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Four Wesleyan School Faculty Members Named GISA Master Teachers



Cathy Cailor

The Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) has named four Wesleyan School faculty members GISA Master Teachers, the school announced September 2.

Ashley Kuehne

Cathy Cailor (First Grade); Ashley Kuehne (Middle School English); Jen Sheppard (Middle School Science); and Corrie Nash (High School Math) were all selected after completing a detailed application process through GISA this past spring.

Corrie Nash

This is the third consecutive year in which Wesleyan teachers have been honored as GISA Master Teachers.

Jen Sheppard

“We are delighted that GISA has acknowledged the hard work of these committed educators through the Master Teacher program,” said Chris Cleveland, Wesleyan Head of School. “Cathy, Ashley, Jen and Corrie are outstanding classroom teachers and have been impacting the lives of Wesleyan students for many years. They are each deserving of this honor.”

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Autumn Clark, Powering through to a Strong Comeback (podcast)



Autumn Clark, a student at Greater Atlanta Christian School (GAC), is a gifted athlete who has worked tenaciously to develop her talents. More than a year ago, she suffered an injury that sidelined her for a while — but not for long. She powered through her rehab and had returned stronger and more determined than ever. This accompanies the article that appeared in our recent issue of Peachtree Corners Magazine.

Timstamp – Where to find it in the podcast:

[00:00:30] – Opening
[00:01:40] – Autumn’s Background
[00:02:57] – A Huge Setback
[00:05:33] – Physical Therapy and Coming Back
[00:08:23] – Balancing Sports, Life, and School
[00:11:24] – How COVID has Impacted Sports
[00:13:06] – How Autumn Plays
[00:15:41] – Moving on to College
[00:17:06] – Autumn’s Other Interests
[00:22:15] – Closing

“I think that it’s important to develop grit and work ethic from early stages. Because those who don’t need external motivation, such as your parents or your teachers to get you to do something.. Just those little things can help push you a little farther ahead in life. And you’ll find that it just is an exponential growth of success. Once you do the little things, they build on each other to where you can be more successful in anything you put your mind to.”

Autumn Clark

Podcast Transcript:

Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life, the podcast that talks about the city of Peachtree Corners. News, community, happenings, people that are in this community, and the stories that you might see in Peachtree Corners Magazine expanded on a little bit more in a follow-up podcast. So hopefully you guys will be getting, by this point, the latest issue of Peachtree Corners Magazine in the mail, or you can pick it up at your nearest restaurant in the city or other businesses. Because in that issue, there’s a lot of things going on. Obviously you could see the kids breaking through in the film industry. But we also have an athlete, a student, a young lady, Autumn Clark from Greater Atlantic Christian. Let’s call her a comeback athlete, because of the things that have happened to her. And her comeback, not only in volleyball, but as well in track and field. And this is a great time to talk about this because the Olympics, we’re in the middle of that right now. Which is great. I’ve been watching every night. It’s cool to watch these young athletes from the skate parks that are 13 year olds doing skateboarding, street skateboarding and stuff, to swim, to track and field. So just excellent stuff. So let’s bring on Autumn Clark. Hey Autumn.

Autumn: [00:01:39] Hi, how are you?

Rico: [00:01:40] Good. Thanks for joining me. I appreciate you being on tonight. So let’s give our audience a little background about you. You’re a student at Greater Atlanta Christian, an athlete there. But not just there, you do club sports. So this, when we did a pre-interview, when I did the QA for the magazine, I didn’t realize how much time it takes for a young kid to put in to sports. Nevermind one sport, but two sports that you’re doing.  Let’s start back a little bit and tell us how you got into volleyball, which I believe was the first sport that you really got into.

Autumn: [00:02:12] Yeah. So I started volleyball spring of my eighth grade year. I was pretty much unaware of volleyball. And my friend at a local charity event was just like, Hey, you’re kind of tall. Maybe you should try out at volleyball. So I went in there and I tried out at A5 volleyball club over in Alpharetta and ended up making a team. And my volleyball career took off from there.

Rico: [00:02:37] And if I understand right, A5 volleyball is a national team, a national club?

Autumn: [00:02:41] Yes. There are number one ranked nationally for the last two years now.

Rico: [00:02:45] So making that really made you feel that you were talented enough to actually continue in it, I would imagine.

Autumn: [00:02:51] Yeah, definitely. Making a team there was stamping my place that I had potential for volleyball moving forward.

Rico: [00:02:57] So you’ve been playing volleyball since eighth grade going into high school. But tragedy happened back in October? That sounded bad from when you responded on that QA. So tell us a bit about that.

Autumn: [00:03:09] Yeah, so basically in October of 2020, my junior season, it was going super well. Then I believe it was October 1st. We were playing Mill Creek and in the fourth set, I landed really awkwardly. Ended up tearing my ACL, both my meniscuses, my MCL, and I fractured my tibia in that landing.

Rico: [00:03:27] That almost sounds like that would be the end of any athlete. Hearing that it’s just unbelievable. So how’d you feel?

Autumn: [00:03:33] Honestly it was pretty traumatizing. It was senior night, so there was a lot of people there. Thankfully it wasn’t my senior night. But ended up passing out on the floor, woke up briefly afterwards. Thankfully my parents were in attendance at the game, so they were there. Helped me up off the court.

Rico: [00:03:49] And ended up going to the hospital?

Autumn: [00:03:50] Yeah, I actually ended up going. My athletic trainer was basically on phone with Emory and they put me in a giant immobilizer and then I went. It was pretty late at night by then. It was already about 10:30.  I toughed out the night and then we went to an MRI in the morning.

Rico: [00:04:04] What was going through your mind when you were able to think about it?

Autumn: [00:04:08] The first couple of hours, I was trying to be optimistic. My trainer originally told me he was like, best case scenario, It’s just a hyperextension. But I’d never really experienced an injury to this degree. And I was like, I know something’s wrong. So later that night it definitely hit me more. I was like, I can’t walk. This is a huge change of lifestyle and I knew that it was probably going to be a serious injury.

Rico: [00:04:28] When these things happen, athletes, you’re working your way through it. And you’ve been doing it from eighth grade and all of a sudden, you’re hitting this. So recovery from that has to be torturesome almost, to do physical therapy because you got to keep doing it  even in pain, I would think. So what did you go through with that? And where did you go actually? Who was handling your case?

Autumn: [00:04:48] Yeah. So I got my surgery done at Resurgence Orthopedics. And then now I’m at rehab at advanced rehabilitation. My physical therapist is Evan. He’s awesome. He’s helped me through a lot. Honestly, the first couple of months were really, big change of lifestyle, honestly. For, since October, basically until the week after Thanksgiving. So late in November, I was unable to walk. I was in a wheelchair. I really didn’t like crutches. So I opted for a wheelchair. And that was probably the hardest time. And since then, I’ve been going to physical therapy three to four times per week even to today.

Rico: [00:05:19] Even until today. Wow. And you learned how to pop a wheelie I think?

Autumn: [00:05:23] I did. Yeah. I have a really large campus, so I would always have friends pushing me around and learned how pop a wheelie with all my lower spin the chair.

Rico: [00:05:33] That’s funny. There’s another sport altogether.  Alright, so you’re still doing physical therapy, but you know, at some point, I guess it was, I would imagine it was still difficult. Even going through it the first month or two, because you really didn’t get back to sports until mid year, I think this year. So how did that, did you go through, depression? What motivated you to keep going? To want to get back?

Autumn: [00:05:55] Yeah. The hardest part I definitely had to battle was kinda just being told no all the time. Like being so used to being able to do something and then suddenly someone’s like, hey, you can’t do that anymore. You’re used to your old kind of pre-injury self. And you’re just like, no, I can do that. So it’s just the big mental readjustment there. And then moving forward from that, coming back to the sport in mid spring. It did take a while and it was hard not having volleyball. I had to wait until, yeah about mid March to come back to the sport.

Rico: [00:06:23] And it sounded like you were watching volleyball on TV versus playing volleyball.

Autumn: [00:06:27] Yeah. I definitely had to rely on sports center to get through it. I had to really just kind of watch teammates get better. From an outsider’s perspective, get that.

Rico: [00:06:37] Did you visit some of the games or watch practices at school when you were there or?

Autumn: [00:06:42] Yeah so, the rest of high school season, I did attend all of the games. It was right after my injury. Basically the season ended four weeks post-injury for high school season. And then for club volleyball, I was able to attend all the tournaments. And so I was team manager in a sense, took stats, but could never actually participate.  That kind of helped a lot too.

Rico: [00:07:02] Yeah, I would think that would be motivating too. You’re still part of what’s going on. You’re still part of that team like that.

Autumn: [00:07:07] Definitely. Having the team bonding aspect really helped me get through.

Rico: [00:07:11] I would think so. And your parents, obviously I would think were a great help during that time.

Autumn: [00:07:16] Definitely. Especially the time period being in a wheelchair. I drive myself and my sister to school, so it was a big adjustment. Thankfully, my mom works at the school, so it wasn’t too big of a deal. Typically she will go about two hours prior to school starting. So we just had to work our schedules into going at the same time. She had to kind of go out of her way to drive me to physical therapy. And my dad was a big help at home. He was able to help me navigate the house, make dinner.

Rico: [00:07:44] How old is your sister?

Autumn: [00:07:45] My sister is 16 right now. She’s a rising sophomore at GAC this year.

Rico: [00:07:49] Is she in sports as well?

Autumn: [00:07:50] She does throw with me in the spring. I would peg her as the more artistic type. We’re pretty much day and night different. She really loves the arts. She takes two art classes currently this upcoming year. I can only draw stick figures. But she does enjoy the throws with me as well in the spring.

Rico: [00:08:06] Alright, cool. So that didn’t really affect her when she saw you injured. I’m sure she was scared too, but she’s throwing versus playing volleyball. I’m assuming there’s less, there might be less injuries in discus throwing, maybe? I don’t know.

Autumn: [00:08:18] Yeah. I think there’s less severe injuries probably in throwing than volleyball for sure.

Rico: [00:08:23] So when you were playing and even now I think, you’re not just playing school sports. So now you’re playing volleyball, right?

Autumn: [00:08:29] Yes.

Rico: [00:08:29] And you’re playing, you’re doing the discus on track and field. But that’s school sports, but you’re also playing club sports. Are you doing both of those?

Autumn: [00:08:37] Yeah, definitely, I do. So I technically I’m on four teams varsity high school volleyball, varsity high school track. And then I do club track with rock slingers over in Dunwoody. And then I play club volleyball with A5, as you know, in Alpharetta.

Rico: [00:08:50] Man, that’s demanding. Don’t they have their own trainings schedules and stuff?

Autumn: [00:08:54] Yeah, totally. Some nights I’m not home till about 11:30. So we’re just inching on the curfew for when I can legally drive. A lot of late nights for sure. But honestly, I love what I do and I don’t mind sacrificing another hour to stay up late doing my homework as a result of practice.

Rico: [00:09:12] And that hasn’t stressed you further physically, I would imagine? I mean, you’re still doing therapies you said before.

Autumn: [00:09:19] Yeah, definitely with constant athletic activity. It definitely, my parents do sometimes force me instead of weekends going out and going hiking with friends. They’re like, no, stay home. So my weekends are definitely my rest days. Friday nights are my hangout with friends night. I definitely do have to take breaks. But with being active so often I get in kind of a rhythm. So during the school day, I can relax. I can focus more on school and then my mental break comes with sports. So it’s kind of a nice balance.

Rico: [00:09:49] So that’s your mental break? The sports part?

Autumn: [00:09:51] I think it’s kind of like my freedom, like my release from stress. So I would say less mental stress.

Rico: [00:09:57] Interesting. I think when you do the things you love, it probably is less stress on that. And the fact that you’re doing two sports and you’re doing school and club. I think at one point, you’re doing weight training as well because you have to do weight training. And what was that three times a week? But during the season you doing it four times or five times. No, eight times a week, I think you said. Eight times a week. How do you split that up?

Autumn: [00:10:21] Basically I take a weight lifting class as one of my seven classes at GAC. So I take weightlifting class four times a week with my class. And then in the spring, during track season, we weightlift another four times per week.

Rico: [00:10:34] So wait, so you’re doing weightlifting obviously for volleyball, because that’s part of what you have to do. Different sets of weights, different sets for discuss throw?

Autumn: [00:10:42] Both really like to focus on the Olympic weights. So squat deadlift cleans are staples in both sports. Discuss is definitely more heavy on loading up heavier weights, trying to hit heavier reps while volleyball you definitely have more explosive. Like they want you a little bit lower weight. But more block jumps, more plyos, more sprints, I would say.

Rico: [00:11:03] So what’s the heaviest weight that you can dead lift?

Autumn: [00:11:06] I can dead lift 345 right now.

Rico: [00:11:08] 345. Wow. I can’t even do 100 I think. And you’re also running, I think as well? Or no. Any cardio activity?

Autumn: [00:11:16] Yeah. So I like, go for runs around my neighborhood. I’m not an invested long distance runner, but I do like to get the occasional jog in.

Rico: [00:11:24] Okay. Cool. So when you’re playing on club, you’re doing tournaments as well, just like school tournaments. Has anything come to a head with any of that this year? Probably not this year. I meant.

Autumn: [00:11:34] With COVID?

Rico: [00:11:36] Yeah. As far as how is it being handled? I know everyone’s, every school is doing it differently and things have changed again just this past week for Gwinnett county. Now they have to wear masks or at least all public schools have to. So how did that affect you? How’d you feel about that actually? Did that even change anything you were doing?

Autumn: [00:11:56] So for school it’s restricted people in the stands. So basically the only immediate family. So my grandparents couldn’t attend for most of it. So that was definitely disappointing. They love to attend the games. They love making a lot of noise, so a little bit lacking there. As far as the actual playing side they try to limit high fives, team huddles, closeness, and interaction with the other teams. So like traditionally in an average season, you would go up and high five or shake hands with your opponent. And then currently they like to keep us separated. Kinda just wave greet your opponent from a distance. Similar with club for traveling purposes we had, the only place we went this year, was Texas. Typically we’ll go sometimes up to Indiana, New York, et cetera for tournaments. This year, we kind of kept it close to home. And basically had COVID tests every tournament.

Rico: [00:12:43] Every tournament. Okay. And you were doing that, was that like a weekend thing or an overnight? Probably a weekend, I would imagine.

Autumn: [00:12:50] So there’s both. For club sometimes, when we had Texas overnight, tennessee it’s overnight, Alabama sometimes overnight. And then we have about five local tournaments, which will be typically at the World Congress Center. And those will just be weekend events probably about two to three days. And we’ll all commute.

Rico: [00:13:06] And what positions are you playing in volleyball?

Autumn: [00:13:09] I play outside hitter in rotation. So I never get off the court.

Rico: [00:13:13] And you like that I assume.

Autumn: [00:13:15] Oh, I love it. It’s awesome.

Rico: [00:13:17] Alright, cool. So obviously you started in volleyball you moved your way towards track with discuss. If you had your pick, if you had to pick, which one, which sport would you pick? One over the other.

Autumn: [00:13:29] They’re so different. I get this question actually a lot from my friends, because they’re like, you can’t have the same. So it’s very difficult to choose it obviously varies by the day on my mood. If I want to talk to people and hang out with others, I’ll choose volleyball. But if I’m angry and want to be alone, I will do track because track is such an individualistic sport. And your talent is more based off your numbers, and it’s easy to compare one another. Well volleyball, is such  subjective team sport, where it’s difficult to judge your talent level. Obviously there’s difference between extremes, but it’s so hard to tell. I would say I probably like track better just because I can focus on training specific parts. And it’s kind of all on me. But I really love both. I wouldn’t, I don’t have anything negative to say about either.

Rico: [00:14:15] Sure, yeah. And I would imagine it is difficult in volleyball. I was just watching the men’s and women’s volleyball over the last few weeks last, this past week and the Olympic sport. And you really can’t tell, I mean, it really depends on that team and how many times you get the ball and so many variables in that to see who’s really a good player and who’s not. And you know what? You can be a really good player and still miss things. Just because the way things come at you. When you’re doing discuss throw, what’s your best throw?

Autumn: [00:14:42] I’ve hit 140 in practice before, but this past year, because I was throwing in a giant brace, my official mark is 125. The 125 was able to break my school record this past year, but my practice marks would blow that out of the water.

Rico: [00:15:00] Right. Wow. That is unbelievable. One legged. Is that what the coach called you? A one legged thrower?

Autumn: [00:15:06] Yeah  at the awards banquet at the end of the season,  the record board, they announced that they were going to change it because I broke the record and they were going to consider putting an asterisk by it. Done with one leg, because honestly, I couldn’t really with the brace. It’s so restrictive. It only allows you to bend probably about 30 degrees. So it’s just a disadvantage because you can’t get any torque in the lift.

Rico: [00:15:29] So Autumn Clark could have done better, but for the brace.

Autumn: [00:15:33] Yes. I love the brace because it allows me to do what I love in this state. However, I hate the brace because it’s so restrictive.

Rico: [00:15:41] Yeah, I would think. Obviously you excel in sports and stuff. You have a great attitude. It sounds like. Even going through what you did and you’re coming back.  Are you a senior now?

Autumn: [00:15:49] Yes, I am.

Rico: [00:15:50] You’re a senior, right? Yeah. Because you’re being courted by Ivy league schools at this point, it sounds like. Any particular school that you’d like to go to? And we’re talking Northeast, are we talking Midwest? What are we talking?

Autumn: [00:16:02] Yeah. So I’m definitely gonna stay in the east coast. Just kinda for school preferences. Definitely have the Ivy leagues coming after me for track. A couple of the smaller ones as well. Both my parents were Auburn grads, so I potentially considered going to Auburn, just as student there and potentially try to walk onto their track team. Basically how their track team works there is you have to get into the school first and then maybe they’ll take you on the track team. They don’t really actively recruit.

Rico: [00:16:27] Oh, really. Wow. Okay. I didn’t know that. And I’ve had friends of friends, their kids go walk on for football and that’s a tough thing to do anywhere. So, alright. So there’s a lot of good local schools. So even though there might be some Ivy league schools you might stay in Georgia. What is it that you want in a school?

Autumn: [00:16:45] Yeah. So I look at my three personal pillars. Academics one, athletics two. Every morning I turn on sports center. So I just want some form of even like clubs for that I can go watch, like every day.  And then three, kind of social life. Clubs around campus things I can get involved on the weekend. So just those three pillars are what I want in a school.

Rico: [00:17:06] Cool. That’s strong things to want for sure. Now, academically speaking though it was surprising a little bit too. You and your dad, who’s a aerospace engineer, but flies for Delta decided that you guys were going to  build actually a 3D printer yourself. That was 2019, during COVID?

Autumn: [00:17:23] Actually the year prior, before COVID we built it. And then during COVID this past year, we ended up adding some more. We made a laser printer as well. We added onto it. It was an addition to the original plastic filament of the printer.

Rico: [00:17:38] Interesting. That was fun. That was something that you and your dad did. Obviously you have some scientific, science bent or interest there with that.

Autumn: [00:17:46] Definitely.

Rico: [00:17:48] Does that run in the family? Maybe that runs in the family?

Autumn: [00:17:50] Yeah so, my dad’s dad is also an engineer. And my dad’s an aerospace engineer. So I would defer a little bit, probably going the bioengineering realm with hopes to end up in medical field, pre-med.

Rico: [00:18:02] Oh, that would be cool. Biofabrication is the future of science. So you want to do that, right? What’s your favorite subject now in science?

Autumn: [00:18:09] Currently chemistry. But right now I am enrolled to take AP bio and dual credit physics. This will be my first year of exposure to physics. I’m really excited to take that course this year. My dad and I always liked talking about Newton’s laws and studying him. So it should be interesting to dabble in that this year. And so my favorite subject might change we’ll see.

Rico: [00:18:27] Interesting. Where are you going to be doing that dual enrollment?

Autumn: [00:18:30] Colorado christian is the college that my school associates duel credit with.

Rico: [00:18:35] Okay, cool. So eventually when you do pick a school, though you’re looking. What’s ultimately your goal for your degree and what you want to do in the future?

Autumn: [00:18:44] Yeah. So my ultimate goal would be to be a surgeon. However, I have to dabble in the surgery field too. But I lean probably more orthopedic. My surgeon who works at orthopedic or sorry, Resurgence orthopedics has offered once I turned 18 in October to potentially shadow him and see what he does. And so I think I’m going to do that this coming year, come October.

Rico: [00:19:09] What an excellent opportunity. Now you got interested because I think if I remember right, it was because you dissected a frog in science class and you thought that was cool to be able to see that.

Autumn: [00:19:19] Definitely. It was honestly, it was the anatomy and like kind of the bone structure that really struck me as interesting. They had to pull it away from me. We only had a 45 minute slot and I was like, doing a little skin graft. And I was like, I can see it’s bone. And cause we were only supposed to do the gut to see the basic anatomy of the frog, but I wanted to see more. Definitely that sparked my interest.

Rico: [00:19:42] Excellent. That’s great. Going a little further than what they wanted you to do and pushing the envelope there a little bit. I would go through your day in the life of Autumn Clark but it’s so packed with stuff. When you guys listen to this, you should either pick up the magazine and go online and check out the digital edition. Because her school day, it’s just unbelievable. I asked the question, when do you rest? And the weekend. Yeah. I could see that, but like you said, you go until 11:30 at night sometimes. That’s, when do you eat? Do you eat dinner? That’s funny. Yeah, you have so many hours that you’re putting into this and it’s good  that you’re passionate about it. What is your favorite meal? What would you say your favorite meal is going through that?

Autumn: [00:20:30] If I want it to be like fancy, I’d always go steak and baked potato at Outback steakhouse or something. That would be like, that’s like my birthday dinner meal. But I would say like more of a common meal that I have more often is a lemon peppered wings and Mac and cheese from buffalo wild wings. Like I said, my parents both attended Auburn. So football day is pretty big in my house. So we usually do wings on Saturday.

Rico: [00:20:54] Oh, that’s funny. Okay, cool.  What’s on your playlist currently?

Autumn: [00:20:58] Ooh. My mom calls me a boy band fan. So definitely all of the one directions, all of the five seconds of summer, got some Taylor stuff on there. I got some Camila Cabello on there. Very pop. And then of course I have my country playlist as well, a big Jason Aldean fan, big Thomas Wright fan as well.

Rico: [00:21:13] Cool. Do you listen to any of that as you’re training or is it?

Autumn: [00:21:15] Yeah, county’s like my car ride and then pop will be my workout slash sports playlist.

Rico: [00:21:22] Cool. You skateboard as well?

Autumn: [00:21:24] Yeah, I like to skateboard and rip stick with my friends. When I have free time, a big parking garage is  at a town center  across the way from Peachtree or sorry from the forum, is a really great spot to skate in the summertime.

Rico: [00:21:38] That’s cool. I think the city at some point should probably get a nice big skate park. There is one at Pinckneyville middle, but it’s small I’m told. So a lot of kids do Brooke run, which is way bigger. It’s a nicer place. Favorite book? Movie genre?

Autumn: [00:21:51] Definitely Harry Potter. Loved the series, even though Voldemort scares me every time in book four. Especially in the movie. It’s so well put together. Yeah, that’s definitely my favorite series. And I also love the Hunger Games as well. So kind of action, fiction books are definitely my favorite.

Rico: [00:22:07] What was your favorite Harry Potter book?

Autumn: [00:22:10] Ooh, tough one. I’ve gotta go four. It’s just so much, so action packed.

Rico: [00:22:15] Alright, cool. We’re at the tail end of what we’re doing here, a podcast with you. And I do appreciate the time you’ve given us. Is there anything you want to share with maybe young athletes that are younger than you? Athletes that might’ve faced the same type of you know, injuries and having to come back. Anything you want to share with them?

Autumn: [00:22:31] Yeah, so definitely from the injury side really quick, I think it is important to take your time to rehab, but coming back too quick, can extend your injury farther. Kind of prolong it. Especially at the beginning stages when you’re told no that you can’t do anything. I think is really important to focus on being able to understand that it’s not that you’re doing anything wrong. It’s just that you are still healing. And that’s still something I struggle with even, it’s been nearly, it’s coming up on 11 months post-injury. And I still struggle with that. So with knee injuries, it’s a really long timeline. And then I guess for just student athletes in general or any younger high school students, honestly, I think that it’s important to develop grit and work ethic from early stages. Because those who don’t need an external motivation, such as your parents or your teachers to get you to do something. Going out of your way to ask the coach, Hey, what can I work on after practice or going to the teacher after class and asking what you should study, how you can do  an assignment better. Just those little things can help push you a little farther ahead in life. And you’ll find that it just is an exponential growth of success. Once you do the little things, they build on each other to where you can be more successful in anything you put your mind to.

Rico: [00:23:54] Well said. We’ve been with Autumn Clark student at greater Atlantic Christian, a volleyball player, a discus thrower at track and field. The young lady that has come back from injuries. And is doing really  well. And has broken her school record on discus as a one legged thrower because of her brace. I appreciate you coming on with us. Thank you Autumn.

Autumn: [00:24:14] Thank you for having me.

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Paul Duke STEM student Teams Up with KSU & Curiosity Lab to Advance V2X Technology



KSU Research Assistant Professor Billy Kihei (far right) prepares to test V2X technology at Curiosity Lab with local high school and KSU students, including Paul Duke STEM senior Jordan McEntyre (far left)

Last year, Curiosity Lab and Kennesaw State University (KSU) entered a strategic partnership to advance research in vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology applications. Led by KSU assistant professor of computer engineering Billy Kihei, the first collaboration focused on open-source Dedicated Short-Range Communications Units (DSRC).

Nicknamed the “Owl Box,” these DSRC units can track data such as how fast vehicles are moving, roadway specifications, GPS data and much more, creating opportunities for startups, entrepreneurs, and municipalities/road authorities to test and explore emerging V2X technologies.

KSU selected Curiosity Lab as one of its primary test locations for the Owl Boxes due to the Lab’s autonomous vehicle test track and commitment to supporting and facilitating innovation.

While Dr. Kihei’s research team has primarily included KSU undergraduate students over the last year, Curiosity Lab also connected a Paul Duke STEM High School student with Dr. Kihei. Paul Duke is Curiosity Lab’s STEM partner and is just a mile from the living lab.

Last year, at the start of her senior year of high school, Jordan McEntyre started working with Dr.Kihei. Jordan was taking an AP Research course and reached out to Curiosity Lab to find a research mentor as part of her coursework. Curiosity Lab connected her with Dr. Kihei, who served as her mentor in V2X technology.

Dr. Kihei sent Jordan an Owl Box to configure and tasked her with writing applications for the Owl Box to solve a specific problem. After months of development, Dr. Kihei and Jordan then took her Owl Box on the road at Curiosity Lab to test her applications in a real-world environment. 

“The Owl Boxes allowed me to work with open source technology and make a functioning product out of it, which is an extremely useful experience to have,” said Jordan. “Field testing at Curiosity Lab proved that my program works, but certain factors that came up while testing in this environment gave me ideas to improve my program. I would love to implement those ideas and test it again in a real-world environment.”

Dr. Kihei applauded Jordan’s work as she learned the values of patience and planning.

“It was a long and challenging process for Jordan working with open source technology, but it is important for researchers to be exposed to and work through those types of real-world problems,” said Dr. Kihei. “For example, while a researcher may have an idea to implement, your technology doesn’t always play nicely. It’s not always straightforward.”

Dr. Kihei and Jordan plan to publish a paper together soon, and Jordan plans to start at KSU this year as a computer science major, concentrating on cybersecurity and software development.

“It is crucial for today’s technology leaders to support the education of the next generation of innovators,” said Betsy Plattenburg, executive director of Curiosity Lab. “Through our partnership with Paul Duke, Curiosity Lab is committed to providing Peachtree Corners’ youth with exposure to real world testing of intelligent mobility and smart city technology.”

Source: Curiosity Corner Newsletter

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3DE Changed My Life: How Former Norcross High Student Justice Zabel Turned a Business Curriculum into a Small Business Reality



Gerardo Angeles (left) and Justice Zabel (right) proudly show off the first designs for their landscaping business t-shirts. The shirts say A-Z landscaping, though the business has since been renamed Prestige Landscaping ATL. Photos courtesy of A-Z Landscaping Instagram.

Practical education that works effectively in the real world proves in short supply in many public-school environments. Norcross High School (NHS) sought to equip their students with business knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit, so the 3DE by Junior Achievement program was introduced to students six years ago.

Former NHS student Justice Zabel took part in the inaugural 3DE program at Norcross, which culminated in the creation of A-Z Landscaping, since renamed Prestige Landscaping ATL. Zabel was part of the first graduating class of 3DE at Norcross, which also happened to be the second graduating class ever for the state of Georgia.

“Essentially what 3DE did was just kind of help me to get on track,” Zabel said. “They provided us with business classes, finance classes as well as certifications. We had to get a Microsoft Office certification, a PowerPoint Certification and a Six Sigma certification. Just all these different levels of help for being a good entrepreneur and a good business manager as well.”

In addition to managing his own business, Zabel is a rising sophomore currently pursuing a degree in Accounting at Georgia State University. He appears to be running full speed ahead with the lessons he learned in the rigorous four-year 3DE system.

“We were given a project that we had to do, to create a business idea with a business plan,” Zabel said.

A job well done by Prestige Landscaping ATL.

With his class partner Gerardo Angeles, the “entrepreneurial jumpstart” of what is now Prestige Landscaping ATL took off. Prestige has been in business for two years now and provides lawn maintenance and care, hedge trimming, pressure washing, leaf pickup and debris removal at reasonable hourly rates, depending on the job needed. Angeles now serves in active duty for the Marines, but Zabel has continued to carry the baton of this small business.

3DE is a radically different type of educational paradigm in that it takes students from their freshman year of high school to senior year and helps them to form tangible personal and business goals.

Students, like Zabel, who take part in 3DE typically commit to the full four years of the program, as each year’s instruction builds upon the next and culminates in a Senior Experience project at its conclusion. The 3DE Norcross High program is spearheaded by its Director Eric Ashley and Assistant Principal John DeCarvalho.

According to the 3DE Norcross High curriculum site, student learning in 3DE is focused on six core competencies applicable to school, career and life. These competencies consist of Creativity & Innovation, Cultural Agility, Self-Direction, Effective Collaboration, Engaging Communication and Critical & Analytical Thinking. Throughout their work in the first three years of the program, students complete case challenges that develop their understanding in the six core competencies.

The case challenges begin with an introduction from one of the business partners working with the 3DE program. Students then work on the problem and present their solutions. In addition, for many business partners, students are able to make a site visit to learn more about the company they are learning from.

For example, a few years ago a group of Norcross students visited the Atlanta Hawks headquarters.

During the 12th grade year, students use the skills honed in 3DE to successfully navigate and perform in a professional environment. During the fall and spring semesters, teams of 3DE students work as consultants to businesses to work though larger and more complex problems with business partners or to create fledgling business ventures of their own.

The entrepreneurial spirit appears to be alive and well at Norcross High School, thanks to 3DE. For more information about 3DE at Norcross High, find the 3DE Curriculum page under the ‘Academics’ tab at gcpsk12.org/NorcrossHS.

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