In the summer of 1968, Gwinnett County was quiet and rural, with “traffic jams” of sometimes five cars a day on a dirt road called Indian Trail. In that same summer, a fledgling private school opened that would eventually grow into one of the nation’s leading Christian schools. Now in 2018, Greater Atlanta Christian celebrates its 50th year in that same location, as Gwinnett’s oldest and largest private school, and as one of the largest Christian schools in the nation. Yet age hasn’t made GAC complacent. A spirit of vitality and innovation is making GAC a leader in preparing students for the new world of scholarship, careers, and ethical leadership.
Now serving over 1600 students from metro Atlanta as well as through online education, GAC’s 88-acre campus resembles a small college. That’s a far cry from the opening school year in 1968 with 150 students in seventh through 11th grade in the two small buildings of that time. The GAC of today is both in heart the same, and quite different as well. GAC 2018 has redesigned its historic buildings with beautiful and learning-focused environments. Among those advancements are award winning redesigned Middle School and High School centers, along with new facilities such as the Art and Design Center, Environmental Center, STEM Buildings, Performing Arts Center, and a number of beautiful indoor and outdoor athletic facilities for the successful Spartan teams from 2nd grade upward. And GAC’s countless programs have kept up with the impressive campus changes. The school’s powerhouse athletics are known statewide. Yet award winning robotics, state mathematics championships, School of Dance, and top tier theater productions are now renown. Still, new GAC President Dr. Scott Harsh points to more important factors in GAC’s longevity and strength today. “We’re thankful for our history, resources, and the way allies across Atlanta have supported us for decades. Yet research makes it clear that great teachers make all the difference. And we know it’s the caliber, heart, and longevity of our faculty that make GAC the amazing school it is today.”
GAC teacher credentials are impressive. GAC funds graduate studies for faculty, which leads to a much higher than average 75% holding advanced degrees, with over 15 doctorates and doctoral candidates. GAC teachers also tend to stay, building a culture for effective learning. Faculty average experience exceeds 10 years. Numerous award-winning teachers have joined the school in recent years, with several named Teacher of the Year in other schools. Yet the center of GAC still is found in her name–serving all Atlanta, along with the school’s commitment to building a thoughtful, active faith in God in her students. “We believe our students are forever, so we focus every day on shaping their character and hearts”, said Chancellor and former President Dr. David Fincher. Part of the school’s well-rounded education and spiritual offering includes 26 local and global mission trips that reach five continents. “Students learn faith in their actions, not just in their studies.”
It’s a fresh and energizing time for GAC with Dr. Harsh leading the school. This year he begins as only the third president in the school’s fifty years. That’s almost unprecedented; the average tenure of a private school head is slightly over five years. “While I’ve been at GAC for 22 years, and love her deeply, it still is invigorating and humbling for me to lead as president. I’m so excited about what God and this team of amazing people are about to do,” says Harsh. Harsh plans to keep all that makes GAC great, yet expand its outlook and mission again. Already he’s led the conversion and upgrade of a sizable building on campus, and initiated several new programs for this fall. Major safety and security improvements have been initiated for 2018. A new division of GAC is now offering online AP courses and World Languages for Christian schools that that don’t have the resources to offer them–and 6 schools are partnering with GAC to participate for their students. “Today’s GAC is blessed with resources and strength that can advance students in other states,” Harsh said.
While GAC’s reach extends beyond the state, its heart is for the local community. “Gwinnett has been a marvelous home for Greater Atlanta Christian since the first day 50 years ago,” said Chancellor Fincher. “We have always felt the support of our community and we like to think we are a meaningful asset not only to our families, but for all Atlanta. I suspect GAC will still be right here on our Centennial, involved and making our neighborhood even better for decades ahead.”