Discovery High School, located on Old Norcross Road in Lawrenceville, occupies a 640,000 square feet building that once served as a warehouse for Bridgestone Tires.
“The main hallway is big enough for two tractor trailers to drive down side-by-side,” said John Campbell, Discovery High School’s principal.
Upstairs is the Clyde L. Strickland Entrepreneurship Center. It’s a space just for students who want to learn how to start their own businesses. Pull-down garage doors separate the spaces, restaurant booths allow for brainstorming, and students have all the tools to get them started: 3-D printers, an embroidery machine, banner and poster printers, and separate suites for creating their products.
Scott Allen heads the program. He said the idea is to help each student start a real businesses. Some are ready to get started.
“There was a young man who came to me and he’s into athletics, and we were talking about what kind of business he may potentially want,” Allen said, “so we talked about highlight reels, and we talked about ways that he could share his friends’ experiences and talent with other people that might be looking for that.”
By the time the students graduate from the 4-year program, many will be making money. Traditional subjects are infused into the business program. Lindsay Brouillard will teach the students language arts while they’re in the space.
“Students need to learn how to pitch their business. They need to make an argument as to why their product is better than others on the market,” said Brouillard. “They not only need to know how to write those things, but they also need to learn how to speak them.”
A conference room inside the center will accommodate business leaders in the community who will listen to the students give their pitches. Students will even try to get them to invest in their businesses.
“The main thing I want is I want a kid to believe that he can change his life, and he can change the lives of the kids around him,” said Allen. “That’s the whole point of the program.”
The business and entrepreneurship program is one of four “academies” that Discovery High School features. Others include health and human services, science-technology-engineering-math, and fine arts.
The fine arts academy features a 550-seat theater, a dance studio, and a television studio.
Bernard Watson, a spokesman for Gwinnett County Public Schools, said it cost more than 70-million-dollars to turn the building into a state-of-the art school. He said it’s an investment in the growing county’s future.
“Thanks to the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, we were able to build this school as well as four others this year,” Watson said.
The county’s other new schools include Baggett Elementary, Graves Elementary and Jordan Middle schools. Also, Summerour Middle School students moved into a new facility.