they know now that they wish they knew before they graduated high school. 

“This year, we increased our alumni panel from 10 past graduates to 19, ready and willing to offer all the needed advice and tips to our graduating seniors. We could have easily spent two or three hours with this panel as they had much to offer our students,” Lincoln said. She and Lemley facilitated the session.

To cap off the day parents of graduating students who committed to attend a post-secondary institution or join the military after high school were invited to a ceremony and reception with their child and administration. College Signing Day recognized 136 students who will attend a technical school, college or university or join the military next year. They were joined by 94 parents to see their children recognized with a signing certificate, a book, and a T-shirt from their college or branch of military. 

Before the end of the school year seniors will have the opportunity to spend half a day job shadowing in their chosen industry or field of interest. Seniors who complete all components of the Capstone Project, including the Thank You note to their interviewer and the job shadowing experience, will earn a cord to wear at graduation designating them as a Distinguished Capstone Completer.

“Once again, Senior Capstone Day was a success for our students. Even over a week after the event, we continue to get emails, Facebook posts, and phone calls thanking us for what we did for our seniors on Capstone Day,” Lemley said. “We stepped up our game this year and added many new and innovative features to our day. I sincerely appreciate all the work from our committee and our supporting staff members to make this project a reality. We are grateful to Dr. Rob Brown and Mrs. Sharon Head for not only supporting this project but for encouraging us along the way. Lastly, Senior Capstone Day doesn’t happen without the many, many community professionals and volunteers. We are forever thankful for their partnership with Lumpkin County Schools, and we are looking forward to April 2019 and our 3rd Annual Senior Capstone Day.”

Jason Lemley contributed to this article.

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